Know Your Enemy: Arkansas State
Arkansas St. [2-2 / AP: NR / Coaches: NR] vs. Mizzou [3-0 / AP: RV (#) / Coaches: RV]
Sat., Sept. 28, 6:30 p.m. | TV: CSS (STL-KPLR; COMO-KMIZ; KC-KSMO) | Faurot Field
Series History: Mizzou leads 2-0
For the second week in a row, Missouri will square off with a former Big 12 offensive coordinator when it welcomes coach Bryan Harsin and Arkansas State to Faurot Field Saturday afternoon. Harsin, who is in his first year as head coach, was Mack Brown’s offensive coordinator at Texas from 2011-2012. For those of you keeping score, his last visit to Faurot Field, which came in 2011, ended with Texas failing to score an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2004 en route to a 17-5 loss.
This is the Tigers’ final non-conference tune-up before they begin SEC play on the road against Vanderbilt on Oct. 5.
Missouri emerged victorious in its first road game of the season, taking down Indiana 45-28 under the lights in Bloomington. Four Mizzou players posted triple-digits in yards gained, including quarterback James Franklin who threw for a career-high 343 yards and two scores. While the offense’s performance was impressive, it was the defense that grabbed the headlines, forcing three turnovers and limiting the Hoosiers to just 98 rushing yards.
“I think our defense really responded well and did some really, really good things,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “I was kind of disappointed that [IU] got that score against us at the end because I don’t think the score is reflective of how they played, but overall a lot of good things.”
The victory pushed Mizzou to 3-0 for the first time since 2010 and tied Pinkel with Dan Devine for second most wins in school history (93).
The Red Wolves also took their show on the road last Saturday, but theirs ended with a 31-7 loss to Memphis in the game formerly known as the “Paint Bucket Bowl.” ASU tailback David Oku, who entered the game averaging 82 yards per game, managed just 45 yards, while quarterback Adam Kennedy completed 20 of 37 passes for 166 yards. The Red Wolves converted on just four of 15 third downs and allowed the Tigers to rack up over 500 yards of total offense, including 329 on the ground.
“We need to improve on tackling, there’s no doubt about that,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “They had some good misdirection that they hit. Their backs did a nice job of bouncing off tackles and circling the field. When you have explosive plays, especially in the run game, it usually comes down to tackling.”
Three RED WOLVES to Watch
Despite his less-than-impressive numbers thus far this season (the offensive line’s disappointing showing thus far is partially to blame), David Oku remains a serious threat both on the ground and in the passing game. He has managed just 291 yards on 65 carries (4.5 yards), but has carried it into the end zone four times. Oku has also caught nine passes for 93 yards (10.3 yards per reception). His backfield-mate, sophomore Michael Gordon, has shown a propensity for breaking off big runs–he had a 92-yard run against UAPB and a 64-yard touchdown run against Troy. It is Oku, the first team All-Sun Belt selection that remains the Red Wolves’ top option out of the backfield.
Mizzou center Evan Boehm will have his hands full Saturday evening against Carrethers, who has already tallied three sacks, four tackles for loss (17 yards) and 28 tackles this season. He was a first team All-Sun Belt selection in 2012 and is on numerous award watch lists.
With J.D. McKissic drawing the majority of the focus from opposing defenses, Julian Jones has emerged as a reliable target for quarterback Adam Kennedy. Four games in and he’s already set a career-high in receptions with 23 (Allen Muse, the next leading receiver, has just 11 catches) and has racked up 198 yards. He’s not necessarily a deep threat, but he has been a consistent, reliable option nonetheless.
Matchup to Watch (Graphic)
- This is an opportunity for Mizzou’s offensive line to redeem itself for its disappointing performance against Toledo. ASU’s defensive line has recorded eight sacks for 52 yards and registered 14.5 tackles for a loss.
- The battle in the trenches will come down to that matchup pictured above between center Evan Boehm and Carrethers. Considering the number of weapons the Red Wolves have along that front line, the Tigers may want to start the game with an extra blocker in the backfield on passing plays–just in case.
- If Mizzou’s offensive line is able to hold its own, Dorial Green-Beckham should have a field day against an under-sized ASU secondary and an inexperienced linebacking corps. Mizzou’s top receiver stands at 6-6. The Red Wolves’ tallest DB is 6-2 (Sterling Young), the rest are barely 6-foot or shorter. (Indiana had a similar size disadvantage and DGB caught eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown).
- While a third place finish in the SEC East seems much more realistic after three games, I’m hesitant to move all-in on Mizzou. I view Saturday’s thumping of Indiana as more the result of a below-average opponent than an underrated Tiger team (although that certainly factored in).
This game appeared to be much more dangerous heading into the season. However, the Red Wolves have looked less than impressive thus far this season. Mizzou wins comfortably. Tigers by 30Brian Haenchen founded Hank’s Sports Blog in 2009. You can follow him on Twitter (@Brian_Haenchen) or email him (email@example.com).