What can Mizzou do to slow down Jake Bentley?
The Missouri Tigers are 1-0 after a Week 1 victory, but that win Saturday over FCS opponent Missouri State left a lot to be desired.
The Tigers’ defense looked horrendous against the Bears, giving up 492 yards and 43 points in the 72-43 win.
That’s not a good sign considering Mizzou’s next opponent is South Carolina, a team that features star quarterback Jake Bentley running its offense.
The Tigers have a star quarterback of their own in Drew Lock, and their offense is sure to put up plenty of points on Saturday night, but keeping the Gamecocks from lighting up the scoreboard will be a big key to their SEC opener.
Here are just a few ways the Mizzou defense can try to regain some respectability on Saturday at Faurot Field:
1. Safety help over the top
Safety Anthony Sherrils got to showcase his outstanding speed a couple of times on Saturday. Unfortunately, he did it on plays where a receiver got behind him and he had to sprint to chase the player down.
This weekend, there’s no reason Sherrils should be getting beat deep. Especially on wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s side, the Tigers should always have a safety over the top.
If that opens up shorter routes for Bentley and the Gamecocks, so be it. Big plays killed the Tigers against Missouri State and they need to do everything possible to ensure it doesn’t happen again this weekend.
2. Better pass rush
The Tigers sacked Missouri State QB Peyton Huslig four times, but they’ll need to get more consistent pressure on Bentley if they want to slow him down.
Star defensive linemen Marcell Frazier and Terry Beckner Jr. each recorded half a sack against the Bears. They’ll need to step up in Saturday’s SEC opener and at least hurry the Gamecocks’ quarterback a little more often.
If Bentley is uncomfortable in the pocket, he’s not perfect and will make an occasional mistake. The Tigers can force the issue by hitting him early and often to get in his head.
3. Control the ball on offense
Football sometimes comes down to simple logic. The more the Tigers have the ball, the less the Gamecocks will have it.
Even in Saturday’s high-scoring victory over Missouri State, the Tigers only managed a meager 21 minutes and 44 seconds of possession (compared to the Bears’ 38:16).
It’s not in the Tigers’ game plan to have long, sustained offensive drives, but if the running game is working against South Carolina, they might want to take the air out of the ball a little bit.
Every second that Mizzou can keep the ball out of Bentley’s hands is a second well spent.
Seriously, based on what Mizzou’s defense showed last Saturday, a little divine intervention might be necessary for the Tigers to slow down the Gamecocks.
Bentley has already proven he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC this year, and with a weapon like Samuel on the outside, the Gamecocks will be tough to stop.
The Tigers are going to need every 50-50 ball to go their way and also need to hope for a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes from Bentley if they’re going to keep the South Carolina offense under 500 yards.
Fortunately for Mizzou fans, though, this team has proven it can score, so even if the defense struggles once again, a 72-63 win isn’t completely out of the question. After all, the Gamecocks are likely asking themselves these same types of questions about slowing down Drew Lock.
See if the Tigers can slow down Bentley and the Gamecocks enough to pick up a big victory on Saturday night at 7 p.m. Eastern time. The game airs on ESPN2.