We asked Sammy Stava of our sister blog Rock M Nation, which covers Missouri, a few questions in advance of tomorrow’s game.
Last week against Ole Miss, Missouri allowed 27 points and 440 yards of total offense. Was Ole Miss able to take advantage of anything specific, or was this just a bad game for the Missouri defense?
I think Ole Miss executed the same game plan that Wyoming did in the season opener against Missouri. A lot of it was the rushing yards as Mizzou gave up 204 yards rushing to Ole Miss, and even more, yes 297, to Wyoming. Ole Miss did take advantage of the injury to Missouri linebacker Cale Garett as the defense didn’t look the same without their leader. It can go down as just a bad game for this defense, because otherwise they have been impressive pretty much all season.
Kelly Bryant is a very different quarterback from Drew Lock. Is Missouri running a lot of the same offensive concepts, or has Derek Dooley retooled the offense to take advantage of Bryant’s strengths?
Drew Lock has more talent than Kelly Bryant, but Bryant is more of a game-manager quarterback. The offense under Drew Lock was high-powered and very fast-paced, which was fun to watch, don’t get me wrong! But it also put the defense back on the field maybe way too much after quick scores. Derek Dooley’s particular offense under Kelly Bryant has been a more methodical approach and it has been successful under Bryant’s style, and it has helped the defense too.
What are the strengths of Missouri’s defense, and who are the key players on that side of the ball?
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Missouri leads the country with five defensive touchdowns on the season and has 11 takeaways so far with a +3 turnover differential. A lot of that had to do with the hire of turnover wizard David Gibbs in the offseason. This defense is in for a challenge though with losing their leader Cale Garrett for the season. Sophomore linebacker Nick Bolton will need to step up to replace Garrett, and he is more than capable of doing after his career-high 10 tackles against Ole Miss. Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott and cornerback DeMarkus Acy are also the other leaders to watch out for on this defense.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Missouri is under a bowl ban this season. Do you think that will get overturned on appeal, and how is the team reacting to it?
I don’t know what’s going to happen on the appeal, and I don’t know if anybody else knows, either. Everybody surrounding the program thought the decision on the appeal would be finalized weeks ago, and the status is still up in the air. Missouri isn’t playing like a team that is distracted from the bowl ban though, which is a good thing. If the bowl ban gets overturned, it will obviously be a huge confidence and momentum booster for a team that’s already playing well. If the bowl ban sticks, I could see it possibly being a letdown for this team, but I can also see them rallying from it.
Finally, how do you see the game playing out on Saturday?
I’m pretty confident Missouri wins this game convincingly. After the Wyoming loss, Missouri isn’t going to overlook anybody and the team looks 100 percent focused week-in and week-out. I just don’t think Vanderbilt changes that. I’ll say 34-7 Missouri.