Missouri quarterback faces ‘homecoming’ game
Missouri’s star quarterback can anticipate getting an earful on Saturday when the unbeaten and seventh-ranked Tigers visit the 14th-ranked Huskers in a matchup of Big 12 North powers.
Missouri (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) ended a 25-year drought in their last trip to Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) in 2008, but this will be the junior’s first start there. The 6-5, 230-pound Gabbert, from Ballwin, Mo., wasn’t expecting forgiveness after choosing to stay closer to home instead of heading to Nebraska.
“I highly doubt it,” he said. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they’re great fans, and it’s going to be a pretty special atmosphere up there this weekend.”
Optimistically, he downplayed the infamy.
“Anytime you go into an opposing team’s stadium there’s going to be signs, there’s going to be taunts,” Gabbert said. “You’ve just got to kind of block those out and just focus on the game. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s going to be worse for me than anybody else.”
Publicly, Nebraska players and coaches have nothing but nice things to say about Gabbert.
“He’s a good decision-maker who makes good throws and is a good quarterback,” coach Bo Pelini said. “Obviously, if you get more experience, you’re going to get better.”
Personal experience can serve as motivation for Gabbert, who played a role in a rain-drenched failure last year at home. Missouri led 12-0 in the fourth quarter before surrendering 27 straight points that propelled Nebraska to the North title, and Gabbert wasn’t the same for several weeks after spraining his ankle.
“No one is going to play perfect week in and week out, everyone is going to have a bump in the road,” Gabbert said. “It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to play them.”
Back to his nimble self, Gabbert has led the way offensively in the school’s first 7-0 start in 50 years. He’s completing 67 percent of his passes, up 8 percent from last year, with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Gabbert threw for 308 yards last week in a 36-27 victory over Oklahoma, the school’s first ever victory over a No. 1 team. He was at his best in the fourth quarter, going 8 for 9 for 95 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.
“One of the best things, he’s got a good feel for it,” Yost said. “We’re doing a great job of protecting for him, so he feels comfortable back there and getting the ball downfield to our guys.”
Gabbert is on a roll heading into a matchup against a team that handed Oklahoma State its first loss last week and that hasn’t allowed a player to accumulate 300 yards of total offense the last 24 games. He claims no extra motivation.