It was two years ago, yes, but a victory on Jan. 2, 2014, hasn’t strayed from the memory of Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel as he prepares for his first Southeastern Conference opponent in Georgia on Saturday.
Heupel was then the co-offensive coordinator for Oklahoma. His counterpart that night in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl? Former Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, now Georgia’s coach.
Alabama was favored by 15 points yet Oklahoma’s offense torched the Tide with 348 passing yards from now-Texas A&M senior quarterback Trevor Knight. Oklahoma also rushed for 81 yards and won 45-31.
“We had success that day, but (Kirby) has had good defense for a long time,” Heupel said Tuesday. “Each game is its own independent thing, but there’s some things I think that people have done and that we were able to do to help (that night).”
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On Monday, Missouri coach Barry Odom said he’s gotten to know Smart “a little bit” through spring meetings and other events through the conference. Odom said he’s “impressed” by the way the Bulldogs play and that “they give you a lot of different looks.”
Heupel, though, said this Georgia defense “doesn’t look a lot different” from what was played at Alabama.
“They’re maybe not quite as deep into their arsenal as they were at the end of his tenure at Alabama, but what he’s known for and what is true, when we watch him on tape, they do a great job of being assignment sound. Their eyes are extremely disciplined; they’re in the right place,” Heupel said. “They play with great technique and make it extremely difficult to run the football, because of the size and speed that they have up front.
“At the same time, they’re able to hawk the ball and make plays on the perimeter. They contest everything. They’re tough to get ready for because of how multidimensional they are.”
How do you combat that?
“You’ve got to find a way to tilt the scale in your favor in shift, trade motion — all those things — to create problems with their eyes and with their assignments and make them communicate,” Heupel said.
Speaking of motions, that’s something both senior tight end Sean Culkin and junior offensive lineman Alec Abeln mentioned on Monday.
Abeln said Georgia “does a lot of things scheme wise,” so Missouri has worked during the summer with the “motions and stuff.”
Odom, too, referred to the game played more than two years ago and said “it’s fun to go back and look through some of that (film).”
“There’s some elements (there) that hopefully will help us going into this week,” Odom said. “I think we’ve got a good game plan going, so I’m kind of excited.”
Alec Lewis: @alec_lewis