Game Week: Missouri Tiger Preview

We take a detailed look at the Tigers as they head into their biggest game to date against the Oklahoma Sooners

On Saturday evening (7:00 P.M., ABC), the #11 Missouri Tigers (6-0, 2-0) play host to the #1 Oklahoma Sooners (6-0, 2-0). Missouri comes into this game following an impressive 30-9 road win at Texas A&M last week.

Coach Pinkel talked about the opportunity afforded by playing Oklahoma.

"This is the kind of game, these big games, they're the kind of games you've got to win," said Coach Pinkel, "If you want to compete for a championship. We're excited about playing them. It's a great challenge, and it's a great opportunity for us."

Following last week's games, the initial BCS standings were released, with Missouri at #11, a positioning which is aided by the computer ranking component of the BCS formula. Looking at the Jeff Sagarin Ratings, one of the six computer ratings utilized within the BCS formula, it appears that being undefeated through what is tabulated, to this point, as the 47th strongest schedule in the country, is what has placed the Tigers at #11 in the BCS standings. Of the 10 undefeated teams remaining in the FBS, Missouri's SOS is rated as the 4th strongest.

According to Sagarin, the Tigers own victories at home over #146 McNeese State, #38 San Diego State, #91 Miami (OH), and #47 Colorado. Missouri defeated #42 Texas A&M on the road, and #39 Illinois in St. Louis.

Missouri is a relatively young team, with just one senior on the two deep on offense, and just six seniors on the two deep on defense. Missouri is regularly playing about 20 players on each side of the football. In addition, there's about 10 more players seeing regular action on special teams. The relative youth of this team tells part of this season's story. Missouri's depth is another part of the story. The Tigers are a young, very talented team that's been getting better during the season. Coach Pinkel talked about his team's approach to this week's game, amid all of the hype.

"I think all of our players are very well aware, number one, of how good Oklahoma is," said Coach Pinkel. "Number two, how it's such a big game. They're very well aware of that. Talking about that will not help us play better. What will help us play better is focusing on what got us to this point, so far. Practicing well, and trying to improve each and every week, and studying Oklahoma. That's sounds a bit boring, but that's where our focus will be..................... We're working hard to get better every week. And, I think we're improving."

During his weekly press conference, Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops responded to a question about whether he thinks Missouri is an improving team.

"Definitely," replied Coach Stoops. "In the last couple of games, they've played in a really strong and positive way."

Defensively, Missouri's been playing well since the beginning of the season. But, in recent weeks, several very talented young players have emerged to help lift the Tigers' defense to another level. Depth has been important, as well, as several key defensive players have missed time. With the expected return of All-American DE Aldon Smith, the Tigers are nearly at full strength for the first time in weeks (Back-up MLB Luke Lambert has been ruled out with a knee injury). In Aldon Smith's absence, DEs Jacquies Smith, Brad Madison, and Michael Sam have each elevated their performances, and have made significant contributions. LBs Zaviar Gooden and Andrew Wilson, and CB Kip Edwards have seemingly improved each week, and are currently playing at a very high level. Junior DTs Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno are playing better than they ever have, and are continuing to improve. Junior Kenji Jackson has elevated his play to a very high level this season, and provides outstanding leadership from his safety position. Safety Jarrell Harrison, CBs Kevin Rutland and Carl Gettis, and LB Andrew Gachkar are all playing the best football of their careers. Coach Stoops talked about the Tigers' defense.

"They're very structurally sound," said Coach Stoops. "They're disciplined, in how they play. They mix it up, when they're coming after you, and when they're not. And, they mix up their coverages................... They look very similar to what we've seen in the past. We have always respected how they play defense."

Gooden is Missouri's leading tackler on the season with 40 total tackles, but the real identity of the Tiger's defense can be seen in the fact that 19 different Missouri defenders have garnered at least 10 tackles, and 18 different Missouri defenders have been in on a TFL. The Tigers have applied consistent pressure on opposing QBs, once again with a team approach, as 13 different players have registered a QB sack. Not only is everyone involved in the Tigers' team defense, but there's not really a weak link in Missouri's defense. This week, the Tigers are a little thin at MLB, with Luke Lambert out and Will Ebner still playing through a foot injury. But, RSF Andrew Wilson has played so well, I don't expect an evident weakness.

"I feel good that our defense is playing consistently," began Coach Pinkel. "I think that we have really good team speed. I think we're playing with confidence............................. I think the greatest asset that we have on defense is that we really play as a team together well."

Coach Pinkel indicated on Monday that he thought the Tigers' offense seemed to be more "in sync" against Texas A&M, and that he thought that Blaine Gabbert appeared to be "locked in".

