Missouri needs a breather, and that’s what New Mexico State represents after playing the Tennessee Vols.
By Matt Zemek
The game against UT went as expected. Tennessee proved why it is one of the best teams in the nation. It delivered a thorough lesson on how to play aggressive offensive football in 2022. Now the Tigers get a chance to hammer New Mexico State, an independent football team led by Jerry Kill, formerly the head coach at Northern Illinois and Minnesota. The Aggies are currently 4-5 on the year. A win over Mizzou would certainly help their bowl hopes. Given that they need to beat Mizzou and Liberty to achieve that goal, they’re fighting uphill, but Missouri can’t worry about that. It needs to prepare and make sure this is a stress-free game before the Thanksgiving weekend game versus Arkansas.
1 – Don’t beat yourself
The best way to win games like this is to not lose them. That may sound obvious, but teams often end up losing these games. Did you see last weekend? Vanderbilt snapped its 26-game SEC losing streak at Kentucky. Boston College came back from 13 points down to beat North Carolina State. Arizona shocked UCLA on the road. Washington ambushed Oregon. A lot of teams with no chance to win in the eye of pundits were able to win on the road.
The Tigers cannot afford to get in their own way, commit silly penalties that keep NMSU drives alive, or fail to practice the fundamentals of special teams which lead to unexpected gift-wrapped points for the Aggies. That’s what losing these games typically involves. It’s not the actual act of losing, it’s the lack of preparation and fundamentals that produces the loss; it’s often completely avoidable.
2 – Establish the run before leaning on the pass
If you were told that the New Mexico State Aggies have the nation’s 39th best pass defense, would you trust that statement? The Aggies have allowed just nine passing touchdowns on the year. There’s more: The Aggies also have the nation’s 11th-ranked defense in terms of passing yards allowed on the year. The Aggies have allowed 1,576 yards and just 6.65 yards per attempt. Trying to hit them first by throwing on them is playing right into their hands, which is why Mizzou must get the ground game going right out of the gate.
3 – Keep Brady Cooking
Brady Cook is showing signs of becoming a leader for this Tiger football team. He shows fearlessness and is absorbing what it takes to play against SEC competition. It’s tough to judge a performance against a top-five team, but Cook made some impressive plays against the Vols, often with his legs. New Mexico State offers a chance for him to improve, but he can’t get too cocky. Yes, the Aggies are an FBS Independent, but they’ve also played a decent number of good teams and still have a competent pass defense. Cook can play, but he has to be aware of the fact that the Aggies will put up a solid challenge. He cannot underestimate their abilities.