COLUMBIA, Mo. - Local pre-game radio shows reported early Saturday that Kirk Farmer would start at quarterback for Missouri.
Nebraska players weren't tuned in.
They'd expected Darius Outlaw to start in place of Farmer, who'd sprained his knee in the Tigers' last game with Southwest Texas and was reportedly only 70 percent earlier this week.
The Huskers were kept in the dark for a long time, too.
"I never heard anything from anybody until we got down on the field," Nebraska defensive tackle Jeremy Slechta said. "We thought there was a good possibility they'd bring Farmer in, but we didn't think he'd be starting the game and playing as much as he did."
It took the Nebraska defense a couple of series to adjust, but eventually the Blackshirts wore down Farmer and the Tigers, holding Missouri to 205 yards of total offense in NU's 36-3 victory at Faurot Field.
Farmer, who lit up Nebraska for a career high 214 passing yards last year in Lincoln, finished Saturday with 128 yards on 15-of-39 passing. He completed nine passes in the first quarter, helping Missouri drive for a field goal on its second possession, but had only six completions the rest of the game.
"By the middle of the second quarter, I felt defensively we had the game at least somewhat under control," NU defensive coordinator Craig Bohl said. "And as the game went along, our guys began to play with more and more confidence."
"They did some things to get us off balance a little bit, but I didn't think our guys ever turned and pointed at one another. We got settled down, and some of those plays they were getting some yards on, we shut those plays off."
Like the fades and crosses to tight end Dwayne Blakley, who finished with six catches, four in the first quarter. Nebraska linebacker Scott Shanle did his part to disrupt the tight end connection, as he recorded a career-best three pass breakups, all on Blakley, and led the Huskers with eight tackles.
"Scott Shanle really was a warrior today," Bohl said. "They went after him several times down the field, and he responded most every time."
Shanle, the strongside linebacker, is normally responsible for covering the tight end out of Nebraska's base 4-3 alignment.
"If they wouldn't have thrown to him, I don't think anybody would've noticed," said Shanle, who credited his play to Nebraska tight ends Tracey Wistrom, Aaron Golliday and Jon Bowling - players he covers in practice every day.
Nebraska also used strong coverage downfield from cornerbacks DeJuan Groce and Keyuo Craver, helping prevent the deep pass. But the Huskers didn't generate consistent pressure on Farmer, collecting only one sack and seldom forcing him to scramble.
"We kept coming at him all day long, we just weren't really getting to him," Slechta said. "And they were doing some different stuff, booting him out, getting him on an edge, doing a little bit of quick dropback, stuff like that. We felt like eventually it was going to come."
It did, when sophomore linebacker T.J. Hollowell blitzed Farmer and dropped him for a 12-yard loss to the Missouri 7 in the fourth quarter.
"As the game went along, our pressure was better but at first we were disappointed," Bohl said. "We had been able to get quite a few sacks (earlier this season), so that was an area where I think we might have dropped off a little bit with."
But the bottom line: Nebraska allowed Missouri only three points, and even that was enough to upset Hollowell.
"We were hurt. We were really hurt," Hollowell said. "We didn't want to give up any points. That was our goal."
Reach Brian Rosenthal at 473-7436 or email@example.com.