Don’t expect the Missouri offense to magically finds its rhythm against Tennessee. The Volunteer defense certainly doesn’t look all that scary, but they do an excellent job of mucking up plays and just being an amoebic pain that slowly suffocates offenses. There will be no joy when Missouri has the ball this week....but when has the opposite ever been true in this past month?
Darel Middleton - JR: 16.5 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack/1 FF
LaTrell Bumphus - 17.5 tackles/5 TFLs/2 sacks/
Greg Emerson - FR: 18 tackles/4 TFLs/2 sacks/2 PBUs
Kurott Garland - FR: 6.5 tackles
Aubrey Solomon - JR: 18 tackles/3 TFLs/2 sacks
Matthew Butler - JR: 23 tackles/2.5 TFLs/2 sacks
Quavaris Crouch - FR: 18.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/2 PBUs
Deandre Johnson - JR: 7.5 tackles/3 TFLs/2 sacks/1 PBU/1 FF
Darrell Taylor - SR: 29 tackles/8 TFLs/7 sacks/4 PBUs/1 FF
Kivon Bennett - SO: 14.5 tackles/3 TFLs/1 sack/1 PBU
Daniel Bituli - SR: 48 tackles/3.5 TFLs/2 sacks/2 PBUs/1 FF
Solon Page III - R-SO: x
Henry To’o To’o - FR: 40.5 tackles/3.5 TFLs/1 PBU
J.J. Peterson - FR: 6.5 tackles
Kenneth George, Jr. - JR: 12 tackles/3 PBUs/1 INT
Warren Burrell - FR: 8.5 tackles
Nigel Warrior - SR: 41.5 tackles/1 TFL/5 PBUs/4 INTs
Tyus Fields - FR: x
Theo Jackson - JR: 36 tackles/1 TFL/2 PBUs/1 INT
Jaylen McCollough - FR: 14 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack/1 PBU
Bryce Thompson - SO: 19 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack/2 PBUs/3 INTs
Alontae Taylor - SO: 19.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/2 PBUs/1 INT
Brent Cimaglia - JR: 26-26 PATs/19-21 FGs (90.5%)
Paxton Brooks - SO: 16 punts/43.6 avg/1 touch back/3 fair catches/7 inside 20
Ty Chandler - JR: 9 returns/22.7 avg/6 fair catches
Marquez Callaway - SR: 7 returns/20.1 avg/1 TD/ fair catch
Again, as the poor man’s Florida, Tennessee is just as tough with a few lower rankings in key metrics, but overall, it’ll be a slog and I doubt that Missouri’s offense magically becomes the unit of the first 6 weeks. If the Tigers do move the ball, here are their opportunities:
The Forward Pass
31st defending against the run and 48th defending against the pass; not a huge difference, but you always want to target the weakest of the two and Missouri’s running game is still asleep at the wheel. Last week against Florida the receivers actually had one of their better games holding on to the ball, so hopefully that can continue. Johnathon Johnson returning should help, but he’s also one of the biggest culprits of drops. The Volunteers will give you the short stuff while limiting the deep shots; Missouri can’t go deep if their life depended on it so this actually sets up to a (slight) advantage.
The Efficiency Plays
Just like in the passing game above, Tennessee, as a defensive philosophy, is content with letting you be efficient and Missouri can only efficiently move down the field over 11-12-13 plays if it wants to score. Jeremy Pruitt is emulating those late-aught/early teens Alabama defenses that swarmed to the ball and just limited the gains instead of breaking you outright with havoc. If the Volunteers keep that philosophy, it can open up to lots of short stuff on the ground and through the air, milking clock, and taking advantage of the surprisingly terrible Tennessee red zone defense (85th inside the 20, 58th in goaline defense).
Third Dow-ohhhhhhh nooooooo
....sigh. It just seems like if the Tigers see a third down, the drive is over, but the flip side of that coin is that the Volunteer defense really likes to let you keep going once you hit third down. 111th (!!!!) in third-and-long, 41st in third-and-medium, 73rd in third-and-short. If there was ever, ever, a situation in which the Missouri offense got their ish together against a competent defense on third down, this is that situation.
Just score 17. That’s all I ask, and that might be enough to win. In fact, I’ll make it even easier: go three-and-out less than 5 times in the game. Hold on to the ball long enough to give the defense a rest and put some forking points up on the board. Do it for the seniors.