On Saturday (6:30 P.M., CSS), the Missouri Tigers (3-0) play host to the Arkansas State Red Wolves (2-2) in non-conference action. Arkansas State comes in off of a 7-34 loss at Memphis, while Missouri is coming off of a 45-28 win at Indiana.
Following his team's impressive road win, the 93rd of his Missouri tenure, which ties him with Dan Devine for the second-most wins in school history, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel said that his team is better than it was a couple of weeks ago, but that the Tigers need to continue to improve. He also talked briefly about his team's next opponent.
"Arkansas State is a very, very good football team," said Coach Pinkel. "This is a very important game for us."
First-year Arkansas State Head Coach Bryan Harsin is one of the youngest coaches in the FBS. He's inherited an Arkansas State program that is coming off of back-to-back 10-win seasons and consecutive Sun Belt Championships. Prior to taking the Head Coaching position at Arkansas State, the 36-year-old Coach Harsin spent the last 7 years as the Offensive Coordinator at Texas, and at Boise State, where he worked under Chris Petersen.
Missouri Defensive Coordinator, Dave Steckel, talked about the Arkansas State offense under Coach Harsin.
"It's that Boise (State) mentality," began Coach Steckel, beginning to categorize the Arkansas State offense. "It's shift, motions, personnel groupings……………………………… It's a little of Brent Pease's mentality at Florida, you know, which comes from the family tree at Boise (State)."
Arkansas State runs an up-tempo spread offense. On the season, ASU has averaged snapping the football every 23 seconds. They have considerable quick strike ability, and at times will snap the football about every 15 seconds.
In keeping with the Boise State influence, Arkansas State will put a player in motion on almost every play, although the player in motion infrequently ends up with the football. A lot of the time, the motion and the shifting is designed to create a numbers advantage in the run game, to gain leverage, or to flood a zone in the passing game to create an open area, often times away from the motion.
Offensively, the Red Wolves rely heavily on 5'10" 202-pound senior running back David Oku, a Tennessee transfer, and a player that Missouri recruited out of high school. Oku is averaging 16 carries/game, which accounts for roughly 22% of ASU's offensive plays, and he is averaging 4.5 yards/carry.
The only other ball carrier who is averaging more than 5 carries/game is 6'5" 224-pound senior QB Adam Kennedy, a transfer from Utah State. Kennedy is averaging 3.4 yards/carry on nearly 7 carries/game. He's completed 63% of his pass attempts for 217.2 passing yards/game, and he has a passer efficiency rating of 125.48. He's also leading the Sun Belt conference in total offense with 246 yards/game.
Arkansas State's leading receiver is 6'0" 202-pound senior Julian Jones, who is averaging 8.6 yards/reception on 23 receptions and has 1 receiving TD. Their big-play receiver is 6'4" 226-pound senior Allen Muse, who has just 1 TD, but who has averaged 18.8 yards/reception on 11 receptions.
The Red Wolves utilize their tight ends extensively, including 6'4" 264-pound sophomore Darion Griswold and 6'4" 260-pound junior Kenneth Rains. They like to hide them. Griswold has averaged 13.3 yards/reception on 9 catches and Rains has averaged 11.6 yards/reception on 5 catches.
Oku is a receiving threat out of the backfield, and the Red Wolves have at least three other significant offensive threats, including 5'11" 189-pound sophomore QB Fredi Knighten, who in limited action has had a hand in 4 TDs, 5'8" 187-pound sophomore running back/kick returner Michael Gordon, who has scored 3 TDs, and who averages 12.2 yards/carry and 19.2 yards/reception on a limited number of touches, and 5'11" 193-pound sophomore receiver/return man J.D. McKissic, who is a key to the Arkansas State offense as well as the Red Wolves' primary return man. McKissic has 10 receptions on the season for 99 yards and 1 TD. He averages 8.7 yards/punt return and 22.6 yards/kick return.
