It’s easy to forget now after Missouri won the SEC East division, played in the SEC Championship Game and knocked off Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl, but Toledo had the Tigers staggering through three quarters last season at Memorial Stadium.
Before Henry Josey’s 1-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter, Missouri’s lead was a tenuous 24-23.
In other words, if any major-conference program knows how dangerous the Rockets can be, it’s the Tigers.
Now, onto your questions:
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Budman, I have no clue why you’re nervous either, but I suspect there’s a pill for that. My suggestion, relax and remember it’s only a game. Realistic expectations might help, too. If you’re banking on an undefeated season, your nerves are justified. If you’re expecting a nice eight- or nine-win season with the Music Bowl awaiting, sit back and enjoy the ride. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the 2014 Tigers, but — for your health and safety — trust Pinkel’s track record.
Chris, I’ll let you know after the Toledo game, but that’s obviously the goal. Missouri has plenty of room for improvement after its season-opening 38-18 win against South Dakota State, so look for better execution and a more crisp performance against Toledo. Ideally, that would repeat against Central Florida and then Indiana and so on.
Rock, are we counting the pregame show? I assume with an 11 a.m. kickoff there’s going to be some lead-in programming. Obviously, that tasty nugget is going to get mentioned prominently in both. If we’re talking about both, I’d set the over/under at 5 1/2 and 3 1/2 in the game only. If it wanders into over territory, it’s flagrantly gratuitous use of a storyline that’s been well and thoroughly beaten to death (be sure to read about it here anyway.)
Mike, he won’t have a chance after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2015 or 2016 NFL Draft.
Probably, after all, he was in on fewer than half of Missouri’s snaps against South Dakota — far less than the two of three snaps coach Gary Pinkel said he hoped to get Murphy onto the field. Some of it also depends on how well Russell Hansbrough is rolling. I suspect Murphy would have seen more third-quarter action last week, but the Tigers could never get the ball against the Jackrabbits.
Mike, I don’t think so. And I also don’t think Missouri was weak against the run. Yes, the first play from scrimmage was bad, but the Tigers got caught out of their gaps in a blitz, a few players froze when the snap went through quarterback Austin Sumner’s hands (only to be corralled by Zach Zenner) and there was one poor angle/missed tackle. The result was Zenner’s 75-yard touchdown run, but South Dakota State only managed 44 yards on its next 31 carries. That’s really good. Only one more run the rest of the game went for longer than 9 yards with eight runs that lost yardage and 24 runs that went for 3 yards or less. More alarming, in my mind, was that Toledo’s backup quarterback completed 21 of 28 passes for 239 yards.
Ed, Pinkel was asked about his plans before the season and he was non-committal. That probably means there are no plans at this time. Obviously, Eddie Printz didn’t see the field against South Dakota State, so it’s harder to picture him playing a pre-planned series against Toledo. Still, it’s a Thursday decision, Pinkel is famous for saying. Anything’s possible, but I doubt Printz comes in unless it’s for mop-up duty.
John, long-term, I think Nate Brown emerges as one of Missouri’s best wide receivers, but it’s possible Lawrence Lee puts up better numbers this season. He’s probably going to get a few more snaps in the slot than Brown will see outside. Due to injuries in training camp, he already worked plenty with the first-string offense, so there’s a level of comfort there with Maty Mauk. As for the tight ends …
Chris, Missouri seems to have moved away from the wide-receiver-disguised-as-a-tight-end mold that churned out All-Americans during the last decade. In second-year offensive coordinator Josh Henson’s offense, the preference is for guys who are at least as adept as blockers as they pass-catchers. The Tigers seldom used the tight ends in the passing game last season. I suspect sophomore Sean Culkin finishes with more than the eight catches for 72 yards and a touchdown Eric Waters had in 2013. Still, the days of tight ends breaking receiving records at Missouri appear to be finished.
MacGyver, if Blaine Gabbert can convince a team to pick him in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, I’m convinced there is nothing Blaine Gabbert can’t do.
Joshua, I doubt if defensive coordinator Dave Steckel’s defensive game plan takes the team’s relative experience into account much. It’s about matchups. Generally, teams will mix and match, which is what Steckel probably will do. Against Toledo’s quick/short-passing game, man has some advantages — more disruptive of the timing and fewer yards after the catch (in theory) — but zone also has its advantages — less chance of a big play and less risk when blitzing. If Toledo is dinking and dunking down the field, man defense might be required. But Steckel is likely to use whatever defense he feels will be most effective.
Matt, Mauk scrambled out of the pocket quite a bit, but South Dakota State did a good job not allowing too many wide-open seams for Mauk to exploit. He worked very hard at staying in the pocket and making plays from the pocket during the offseason, but the Tigers’ staff also doesn’t want to sanitize his game too much. If there are big plays available with his legs, look for Mauk to run.