Nobody expects offense to be a problem in Monday’s Autozone Liberty Bowl. When Missouri and Oklahoma State’s top-20 offenses go against one another, it could turn into a shootout.
Unless the defenses want to do something about it.
The Tigers’ defense has improved throughout the course of the season and has seen the emergence of cornerbacks DeMarkus Acy and Christian Holmes, who MU coach Barry Odom has called the best tandem the position has had in “some time.”
Acy was voted to the coaches all-Southeastern Conference second team after finishing third in the conference in interceptions (three), pass breakups (10) and passes defended (13).
Now Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy wants to see what MU’s secondary can do against his star player.
Cowboys sophomore wide receiver Tylan Wallace has had an All-America caliber season with 79 receptions for 1,408 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Gundy said Missouri splits its coverages pretty evenly between man and zone and thinks how the Tigers handle his wideouts will be a big part of the game.
“Their corners are long, lanky and can run a little bit,” Gundy said. “They press some and challenge. That matchup — if they press and keep the safety in the middle of the field and us being able to attack them and those corners covering our wideouts, it’ll be an interesting matchup for us.”
Wallace is the latest Cowboys wideout to stand out nationally, following the program’s lineage which includes Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon and James Washington, who all went on to be high NFL Draft picks.
Gundy said that Wallace is too young to be compared to his former star wideouts but thinks that if he continues on his current trajectory, he’ll eventually be in their company.
“He can go up and get the ball at the highest point, he can make all the catches,” Gundy said. “He’s right there with the rest of them, he’s just young. As he progresses, he’ll continue to make plays. If he keep this head on straight and stays focused, he’ll be like the rest of them.”
Odom said players like Wallace are typical for Gundy’s program and credited the Cowboys’ coach for being able to consistently recruit like that.
“Every year, I feel like Oklahoma State has had one or two or three guys that are so explosive,” Odom said. “We’ve got to defend every inch of the field — the vertical passing game, but also the quarterback run game. They stretch in a lot of ways that cause concern.”
Acy has had his share of tough assignments this seasons, having matched up with Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, Purdue’s Rondale Moore and South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel.
A strong performance against Wallace would go a long way for Missouri on Monday.