The Missouri Tigers were never expected to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in Week 1. They weren’t even expected to stay close to Nick Saban’s team. The deck was stacked against first-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz, who has a rebuilding project on his hands and needs time to restore the Tigers.
By Matt Zemek
Having Alabama in a season opener didn’t give Missouri an opponent it could easily adjust to. This was not how the Tigers could settle into their season. As it was, Missouri took its lumps, as expected. Now we get to see if that game prepared Mizzou for the more winnable games on the schedule. In the second game of the SEC season, the Tigers go to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers. Let’s see what the Tigers can do to possibly collect a victory:
1 – No huge giveaways
Coaches and fans don’t need to be told about the importance of turnovers, but turnovers are going to happen. A point of emphasis worth making about turnovers which sometimes gets lost is that turnovers can’t be bad ones. In other words, an interception thrown on a long pass on third and 15 which puts the opponent inside its own 10-yard line is not the same as an interception thrown on first down in the red zone. Not all interceptions are created equal. Missouri needs to avoid the especially damaging forms of turnovers… such as the pick-six South Carolina threw last week against Tennessee, which enabled the Vols to win by four. Tennessee-South Carolina was a very evenly-matched game, but the pick-six helped tip the balance to the Volunteers. Missouri simply has to avoid those kinds of disasters – the margin for error is small.
2 – Third downs
One reason South Carolina almost pulled the upset against Tennessee this past weekend is that the Gamecocks’ defense was great against the Vols on third down. Tennessee converted only 1 of 12 third downs, a reason the Gamecocks held UT to under 400 yards of total offense. If Drinkwitz was told, right now, that his defense will allow fewer than 400 yards, he would probably sign on the dotted line. His team wouldn’t be assured of victory, but it would likely be competitive if Tennessee doesn’t exceed 400 yards this Saturday.
3 – Big pass plays
Missouri quarterback Shawn Robinson completed 19 of 25 passes against Alabama. That looks good on a box score, but the problem with Missouri’s passing game is that it didn’t hit many game-breaking plays. Missouri had one 54-yard pass, but none of its other passes covered more than 23 yards. Robinson (19 completions for 185 yards) and teammate Connor Bazelak (7 completions for 68 yards) averaged under 10 yards per completion. Drinkwitz would like to see a fatter average yards per completion against the Tennessee defense, which allowed 27 points to South Carolina and has a lot to sort out this season.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 11:00 AM CT (12:00 PM ET). Watch on the SEC Network.