COLUMBIA, Mo. — Saturday’s matchup against visiting Delaware State figured to be an opportunity for some Missouri Tigers to see more playing time than they had the first three weeks. That was the case for Marvin Zanders.
Zanders, the Tigers’ No. 2 quarterback, didn’t play last week against Georgia after getting some snaps the first two weeks. The redshirt sophomore made the most of his opportunity against Delaware State.
Playing in the time-shortened second half, Zanders ran seven times for 83 yards and two touchdowns and completed both of his pass attempts for 17 yards and a touchdown.
“I think as a whole we played pretty good; I think I did pretty good myself,” Zanders told reporters. “The line did a great job blocking and the receivers did a great job blocking. I just made some plays out there. We all played a pretty good game. I think we could clean up a few things, but you know it was a good game to get ready to head into LSU next week.”
Missouri coach Barry Odom noted how hard Zanders has worked to prepare for this season.
“I think any reps, as long as he’s worked the right way to prepare to be in the game and he goes out and efficiently runs the offense like he did, that’s awesome. Great for him,” Odom said. “I’ve said it a number of times, the quarterbacks have out-worked — not just Drew (Lock), the quarterbacks, plural — have out-worked everybody in this program since Jan. 18. Everybody on our team knows that. So I’m excited for those guys when they have success. All that work is paying off.”
After four games, Zanders is the Tigers’ third-leading rusher behind running backs Damarea Crockett and Ish Witter. He has rushed for 124 yards on just 16 carries, an average of 7.8 yards per attempt.
“My running ability is God-given, I thank him for that every day,” Zanders said. “I wanted to make a few plays with my arm in the passing game, but we were kind of up a few when I got in. I was able to make some plays on the ground and I’m just happy about that.”
PLOUDRE, HILTON GET STARTS
Junior walk-on offensive lineman Adam Ploudre got his first career start.
Ploudre started at right guard in place of Alec Abeln, who shifted over to center in place of injured starter Samson Bailey. Odom said after the game that Bailey likely would have played if the Tigers needed him to.
“You try to evaluate every day on what the current set up is for our best situation and Cam had a better week,” Odom said. “We’re not disappointed with Anthony. Anthony and Cam and Ronnell (Perkins) and Thomas (Wilson) are all going to be very, very, very important parts of us playing well on defense. Those guys have got to know both sides — they have to know both positions — and Cam had a good week, and Anthony did too, it’s just we wanted to give Cam the start there. We’ll continue to compete and evaluate where we’re at at really every position.”
Hilton, who had an interception last week against Georgia, played both safety and wide receiver as a freshman last season before switching back to safety in the offseason.
The Tigers held out a few players who have been dealing with some injuries, but may have suffered a key injury with redshirt junior Alec Abeln leaving the game with an ankle injury.
Abeln has been playing right guard but switched to center for Saturday’s game, replacing Bailey, who was out with an ankle injury.
“We took Abeln out,” Odom said. “I don’t know what’s going around. We’ve had ankle problems. We’ve had a bunch of them. It’s kind of a unique situation. Most of them have been guys getting rolled up on — not seeing it coming from behind. He’s not a very good dancer. He was dancing in the locker room after so I think he’s OK. It was more of a one-legged dance, so we’ll see how he looks tomorrow.”
O-LINE DOES IT AGAIN
The offensive line was strong again on Saturday, despite missing Bailey from the starting lineup and then playing several of the backups.
The offensive line did not allow a sack on 38 pass attempts from Drew Lock and Zanders against Delaware State.
“O-line did a good job again on protection,” Odom said. “It seemed like (Lock) had time to step in there and deliver the ball.”
Through four games this season, Missouri has allowed just one sack.
“(We’re) coming together and working hard,” Missouri redshirt sophomore left guard Kevin Pendleton said. “It started back in the spring when the new coaching staff got here. It started back in the spring with Coach (Glen) Elarbee out here. It doesn’t matter how many starters or how many players we’ve had in the past. It’s a new offensive line, a new culture and we’re here to win games.”
Junior wide receiver Dominic Collins, a junior college transfer, had a catch in the season opener against West Virginia but has not played since.
Asked about Collins afterward, Odom said Collins was suspended for Saturday’s game.
“He was suspended this weekend for academic reasons,” Odom said. “He’ll be back with us (Sunday).”
ANOTHER FRESHMAN SEES ACTION
One of the surprises on Saturday was seeing freshman defensive tackle Markell Utsey take the field in the second half.
Utsey didn’t play in the first three games, leaving the possibility that he would redshirt this season, but now that is no longer an option in 2016.
The Tigers have now played eight true freshmen this season: Utsey, cornerbacks DeMarkus Acy and Christian Holmes, wide receiver Dimetrios Mason, Crockett, linebacker Cale Garrett, offensive lineman Tre'Vour Simms and kicker Tucker McCann.
Want more BlackAndGoldIllustrated.com coverage? Become a member today to get insider information, members-only forums, exclusive videos, team shop offers and ticket discounts. Click HERE to learn more and get a 7-day free trial.