Knighten is more of a dual-threat QB, and he runs the zone read and option type plays well. McKissic is really an all-purpose back who is listed as the Red Wolves' slot receiver. He'll line up just about anywhere, and he's a guy who has to be accounted for at all times.
As a team, Arkansas State averages 5.7 yards/carry, and although from a statistical standpoint, ASU has run the football on 57% of their offensive plays, when they're not way behind or way ahead on the scoreboard, they've been fairly balanced between run and pass. The Red Wolves rank 33rd in the country, with a 48% third down conversion rate. Their offense is unpredictable, and utilizes an almost sleight-of-hand, illusionist, approach. Misdirection, now you see it, now you don't. ASU will nickel-and-dime you, lull you to sleep. Then, out of nowhere, here comes the unexpected for the big play. Many of their offensive skill position players are interchangeable, and the shifting, the motion, and the sleight of hand is designed to catch the defense off guard, and out of position.
ASU's Defensive Coordinator, John Thompson, is in his second season with the Red Wolves, and he's implemented an aggressive, multiple defense capable of exhibiting three, four, or five-man fronts, and utilizing personnel packages that include four, five, or six defensive backs. They're getting into the backfield. Through four games, Arkansas State has forced 7 turnovers, and has recorded 31 tackles-for-loss, and 9 sacks.
ASU's most-productive defensive players are 5'11" 247-pound MLB Qushaun Lee, 6'2" 330-pound fifth-year senior nose tackle Ryan Carrethers, and 6'0" 207-pound sophomore rover Chris Humes. Carrethers was a First-Team All-Sun Belt selection a year ago. He has 28 total tackles already this year, to go along with 4 TFLs, and 3 sacks. Lee is a bruising tackler who leads the Red Wolves with 32 total tackles, including 2 TFLs, 1 sack, 1 pass-break-up, 1 QB hurry, and 2 forced fumbles. He's sideline to sideline, and he's bringing it. Humes has 29 total tackles on the season, including 3 TFLs, and 1 sack. He's also forced a fumble, and has been credited with 1 PBU.
Arkansas State is allowing 28.5 points, and 440 yards, per game. ASU's opponents are averaging 4.6 yards/rushing attempt, and 7.8 yards/ pass attempt, while converting 38% on third downs.
(NCAA Ranking in Parentheses)
MIZZOU (3-0) ____CATEGORY ________ASU (2-2)
567 (7) __________ Total Offense ________ 472 (42)
270 (17) _________ Rushing Offense______ 240.3 (25)
297 (22) _________ Passing Offense ______ 231.8 (65)
144.42 (38) ____ Team Pass Efficiency____ 131.07 (73)
47 (8) ___________ Scoring Offense ______ 29.8 (68)
386.3 (64) ________ Total Defense ________ 440 (96)
115.3 (30) _______ Rushing Defense _______ 188 (89)
271 (97) _______ Passing Yds. Allowed _____ 252 (84)
108.87 (30) ___ Team Pass Efficiency Def. __ 134.98 (81)
21.7 (50) ________ Scoring Defense ________ 28.5 (81)
1.3 (11) _________ Turnover Margin _______ 0.8 (T-29)
0.596 (6) _______ 3rd Down Conv. Pct ____ 0.484 (T-33)
0.667 (T-22) ____ 4th Down Conv. Pct _______ 0 (109)
0.362 (47) _______ 3rd Conv Pct.Def. ______ 0.385 (61)
0.875 (40) _______ Red Zone Offense ______ 0.867 (42)
0.889 (93) _______ Red Zone Defense ____ 0.778 (T-50)
35.91 (79) __________ Net Punting ________ 34.24 (99)
4.63 (96) __________ Punt Returns _________ 6.8 (70)
20.25 (79) ________ Kickoff Returns _______ 20.8 (71)
89 (T-31) ______ First Downs Offense _______ 92 (22)
53 (23) ________ First Downs Defense _______ 84 (96)
3.67 (14) ______ Fewest Penalties / Gm. _____ 5.5 (T-47)
32:53 (22) ______ Time of Possession _______ 28:17 (79)