"In our offense, obviously your quarterback's got to play well," said Coach Pinkel. "We put a lot on our quarterback, probably as much as anybody."

Last week, junior QB Blaine Gabbert appeared to have elevated his play on the field, as well as his focus in preparation. He also appears to have taken a step forward in terms of leadership. Gabbert enters this week's game with impressive season statistics (151-227-3, 1591 yards, 10 TDs, 66.5% completion rate, 137.29 pass efficiency rating, 7 yards/pass attempt), and is coming off of his best game of the season. Coach Stoops was asked about Gabbert.

"I see him operating as efficiently as Chase Daniels did," said Coach Stoops, once again mispronouncing the former Missouri QB's name. "What you've seen to this point, is a guy that is very efficient, smart on where he wants to go with the football. He understands their offense. He executes it well. He throws a good ball. He's got good pocket presence, all of those things."

Last week, Gabbert spread the ball around to a handful of receivers, and that's a trend that will need to continue. The Tigers have four receivers who have found the end zone this year, including sophomore T.J. Moe (8.3 receptions/game, 11.8 yards/reception, 3 TDs), and juniors Michael Egnew (8.2 receptions/game, 8.9 yards/reception, 3 TDs), Wes Kemp (3.8 receptions/game, 10 yards/reception, 3 TDs), and Jerrell Jackson (3.6 receptions/game, 13.7 yards/reception, 2 TDs). Continuing to have all four involved in the passing game is paramount to optimal success in the Tigers' passing game.

"What's real important in our offense is to be able to play catch," said Coach Pinkel. "That's the most important thing. If the guys are open, throw it where they've got a chance to catch it, and then you've got to make the catches. Playing catch sounds very simple. It's not. But, when we do that, it certainly helps the consistency of our offense. So, we'll keep working to get better."

Coach Pinkel continues to emphasize that the Tigers need to run the ball better. The Tigers had limited success running the football last week against Texas A&M's #2 nationally ranked rushing defense. Still, the Tigers leading ground gainer on the season, freshman Henry Josey, averaged 5.8 yards/carry against the Aggies, and sophomore Kendial Lawrence averaged 4 yards/carry, and found the end zone against A&M. On the season, Josey is leading the Tigers' in nearly every rushing category. His 7.1 yards/carry, 255 rushing yards, and 4 TDs rushing are all tops on the Tigers.

When the Tigers are able to run the football, and Gabbert spreads the ball around to all four of his receivers, the Tigers' offense resembles the high-powered attack for which Missouri became known two or three years ago.

The Tigers have been very good on special teams. Only kick-off coverage has been sub-par. Kick-off returns are improved with Marcus Murphy back there, and punts and placements have been very good.

"We have great respect for Oklahoma," said Coach Pinkel. "I think when you have great respect for somebody, certainly you want to beat them. But, you know, you've got to go do it. And, that's the way it should be."

Statistically, Oklahoma's offense ranks ahead of Missouri's, in just about every offensive category. Notably, Oklahoma ranks 3rd in the Big 12, and 17th in the NCAA, in total offense (458.33 yards/game), and 3rd in the conference (17th) in scoring offense, at 36 points/game. Missouri ranks 7th in the Big 12, and 43rd in the country, in total offense (414.67 yards/game), and 4th in the conference (24th NCAA) in scoring offense, at 34.5 points/game.

On the defensive side, Missouri dominates statistically. Missouri ranks first in the Big 12, and 2nd nationally, in scoring defense at 10.83 points/game. Missouri leads the conference, by a wide margin, in red zone defense, turning opponents away almost half (47%) of the time. Oklahoma is 4th in the Big 12, and 56th in the country, in scoring defense, allowing 19 points/game, and the Sooners rank last in the Big 12 in red zone defense, turning opponents away only 7% of the time.

"We're preparing for this game like we prepare for any other game," said Coach Pinkel. "We're playing a great football team, a team for which I have a tremendous amount of respect. And, we're going to focus on trying to play our best football game."

