No. 1 Georgia and its fearsome defense will visit Columbia in less than 72 hours, posing as the greatest test to date for a Mizzou offense still searching for consistency.
Through four games, the Bulldogs have held opponents to 32 total points while only allowing 257 yards per game. On the opposite side, the Tigers have totaled 112 points offensively, but only 26 of those against Power Five defenses.
With the battle of SEC East foes on the horizon, Dominic Lovett, Harrison Mevis, Jack Stonehouse and Mitchell Walters took to the lectern to speak on the upcoming matchup as well as where they can grow following last week’s 17-14 defeat in Auburn.
Confidence not an issue for Mevis
After knocking down 40 or 45 field goal attempts in his first two seasons as Mizzou’s kicker, Harrison Mevis has slumped to a 5-for-8 start this season, including a miss in what could have been last week’s potential game-winning kick.
Despite the rocky start, the junior remains confident in his ability to convert at any time.
“Every kicker is going to miss sometime in their career and it’s really about how you rebound,” Mevis said. “I’ll respond on Saturday.”
The confidence extends beyond himself, however. From the coaching staff and locker room, the trust is still high in the All-American kicker, who has proven to be reliable throughout the good times and bad.
“It means a lot to have Coach Drink, Coach Link [and] everyone’s confidence,” Mevis said. “I feel it helps a lot and I’ve had that confidence and trust from them since day one.”
With a full slate of SEC games still to come, beginning with the bout against the Bulldogs, Mevis will have plenty of opportunities to showcase why the trust in him is deserved.
Georgia serves as a big opportunity for the Mizzou offense
“To quote Kobe, ‘The job’s not done,’” WR Dominic Lovett said.
That sentiment is what Lovett began with, emphasizing how Mizzou views its upcoming schedule, which features a slate of talented SEC programs. The Tigers will face the Bulldogs first in a game where the former will have an opportunity to make a statement.
It’s little secret that Mizzou has more to gain than Georgia in Saturday’s evening kickoff. The Bulldogs are favored by over three touchdowns, showcasing the nation’s lack of confidence in the Tigers’ ability to withstand the Bulldogs’ complete roster.
For Mizzou, an opportunity to bounce back after a tough defeat and at least compete against the nation’s top-ranked program will present itself. The Tigers know that it’s not everyday a No. 1 program comes to town, so they are ready to take full advantage of the matchup.
“Every game we’re thriving and growing, so we got a big opportunity in front of us,” Lovett said. “All I’m doing is focusing ahead on Georgia. We got to take it one game, one play at a time, and Saturday we’re going to see what the outcome is.”
That one play at a time mentality continues to be one preached throughout the Mizzou locker room. Even with a disappointing loss last weekend, the Tigers plan on entering their upcoming game with a ‘1-0 mindset.’
Although last year’s national championship team stands in the way of that mission, Lovett and Mizzou are not afraid.
“Honestly, [we’re] looking at [Georgia] as another opponent on the schedule,” Lovett said. “Considering that they are No. 1, for me personally, I kind of look at everybody the same. Whoever guarding me—you put your pants on how I punt my pants on ... the way you brush your teeth, I brush my teeth—so it’s all about who want it more.”
Stonehouse continues lineage of punters
The new starting punter for the Mizzou Tigers is in some familiar company.
Stonehouse’s father punted at USC, his uncle at Stanford and his cousin with the Tennessee Titans. Not to mention, his mother’s soccer skills add to the thought that Stonehouse was always meant to be a punter.
“I think my dad and my uncle, when they started punting, led the way,” Stonehouse said. “It’s just what I was taught to do.”
“I think a lot of the athleticism came, sorry dad, from my mom’s side ... I think I got [the talent] from both sides.”
With the genetics and history in place, the only thing for Stonehouse to do was put it in action. He battled against Sean Koetting throughout training camp before losing the job, placing him second on the depth chart. After a lackluster start from Koetting, Stonehouse earned the opportunity to punt and made the most of it.
“The experience is crazy,” Storehouse said. “That was like one of my biggest dreams and it’s kind of surreal.”
The redshirt freshman played his first full game against Auburn, posting a 68-yard punt and three punts within the opponents’ 20-yard-line. On a day with little else going right, Stonehouse displayed what he can do. Despite the success, however, the competition never ends.
“[The punter position] is not guaranteed, just like we saw two weeks ago,” Stonehouse said. “There’s really no difference, but it’s head-down and do the best that I can.”
Mizzou fans will likely see more of Stonehouse Saturday, but if the past (and present) is any indication, the Tigers may have another dominant force on special teams for the foreseeable future.