No. 14 Mizzou looks to put up bigger challenge for No. 13 Vols
League: NCAA Football
Posted on: 08 Nov, 2023 at 08:59 AM
Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee routed Missouri in Josh Heupel's first two years at the helm of the Volunteers, rolling to 62-24 and 66-24 victories.
The Tigers hope to offer a much tougher test this time around.
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said, "Offensively we weren't able to keep the pace and defensively we've got to do a consistent job of finding stops in the game. I think the pressure they put on you is that they can score so fast. That's the challenge. You've got to get your cleats in the ground and be able to make routine plays routinely."
No. 14 Missouri (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) enter their matchup with No. 13 Tennessee (7-2, 3-2) on Saturday in Columbia, Mo., following a solid showing in a 30-21 road loss to No. 2 Georgia last week.
The Volunteers are coming off a 59-3 rout of UConn. The lopsided nature of that game allowed Heupel to empty his bench and rest some of his regulars.
Tennessee expects running back Jabari Small, defensive lineman Omari Thomas and offensive lineman John Campbell Jr. to return against Missouri after sitting out against the Huskies.
"Yeah, opportunity for them, you know, to get completely healthy here," Heupel said. "They would have been available if we felt like we needed to, but just elected not to play them in that game. It'll be big to have all those guys back and fresh and ready to roll."
Tennessee's Blur Ball offense has succeeded with a pass/run balance. Quarterback Joe Milton III has passed for 2,017 yards with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
He has also rushed for 265 yards and five touchdowns. Jaylen Wright (826 yards, three TDs), Small (415 yards, two TDs) and Dylan Sampson (404 yards, seven TDs) have also run very well.
Squirrel Wright (46 catches, 557 yards, two TDs) and Ramel Keyton (24 catches, 412 yards, four TDs) are the Volunteers' top receiving targets.
"They have the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC, the No. 1 rushing defense in the SEC," Drinkwitz said. "Josh (Heupel), much like good offensive coordinators do, always starts with trying to figure out how to run the football. If you take the run away, then he has answers vertically down the field."
Like Tennessee, Missouri has prospered with a mobile quarterback directing the offense. Brady Cook has passed for 2,471 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions while adding five TDs on the ground.
"We've got to do a great job in the pass game," Heupel said. "We've got to affect him, not let him be comfortable in the pocket. While doing that, you cannot let him escape the pocket. He'll be dynamic and make big plays with his feet and his arm as he breaks contain. And then he's obviously a part of their run game, too, and can hurt you there."
Cody Schrader (919 yards, 10 TDs) has been a steady producer on the ground while receivers Luther Burden III (64 catches, 958 yards, seven TDs) and Theo Wease Jr. (41 catches, 530 yards, five TDs) have been the big playmakers in the passing attack.
On defense, Missouri will have to finish the season without standout linebacker Chad Bailey, who has been shut down due to a core muscle injury.
--Field Level Media