Missouri Overall Team Statistics (as of Oct 17, 2010)

All games

Team Statistics MU OPP

SCORING 207 65 Points Per Game 34.5 10.8

FIRST DOWNS 134 110

Rushing 41 37

Passing 88 61

Penalty 5 12

RUSHING YARDAGE 791 703

Yards gained rushing 919 898

Yards lost rushing 128 195

Rushing Attempts 181 200

Average Per Rush 4.4 3.5

Average Per Game 131.8 117.2

TDs Rushing 13 3

PASSING YARDAGE 1697 1269

Comp-Att-Int 162-241-4 133-226-9

Average Per Pass 7.0 5.6

Average Per Catch 10.5 9.5

Average Per Game 282.8 211.5

TDs Passing 11 4

TOTAL OFFENSE 2488 1972

Total Plays 422 426

Average Per Play 5.9 4.6

Average Per Game 414.7 328.7

KICK RETURNS: #-Yards 16-323 36-763 PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards 15-98 13-43 INT RETURNS: #-Yards 9-202 4-25 KICK RETURN AVERAGE 20.2 21.2 PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 6.5 3.3 INT RETURN AVERAGE 22.4 6.2 FUMBLES-LOST 10-5 12-5 PENALTIES-Yards 32-323 45-330 Average Per Game 53.8 55.0 PUNTS-Yards 28-1212 33-1301 Average Per Punt 43.3 39.4 Net punt average 41.0 35.8 TIME OF POSSESSION/Game 2 7 : 5 7 3 2 : 0 3 3RD-DOWN Conversions 30/80 38/97 3rd-Down Pct 38% 39% 4TH-DOWN Conversions 2/4 2/12 4th-Down Pct 50% 17% SACKS BY-Yards 20-119 7-54 MISC YARDS 0 0 TOUCHDOWNS SCORED 25 7 FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS 10-11 6-10 ON-SIDE KICKS 0-0 0-0 RED-ZONE SCORES (26-30) 87% (8-15) 53% RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS (18-30) 60% (4-15) 27% PAT-ATTEMPTS (23-25) 92% (5-6) 83%

Score by Quarters 1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Total

Missouri 56 60 64 27 0 207

Opponents 10 20 6 29 0 65

Missouri Overall Individual Statistics (as of Oct 17, 2010) All games

Rushing gp-gs att gain loss net avg td lg avg/gM

Josey, Henry 6 - 0 36 269 14 255 7.1 4 62 42.5

Moore, De'Vion 6 - 4 40 213 13 200 5.0 3 27 33.3

Lawrence, Kendial 5 - 1 33 171 6 165 5.0 2 39 33.0

Murphy, Marcus 5 - 0 15 100 4 96 6.4 1 30 19.2

Franklin, James 4 - 0 13 75 0 75 5.8 1 34 18.8

Passing gp-gs effic comp-att-int pct yds td lg avg/g

Gabbert, Blaine 6 - 6 137.29 151-227-3 66.5 1591 10 68 265.2

Franklin, James 4 - 0 151.46 11-14-1 78.6 106 1 27 26.5

Total 6 138.11 162-241-4 67.2 1697 11 68 282.8 Opponents 6 103.89 133-226-9 58.8 1269 4 60 211.5

Receiving gp-gs no. yds avg td lg avg/g Moe, T.J. 6 - 6 50 589 11.8 3 68 98.2 Egnew, Michael 6 - 6 49 437 8.9 3 29 72.8 Kemp, Wes 6 - 6 23 231 10.0 3 33 38.5 Jackson, Jerrell 5 - 5 18 246 13.7 2 30 49.2 Washington, L'Damian 6 - 1 5 35 7.0 0 11 5.8 McGaffie, Gahn 6 - 0 5 31 6.2 0 19 5.2 Gerau, Brandon 6 - 0 4 87 21.8 0 28 14.5 Woodland, Rolandis 6 - 0 2 14 7.0 0 9 2.3 Lawrence, Kendial 5 - 1 2 1 0.5 0 3 0.2 Josey, Henry 6 - 0 1 8 8.0 0 8 1.3 Jones, Andrew 5 - 0 1 7 7.0 0 7 1.4 Lucas, Marcus 4 - 0 1 6 6.0 0 6 1.5 Murphy, Marcus 5 - 0 1 5 5.0 0 5 1.0 Total 6 162 1697 10.5 11 68 282.8 Opponents 6 133 1269 9.5 4 60 211.5

Punt Returns no. yds avg td lg Gettis, Carl 13 86 6.6 0 31 Sam, Michael 1 8 8.0 0 0 Edwards, Kip 1 4 4.0 0 4 Total 15 98 6.5 0 31 Opponents 13 43 3.3 0 13

Interceptions no. yds avg td lg Jackson, Kenji 2 48 24.0 0 32 Rutland, Kevin 2 39 19.5 0 24 Sam, Michael 1 62 62.0 0 62 Edwards, Kip 1 49 49.0 0 49 Simmons, Jasper 1 0 0.0 0 0 Gachkar, Andrew 1 2 2.0 0 2 Gettis, Carl 1 2 2.0 0 2 Total 9 202 22.4 0 62 Opponents 4 25 6.2 0 23

