Missouri football three keys: Vanderbilt

Missouri football Three keys

The Missouri football Tigers beat the South Carolina Gamecocks this past weekend. SEC wins are precious commodities and are not to be taken for granted. That said, this game didn’t feel especially invigorating.

By Matt Zemek

Victory brought a sense of relief rather than a sense of accomplishment. South Carolina had been terrible as a team in recent weeks, and its defense practically gave up the ship against both LSU and Ole Miss. For Missouri to score just 17 points against the Gamecocks represented a big step back for the offense. The team won because the defense and special teams held up their ends of the bargain, but the offense was awful, and that can’t remain in place in the next few weeks. As Missouri prepares to host Vanderbilt, here is what the Tigers have to do.

1 – Avoid complacency

The Tigers might have assumed that in the midst of all the controversies swirling around the South Carolina program, with coach Will Muschamp having been fired, the Gamecocks couldn’t and wouldn’t put up a good fight against them.

Instead, South Carolina battled. A defense which has been lit up like a Christmas tree on several occasions this season suddenly dug in and rocked the Missouri offense back on its heels. The same South Carolina defense which allowed over 55 points to Ole Miss a few weeks ago was suddenly able to limit Missouri to just 301 total yards, under 100 of them on the ground. South Carolina’s offensive linemen were outhustled and outplayed. That drifting and flat performance has to be left behind. It must give way to an authoritative display from the offensive line against Vanderbilt, combined with much sharper games from the quarterback and receivers.

Speaking of the quarterback:

2 – Connor Bazelak needs to go big and connect

The Missouri passing game was very timid and unambitious against South Carolina. Connor Bazelak completed a modest 21 of 33 passes for 203 yards. No pass play went beyond 28 yards. Bazelak’s average yards per attempt was under 6.5, a very low average. Missouri and Bazelak need to try to hit at least one very long pass, ideally early in the game. That would force Vanderbilt to bring more pressure and perhaps rethink its tactical approach to this contest. Missouri can’t allow itself to be known as the team which refuses to take chances on offense. The Tigers need to be aggressive and unrelenting here.

3 – Remain sharp on defense

If the offense was a disappointment against South Carolina, the defense was a pleasant surprise, allowing only one touchdown and making big plays. The Tigers snagged one interception, didn’t allow an especially high completion percentage (20 of 33, basically 60 percent), and limited the Gamecocks to 169 yards passing. If Mizzou can replicate this performance against Vanderbilt, it will win handily.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 11:00 CT (Noon ET). You can watch this Missouri football game on the SEC Network.

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