Charles Gordon -- Kansas University's stickiest defensive back -- was on the sideline while Missouri had the football Saturday.
Moved to wide receiver for the purpose of giving the Jayhawks an offensive fire missing in earlier losses, KU's secondary was forced to make do and search for an identity after seeing its biggest star stolen away.
Saturday's 13-3 victory over the Tigers came with quite a statement for the defensive backfield: There's no Charles, but they're still in charge.
"The secondary was unbelievable," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "They didn't have guys open all day long. If we get secondary play like that all the time, we will be tough to beat."
It wasn't so much the play-making -- Theo Baines had the Jayhawks' lone interception, and Aqib Talib had the other turnover when he snagged an errant Brad Smith pitch -- but rather the white-on-rice coverage that eventually led to Smith scrambling out of the pocket and either throwing it away or taking a hit with minimal gain.
"The game plan was to stay in coverage," Talib said. "We got to have confidence that our D-line was going to go get him, and they went and got him, and we made plays."
With Kansas refusing to blitz the quarterback aggressively, Smith often had lots of time to find an open receiver. With Missouri's new spread offense, there were a lot of options downfield for Smith to strike.
But the made-over Jayhawk secondary -- including Talib and Baines at cornerback, Rodney Fowler at free safety and Jerome Kemp at strong safety -- along with help from the experienced linebacker fleet, limited Smith's options to the point of ineffectiveness. He ended up with 179 yards of total offense, less than half of what he compiled a week ago against Nebraska.
"It was definitely a scheme designed for Missouri," Mangino said. "It was a team effort back there. The zone coverage was outstanding,"
Now 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12 Conference, KU's defensive deficiency -- if there was one -- isn't so glaring now.
Heck, Saturday it was the team strength.
"That's a big step for the secondary," Talib said. "We felt real confident. We went out there and made some plays against a pretty good offense, so we feel like we can make plays against anybody."