Kick Returns no. yds avg td lg Murphy, Marcus 9 208 23.1 0 39 Simmons, Jasper 3 60 20.0 0 22 McGaffie, Gahn 2 39 19.5 0 24 Gettis, Carl 2 16 8.0 0 11 Total 16 323 20.2 0 39 Opponents 36 763 21.2 0 53

Fumble Returns no. yds avg td lg Gettis, Carl 1 19 19.0 1 19 Total 1 19 19.0 1 19 Opponents 1 7 7.0 0 7

Tackles Sacks Pass defense Fumbles blkd ## Defensive Leaders gp-gs ua a tot tfl/yds no-yds int-yds brup qbh rcv-yds ff kick saf

25 Gooden, Zaviar 6-6 20 20 40 3.0-9 1.0-3 . 1 . 2-0 . . . 1H Harrison, Jarrell 6-5 27 12 39 . . . 2 . . . . . 6 Gachkar, Andrew 6-6 21 17 38 4.5-10 . 1-2 3 . 1-0 2 . . 13 Jackson, Kenji 6-6 25 10 35 3.0-9 . 2-48 1 . . 1 . . 19 Gettis, Carl 6-6 23 3 26 1.0-1 . 1-2 2 . 1-19 . . . 20 Rutland, Kevin 6-6 16 6 22 2.0-14 2.0-14 2-39 4 . . . . . 90 Hamilton, Dominique 6-6 8 12 20 2.0-13 1.5-13 . . . . . . . 48 Wilson, Andrew 6-1 10 9 19 0.5-6 0.5-6 . . . . . . . 1E Edwards, Kip 6-0 13 6 19 4.5-17 1.0-8 1-49 3 . . . . . 3S Smith, Jacquies 6-6 11 7 18 5.0-10 2.0-7 . 3 . . . . . 33 Lambert, Luke 4-1 8 9 17 2.0-4 1.0-1 . 2 1 . . . . 93 Resonno, Terrell 6-6 5 12 17 2.0-3 1.0-2 . . . . . 1 . 8S Smith, Aldon 3-3 8 7 15 4.0-18 3.0-15 . . 1 . . . . 32 Ebner, Will 4-4 6 9 15 . . . . . . 1 . . 9S Simmons, Jasper 2-1 4 9 13 0.5-1 . 1-0 . . . . . . 57 Madison, Brad 6-2 11 2 13 7.0-45 4.0-34 . 1 . 1-0 1 . . 5S Sam, Michael 6-1 4 8 12 3.5-11 1.0-6 1-62 . 1 . 1 1 1 31 Gaines, E.J. 6-0 7 4 11 . . . . . . . . . 14 Clark, Jaleel 6-0 5 5 10 . . . . . . . . . 17 White, Matt 6-0 5 5 10 . . . 2 . . . . . 3G Gettys, Jeff 6-0 2 5 7 0.5-1 . . . . . . . . 5T Tatum, Josh 3-0 4 3 7 2.0-2 1.0-1 . . . . . . . 10 Bolden, Tavon 6-0 3 4 7 . . . . . . . . . 18 Malbrough, Marcus 6-0 . 5 5 . . . . . . . . . 2H Hobson, Trey 6-0 5 . 5 . . . . . . . . . 2S Steeples, Robert 6-0 1 3 4 . . . . . . . . . 38 Culver, Jared 6-0 2 2 4 . . . . . . . . . 91 Burge, Jimmy 4-0 1 2 3 . . . 1 . . . . . 35 Davis, Matt 2-0 . 2 2 . . . . . . . . . 58 Donaldson, Brendan 4-0 2 . 2 1.0-9 1.0-9 . . . . . . . 55 Burnett, Brayden 6-0 2 . 2 . . . . . . . . . 97 Barrow, Trey 6-0 . 1 1 . . . . . . . . . 3 McGaffie, Gahn 6-0 . 1 1 . . . . . . . . . 86 Brinkley, Beau 4-0 1 . 1 . . . . . . . . . 82 Egnew, Michael 6-6 1 . 1 . . . . . . . . . 11 Gabbert, Blaine 6-6 1 . 1 . . . . . . . . . 81 Waters, Eric 6-0 . . . . . . . . . . 1 . TM TEAM 4-0 . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Total 6 262 200 462 48-183 20-119 9-202 25 3 5-19 6 3 2 Opponents 6 224 206 430 35-114 7-54 4-25 15 3 5-7 4 1 .


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