"We've been wanting, since I took this job, to be a balanced offense," said MU coach Doc Holliday said. "We've been able to do that this year, and we're a better offense than we were a year ago because we've been balanced, we've been able to run it as well as throw it."
At Rice, coach David Bailiff painfully remembers that game, but thinks Cato and the Herd offense is even better this year.
During Monday's championship game teleconference, Bailiff and Holliday exchanged greetings as Holliday's segment was finishing, and Bailiff expressed his admiration for Cato.
"I tell you, I put that film on, Doc, holy smokes! How much your quarterback's developed," Bailiff said. "Wow, is he playing well."
Later in the teleconference, the seventh-year coach talked about the Herd's balance. He noted the 600-total-yard games, but had to see the film to discover what is making the MU attack click.
"When you hear about these great numbers, I assumed they were just throwing the ball everywhere," Bailiff said. "You start studying them and breaking them down, their running game is very effective. So they're balanced, a lot more offensively balanced this year."
The Owls are ranked second in C-USA in full-season total defense (351.5 yards per game), third in league games (329.4). Rush defense is ranked toward the middle of the pack, but the Owls are third in pass defensive efficiency rating and have the best third-down defense (29.6 percent against league foes).
Jasperse singled out two particular Owls he'll have to block, tackles Ross Winship and Christian Covington. Covington, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound sophomore, has solid numbers for a tackle - 48 tackles, a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups, a fumble forced and a fumble recovery.
Linebacker Michael Kutzler leads the Owls with 79 tackles, with "Kat" defender Paul Porras just behind with 70. Cornerbacks Phillip Gaines and Bryce Callahan have combined for seven interceptions and 14 pass breakups.
"Phillip Gaines, No. 15, is as good as there is in America," Holliday said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.