Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman thinks Missouri will come after the Razorbacks a lot like most other defenses have this season -- with one exception. It will be sooner.
"Everyone we've played has come after us with movement after about the second series," Pittman said. "I think Missouri will come with movement at the very start of the game."
That's partly because it's given the Arkansas running game trouble. And, it's also because that's what Missouri does anyway. Pittman has watched Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel through the years and knows that's usually in his plan.
"I can tell you why Missouri has been successful," Pittman said of the 9-2 Tigers. "They are very well coached. Dave does a great job. He's going to have his guys ready."
This Missouri team is a lot like those of the recent past, Pittman said. The Tigers have great defensive end play.
"It's like all of the Missouri teams I've seen lately," Pittman said. "They have two very fine defensive ends. Markus Golden and Shane Ray are very good. They have combined for 22 sacks and they have 40 as a team."
It's not so much that the Tigers load up on pass pressures, Pittman said. They do pressure, but it's run pressures and stunts more than for the pass. It's just that they get into a lot of long yardage situations because of the run defense.
“They stop the run because they move," Pittman said. "The blitz to stop the run – this is not a team that blitzes to sack the quarterback, the blitz to stop the run. The reason they can is because of Markus Golden and Shane Ray."
"Certainly with the movement and the run game, we’ve seen it all year. They’re probably planning on moving on us and those are things we’ve worked on really hard this week.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith knows that Missouri works with the spread at certain times and that plays into the base nickel scheme that has been effective for the Hogs recently. But even when the Tigers go with a heavier package with a tight end, Smith might keep nickel back Tevin Mitchel on the field.
“We always try our best to match personnel and there’s time where we could have three linebackers in versus three wide receivers if we feel it’s a run situation," Smith said. "But for the most part Tevin Mitchel is playing really well for us and whenever we get opportunities to put him on the field and match him up in the slot - that has certainly been a positive for us. We’ll pick those spots and try to take advantage of them.”
Smith was asked about the back-to-back shutouts and if he saw that coming.
"I think with us, it's more about the process," he said. "We didn't talk about shutouts. We talked about our tackling, getting 11 to the ball and being sound. What finally did happen, we kept the ball in front of us. We eliminated the big play. That's what had been the killer. But we just kept working on our tackling, kept improving."
Missouri has lost only one fumble this season, something Smith said jumps out on the stat page.
"Obviously, they have a similar philosophy as us on ball security," Smith said. "That's what Coach (Jim) Chaney preaches each week. You probably know that you aren't going to get many chances at the ball, so when you do, you have to maximize your opportunity.
"That's what we've done of late. We had some chances earlier this year, like against Alabama, that we didn't secure the ball when they threw it to us. That's what we did better last week against Ole Miss. So maybe we've learned and improved there. You just have to make the most of your chances."
Chaney had several chances during his time with the media to talk about the healthy of quarterback Brandon Allen, injured against Ole Miss. He politely declined. Asked directly if he would talk about Brandon Allen, he said, "No." But he would talk about his brother, Austin Allen.
“Austin has done a good job," Chaney said. "Austin knows what the game plan is and knows how we’re trying to approach the football game. He understands it and I expect him to play well as we expect of all our back-up players.”
As far as Missouri, Chaney said, "We expect to see a team with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement with what they have on the line."
The Hogs have seen excitement build in their camp with two victories.
“The last two weeks have been great for our morale and self-confidence," said Barry Lunney, tight ends coach. "I don’t think we were sorely lacking in those areas before we won but it only strengthened that. Not just for us, but for everyone involved with the program, including our fans – the people that pull for us. So I think we’re at a really high time right now, but we understand that we’re playing a really good team on the road in the SEC and we better get ready to play well.”
Secondary coach Clay Jennings said the Hogs have to take that excitement to the field.
“We have to do a good job of trying to disrupt their guys in the beginning by doing it right," Lunney said. "We’ve got to keep balls in front of us and understand that their play isn’t over until the echo of the whistle. They’re up-tempo, no huddle, but I think the offensive coordinator over there does a very good job as far as seeing where you are going from there.”
Smith said the goals don't change.
"They do a good job of being 50-50, but it's the same for us, stop the run," Smith said. "When they throw, we have to keep their quarterback in the pocket. And, we have to disrupt their routes so we have time to get to him. I've been impressed with Maty Mauk, their quarterback, what he's been able to do the last two weeks on the road. That's a great characteristic of a good team, when your quarterback plays well on the road."
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