Missouri coach Barry Odom has cautioned this week that his team will have its hands full against the pass-happy Blue Raiders (4-2).
“You look at the job that Coach (Brent) Stockstill has done there – and I know it first-hand because we played against him and recruited against him when I was at Memphis – I’ve got such great respect for him and his staff,” Odom said Wednesday during the SEC teleconference. “You watch them play, they’re averaging about 40 points a game, they’re playing so aggressive defensively. I know what that program is about, because it was something that I saw it first-hand and respect.
“We’ll have to play really well and prepare absolutely every minute that we have to give ourselves a chance to play as good as we can against a really good opponent. I’m really impressed with the way that they’ve played and just their structure on offense. Their quarterback is one of the best that I’ve seen, and, by the way, happens to be the head coach’s son. We recruited him when I was at (Memphis). Very, very high respect for what they’ve done.”
Middle Tennessee enters Saturday’s content averaged 38.5 points and 541.2 offensive yards (366.2 passing, 175 rushing) per game.
The Blue Raiders’ prolific offense is led redshirt sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill, redshirt senior running back I’Tavius Mathers and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Richie James.
Stockstill has completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 2,091 yards, with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions, and has run for 131 yards on 29 carries.
Mathers, who transferred to Middle Tennessee after playing three seasons at Ole Miss, has already surpassed 1,000 total yards of offense. He’s rushed 114 times for 725 yards, an average of 6.4 yards yards per carry, and 10 touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
James has 57 receptions for 776 yards and five touchdowns. By comparison, if you add up the reception totals of the Tigers’ top three receivers — J’Mon Moore (28), Dimetrios Mason (17) and Emanuel Hall (14) — you get 59 catches.
“(Stockstill is) an unbelievable talent,” Odom said at his Monday press conference. “He’s got such a quick release. Just a great competitor. You don’t see many incomplete passes. He makes a lot of right decisions. Somebody mentioned to me earlier they’ve attempted more passes than everybody in the country other than two teams, I think. That’s what they do.
“They’ve got an explosive guy in the backfield too, their tailback. They are going to try to run the ball and they try to balance it out a little bit, but their skill set, just watching their receivers, they block, they make catches. Schematically they have a pretty good feel on what they are doing offensively. We’ll have our hands full.”
Missouri’s defense showed signs of improvement in last Saturday’s 40-14 loss at Florida but that group, which includes some young players on the depth chart in the back seven.
The Tigers are allowing an average of 438 yards of total offense per game this season. They have allowed at least 409 yards of total offense in five of their six games this season, including their two highest yardage totals the past two games — a season-high 634 at LSU three weeks ago and then 523 at Florida last week.
“You turn on the video and you get started watching them and it jumps out pretty quick how good and talented they are,” Odom said of Middle Tennessee. “Our guys, what we’ve tried to do every week is just focus on us and getting as good as we can. We haven’t played very well the last couple weeks, but we’ve also played against some really good teams. We’re not that far off from hopefully making some plays in all three phases. We understand by looking at these guys since Sunday, as a team, how explosive they are and how hard they play and how well-coached they are.”
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