Missouri players and coaches should expect to win this week’s game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
EMU has won a total of 6 games since the beginning of the 2013 season, and the Eagles have usually found themselves at the bottom of the MAC. The Tigers have 28 wins in that span and have twice represented the East division in the SEC title game.
Should Missouri struggle Saturday, there ought to be grave, justified concerns for the outlook on the rest of the year. Barry Odom and company need to iron out the miscues that were on display during the loss at West Virginia. There were more than a couple that need fixing, but Odom is confident his group can fix them.
“I’m also more excited today than I was at the beginning of the season,” Odom said. “I really like our team. I like our locker room. I like the makeup of the guys that we have.”
This is the week the Tigers have to do it. Georgia rolls into Columbia next week riding a wave of confidence. The Bulldogs won on a neutral site against a ranked, Power 5 opponent, showing its stud freshman quarterback, Jacob Eason, is more than a game-manager, and its best player, Nick Chubb, is fully-healthy – a combination that will cause Missouri’s defense problems.
That’s the first item on the agenda. Odom and new defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross know what they’re doing, but Saturday showed that this defense has a long way to go to reach last year’s success. Even for a veteran group, it might take a game or two to get used to Cross’ system. Eastern Michigan scored 61 points in its win over Mississippi Valley State. The Tigers’ defense is a much different animal than the Delta Devils’, but 61 points is 61 points.
“Plain and simple, when you’re in position to make a play you got to make a play,” Michael Scherer said. “No matter who you play or where you play, it’s not easy to put up 61 points.”
Clamp down on the Eagles. Make big, clean hits when they present themselves. Win matchups up-front. Gang tackle. Doing so will get the players fired up and confident. Bring #DLineZOU back; it was much more fun to watch the defense went the line is in full-throttle.
On the offensive side, the personnel proved it can provide more than last year’s squad. Still, there were only 11 points to show for it. This is the week for the offense to get into the end zone and show everyone how far it has come.
The offensive line was pretty good in pass protection, giving up only one sack. The unit was thought to be the weak link of the offense, and it’s fair to say that many thought West Virginia’s defensive line would handle its business. The group proved to be much further along than originally anticipated. Now, it’s likely to have the upper hand on the Eagles defensive line. This is the week to drive the opposing D-line five yards backward. A young, inexperienced offensive line needs as much confidence as it can get. That’ll help the running backs, who need a great performance as much as any unit, out tremendously and it’ll ease the load on Drew Lock.
Speaking of Lock, the sophomore had an impressive start to the season, throwing for 280 yards with one touchdown and zero turnovers. That’s all well and good, but it could have been better. He overthrew a couple balls and the receivers had a couple of drops themselves. This is the week to really get on the same page with J’Mon Moore, Chris Black, Dimetrios Mason, Emanuel Hall, Johnathon Johnson and others.
“Looking at the film, I’ve seen a lot of good things, but we got to capitalize,” Moore said. “In this game that we play, you could do everything right and have that missing piece and just mess up the whole play.
“We had plays that everything was good but either the ball was overthrown or the ball wasn’t caught. It was always something.”
The chemistry will really come into play in the red-zone. The Tigers had a few chances but came up with nothing more often than not. Lock said that’s going to be a point of emphasis this week during practice.
“I think we’re going to have a couple more red-zone periods, to say the least,” Lock said. “We’re going to make sure that we do all the little things right. Whether that’s me taking the easy throws and not forcing things or that’s the right footwork for my running back, right footwork for me, different slide protections or whatnot.”
If anyone needs a low-pressure game it would be Tucker McCann. The freshman kicker struggled mightily in his debut. Odom is sticking with him however, and clearly believes in him. After McCann’s first miss on Saturday, Odom was the first to console him, wrapping his arm around him. This is the week to show off his big-leg talent with the game not in question.
“I have a lot of belief and faith in him,” Odom said of McCann. “He’s going to be OK. I need to be really positive because I’ve seen it.”
Success can be addictive. Missouri desperately needs to find it in several areas of its team on Saturday. After Eastern Michigan, Georgia follows and the real season begins. This is the week to get confidence at an all-time high before SEC play.