The Missouri Tigers do not yet know if Kelly Bryant will play against Georgia. This is just the latest source of agony and stress in a season which has flown off the rails the past few weeks. Missouri seemed to have a real chance of finishing first in the SEC East standings.
By Matt Zemek
Then the Tigers lost to Vanderbilt and Kentucky in anemic offensive performances. Now Mizzou has to face the Georgia-Florida axis in November. These games had the look and feel of season-making showdowns a month ago. Now they feel very different, and Bryant’s uncertain status adds to the Tigers’ sense of dread. These are no longer anticipated meetings filled with hope and optimism. These are games in which Missouri seems to be bracing for the worst outcome.
How can the Tigers reframe their mindset and refocus their vision heading into Athens? Let’s try these keys to offer a roadmap:
1 – Play slowly
The Missouri defense has done its reasonable best. Worse defenses would have allowed 35, 42, 49 points in the Tigers’ losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but the Mizzou crew stood tall to keep both the Commodores and Wildcats under 30 points. Missouri’s offense needs to pay back the defense by staying on the field as long as possible. Live-clock plays should involve running the play clock inside five seconds. The Tigers need to keep Georgia’s offense off the field, so that the Bulldogs can’t get into a rhythm. Georgia did find a rhythm on offense against Florida, but part of UGA’s success against the Gators was built on converting third downs. Missouri has to be the team which wins third down in this game, and if it can convert third downs at a high rate, it can gain 37-38 minutes in time of possession, which is how this seemingly lopsided game can become surprisingly close.
If Bryant doesn’t play, Missouri won’t be equipped to play or win a shootout. The Tigers have to take the air out of the ball, shorten the game, reduce the overall number of snaps in the game, and win enough third downs to matter.
2 – Pass rush
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm had all day to throw on third downs against Florida. Missouri will certainly see this in its film study. Finding the right maneuvers and tactics to get to Fromm will be a centerpiece aspect of Missouri’s game plan and overall approach. If the Tigers fail here, their path to victory will be much harder to see and identify.
3 – Catch the break you make
If a Georgia receiver bobbles a pass, or if a Georgia runner puts the ball on the ground, Missouri has to make the interception or fumble recovery. South Carolina played at Georgia earlier this season, with a backup quarterback. It won because it caught deflected passes and pounced on chances to get takeaways against the Georgia offense. If opportunity knocks, Missouri defenders have to answer the door.