Mizzou football: The Tigers keep plugging along, but are they ready for South Carolina?
The Missouri Tigers are back on track after a horrific Week 1 loss at Wyoming. I’m legitimately sorry I keep mentioning that, but it still looms large over this entire season.
Now, fresh off wins over West Virginia and Southeast Missouri State, the Tigers are gearing up for their toughest test yet — a home game against a South Carolina team that has beaten them 3 years in a row.
What did we learn about the Tigers in their 50-0 win over SEMO? And, what do they need to focus on this week in order to snap that losing streak against the Gamecocks?
Let’s take a look at some things the Tigers need to do in order to improve to 3-1 next weekend:
1. Get more out of Kelly Bryant
No, the Tigers didn’t need much out of their starting quarterback to beat SEMO. Still, his numbers were very pedestrian — 15-of-20 for 225 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.
He didn’t need to do much of anything to help the Tigers win on Saturday, but when you have a new quarterback, no one is going to blame you for running up the score if you’re legitimately trying to get your guys some work and increase chemistry.
Bryant is making too many mistakes, but they’re all correctable with more reps. Sadly, the Tigers haven’t been giving him too many chances to shine the past 2 weeks.
2. Find a go-to receiver
As mentioned above, Bryant hasn’t had to do much to help the Tigers win the past 2 weeks, but that has hurt the receiving corps. In the past 2 games, Bryant has connected with nine receivers.
However, that’s not necessarily a good thing, as no receiver has had more than 3 receptions in a game the past two weeks. Finding a go-to guy is important, especially for the skill set Bryant brings to the table.
Star TE Albert Okwuegbunam has 7 catches for 138 yards, and 3 of those grabs have gone for touchdowns. The Tigers need to go to him more often.
Likewise, Jalen Knox — the only Mizzou receiver to go over 100 yards in a game this year, catching 2 passes for 104 yards against SEMO — is averaging 21.3 yards per catch. Why not try to target him more?
The offense has been incredibly conservative, and that’s really disappointing considering the fact that they added Bryant this offseason. Let the kid play!
3. Continue to play stout defense
Coming into the year, the linebacking corps was a major question mark behind Cale Garrett. Nick Bolton stepped up and snagged the other starting linebacker spot, and that duo has been incredible.
Through 3 games, Garrett and Bolton have combined for 51 tackles (5 for a loss), 1 sack, 3 interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns) and 3 pass breakups. The run defense has been much better since Week 1, thanks in large part to Garrett and Bolton.
It really does seem that this team was simply unprepared for the altitude in Wyoming, which, while unacceptable for that loss, won’t be a factor against South Carolina. If those two linebackers stay healthy and hydrated, they should have big days against the Gamecocks.
4. Control the ball
The strength of Mizzou’s offense is supposed to be ball control. They have a strong backfield with RBs Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie, and Bryant is also a threat to run.
However, in 3 games, the Tigers are pretty much even in terms of time of possession. In total, the Tigers have had the ball for 88 minutes, 52 seconds. Opponents have controlled it for 91:08. That’s a pretty even split, yes, but this year’s offense was supposed to be faring better in this category.
The Tigers only won the possession battle against West Virginia, and that was only with 30:59 of ball control. Last year, Mizzou didn’t need to control the ball this much, because Drew Lock and Emanuel Hall could hit home run plays a couple of times a game.
Until Bryant and the 2019 Tigers show they can do the same, keeping the ball in their hands will be crucial against South Carolina.