1) Larry Rountree III gets the hard yards on the ground for the Tigers, while RB stablemate Tyler Badie gets the swing passes and screens out of the backfield. Rountree hails from the same high school program and coach of former UGA running back Keith Marshall. But unlike Marshall, Rountree has remained healthy and established himself as the premier Missouri ball carrier. (I’ll grant you he didn’t have to compete against Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, or Sony Michel).
LR3 is now Missouri’s 2nd place career rusher, behind only dual-threat QB Brad Smith. He’s getting over 20 touches a game and is averaging 104+ yards on the ground per contest. And that is against decent rushing defenses: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU are included in those numbers.
They have just as many games with over 200 yards running (3) as sub 100 yard games. Yet in those poor performances, they still averaged over 30 rushing attempts. Missouri isn’t necessarily a rushing juggernaut, but they will commit to the ground game and they like to be balanced. We can’t sell out on either the run or the pass. Stay with me, this is called plot development.
2) If you didn’t like Mississippi State throwing all day underneath our defense… you’re not going to like this one either. How does completing 70% of your passes and at a hair under 8 yards an attempt grab you?
Missouri will take what they can get. They do air it out on occasion, usually after you’ve been lulled to sleep with dinks and dunks and hitches and quick outs. They are not a quick strike offense, preferring to control the ball and hit you when you’re not expecting it. They’ve had basically the same amount of rushing attempts as UGA, but about 20% more pass attempts (with the subsequent yardage). Yet with all that passing, they only have 5 TDs through the air, preferring to let aforementioned Larry Rountree pound it across the goal line.
Before Georgia’s rash of injuries and some questionable execution, say around early October, I would’ve said this played right into our defensive strengths: bend but don’t break, keep it in front of you, and shut down the ground game, not allowing any rushing touchdowns. This is a whole “how it started, how it’s going” meme, and I’m worried.
3) Missouri is hitting on all cylinders. After a 0-2 start against Alabama and Tennessee, they’ve won 5 of 6; their most recent blemish a loss on 10/31 against Florida. We of all programs can excuse losing all momentum playing the Gators on Halloween, can’t we? And due to a myriad of virus and scheduling reasons, they got a 3 week break to rest up and figure out what went wrong.
They were supposed to lose to Alabama and Florida – no shame there. They were supposed to beat Vanderbilt and they shut them out. They beat a Kentucky team that shows up from time to time. It wasn’t a particularly attractive win over South Carolina, but they got the W. And they hung with an upstart and plucky Arkansas team to snatch a walk-off win, even after the football gods seemed to be smiling on the Pitt Boss.
Coach Eli Drinkwitz has done a very commendable job to resurrect a team that seemingly wasn’t motivated to play hard for former coach Barry Odom. Drinkwitz would likely be up for SEC Coach of the Year if it weren’t for everyone’s favorite ‘Hawg Sam Pittman. A lot of preseason picks had Mizzou in the 5th or 6th East slot, and now they’re likely the 3rd best in the division. Add in that they’re playing a freshman QB and hardly any time to install Eli’s offensive scheme, and it’s pretty much a success story. They feel eerily like “the team no one wants to face in the playoffs”, except that it’s the regular season. They’ve played 3 weeks in a row (I am SOOOO jealous) and won every game. The only thing in our favor is how much emotion they spent snagging victory from the jaws of defeat last week… or did that only build their confidence?
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about Saturday’s game between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Tigers of Missouri.
And as always…