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Know Thy Opponent 2018: Missouri Tigers

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Purdue won last year in a blowout, but now it is their turn to host Mizzou.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Last year’s game at Missouri was probably the most fun I have had in watching Purdue Football since the infamous Purdue Harbor. After playing Louisville close and beating Ohio we expected a fun game with shootout potential when we traveled to Columbia, Missouri on a hot day. The Tigers had a fun, high octane offense and Purdue was improving, so it looked like a sneaky good game.

Purdue 35, Missouri 3

This game was such a joy because Purdue went on the road and absolutely laid the wood to a team. A little over 18 minutes into the game the Tigers had one first down while Purdue had three field-length drives to take a 21-0 lead. We actually made a team pretty much quit in the first half at home. For good measure, up 28-3 at halftime, we picked off Drew Lock on one of the first plays of the second half, scored four plays later, and sat on their heads the rest of the game. The, defense played well, but was still on the field for only 16 minutes in a pretty much flawless performance against a very good offense. Our offense played keep away.

The game was our first win over an SEC team on its home field, first win over an SEC teams since December 31, 1979, and our first road win over a non-Illinois team in five years. It wasn’t so much that Purdue won. It was that Purdue kicked someone’s ass, which never happened under Hope or Hazell. It was a lot like a Hazell game only the tigers appeared to be coached by an emotionless man in a windbreaker.

So what now? The Tigers get a return game, their first in West Lafayette since 1956. It is a Saturday night game and will be part of a September 15 doubleheader for me. I am attending Miami at Toledo at noon that day, then zipping across the Hoosier Heartland Corridor to get to West Lafayette in time for this one. It still should be a fun one, as the Tigers feature one of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Lock.

Missouri Tigers

2017 Record: 7-6, 4-4 SEC East

Bowl Result: Lost 33-16 to Texas in Texas Bowl

Blog Representation: Rock M Nation

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 7-2

Last Purdue win: 35-3 at Missouri on 9/16/2017

Last Missouri win: 14-7 at Missouri on 9/26/1953

Head Coach: Barry Odom, 11-14 in 3rd year at Missouri

Last Season for the Tigers:

After a season opening 72-43 shootout victory over FCS Missouri State the Tigers went into a major slump. The home loss to Purdue was just the second of five straight losses that had them at 1-5 entering an October 21st game against Idaho. Missouri took that game 68-21 to start an impressive six-game winning streak and earn a bowl bid. They lost to Texas 33-16 in the Texas bowl, but it was a solid recovery.

The thing is, it was really just showed Missouri was a Danny Hope-esque good/bad team. Their 7 wins were over Missouri State, Idaho, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas. NONE of those teams made a bowl game. Tennessee went 0-fer in the SEC, Vanderbilt only beat Tennessee, and Florida only beat Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. Arkansas was 1-7 in conference with only a 1-point win over scandal-plagued Mississippi.

Against bad teams Missouri put up big numbers. In the six losses to South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Kentucky, Georgia, and Texas they scored more than 30 points just one time. In the 7 wins they averaged better than 54 points per game. In the six losses they averaged 18 per game. That is a drastic difference.

Missouri Offense

There is no question he offense centers around Lock, who returned for his senior season with some prolific totals. Last year he finished with 3,695 yards passing and 43 TDs against just 12 interceptions. He will pass the 10,000 yards mark for his career sometime this season and can easily hit 100 TD passes in his four years (he is at 70). He has also kept the ball away from opponents with only 30 interceptions. Purdue was his worst game last season by a wide margin. He completed only 12 passes for 133 yards and two picks. It was the only game all season where he did not throw a TD pass.

Lock will have a solid contributor in the backfield with him in Damarea Crockett. Crockett had only 481 yards rushing and 2 TDs last season, but he missed the final 7 games of the year. He was a 1,000 yard back in 2006 and had 299 yards and 2 scores in the first two games before Purdue held him to 19 yards on 10 carries. Larry Rountree provides depth at running back after having 629 yards and 6 TDs as a freshman last season.

Lock has to find a new top target after J’Mon Moore was drafted by the Packers. Emanuel Hall (33-817-8) is a big 6’3” target that can cause problems on the outside, but he did not have a catch against Purdue. Johnathon Johnson (38-639-5) also had a decent year. There will be other receivers that emerge, as the design of the Missouri offense is to spread the ball around. Kendall Blanton and Nate Brown also should see more passes come their way.

Up front, the offensive line kept Lock clean for the most part. He was sacked only 13 times in 13 games. Officially the Tigers gave up the fewest tackles for loss in the nation and a good portion of last year’s unit returns. This has the makings of being another very good offense, but it must be more consistent and put up good numbers against actual good teams. Since they struggled against Purdue last year I guess we were a good team.

Missouri Defense

The Mizzou defense got lit up at times last year. Purdue looked unstoppable in the first three drives of last season’s game and even some of the Tiger wins turned into shootouts. Giving up 43 points to an FCS team in the opener was a bad look. Auburn and Georgia both topped 50 points against them., Even Arkansas dropped a 48-45 shootout.

Missouri has a pair of very good linebacker sin Cole Garrett and Terez Hall. Garrett led the team last season with 105 tackles and Hall was second with 85. Both also had double-digit tackles for loss. Cole even added a pair of interceptions. Brandon Lee, who had 42 tackles last season, is the likely third linebacker.

Up front there are a pair of solid linemen in Terry Beckner and Tre Williams. Beckner led the team with 7 sacks and Williams had three from his defensive end spot. Walter Palmore should also see plenty of playing time up front, along with Jordan Elliott and Daniel Parker.

Last season the Missouri secondary was absolutely shredded by David Blough and Elijah Sindelar both. DeMarkus Acy is the top corner with 48 tackles, while the interesting matchup of Adam Sparks against our own Jared Sparks is a fun one. The two are brothers, with Adam playing cornerback and Jared playing receiver for us. Joshuah Bledsoe needs to step up as the likely starting safety along with Kaleb Prewitt.

Missouri Special Teams

Just about the only thing Missouri did well against Purdue last season was punting. Corey Fatony averaged 44 yards per punt last season and had a very good game against Purdue with a 48 yard average. Of course, he punted nine times. I would not mind him punting nine times again, either. Tucker McCann was good in the kicking game, going 14 of 16 with a long of 43 yards. He split kicking duties with Nick Bartolotta, but handled most of the job.

In the return game a player to watch out for is Richaud Floyd. He returned a pair of punts for scores and averaged more than 20 yards per return.

Game Outlook

A lot like last year, this game looks like it could be a fun little shootout. Purdue has a lot ot replace on its defense, which dominated last year’s game. The Tiger offense can be formidable and it seems unlikely that Lock is going to have as bad of a game as he did last season.

Of course, we had our own offense last year that was pretty good against them. Blough finished 22 of 28 for 187 yards and a scored while rushing for one. Sindelar was 4 of 6 for 85 yards and a score. This was a big game for Tario Fuller, who had 90 yards and a TD before getting insured and missing the rest of the season. All told, Purdue rushed for 205 yards on 50 attempts from eight different rushers. A total of 13 different Boilers caught at least one pass.

What I like about this is that Purdue completely dominated last year’s game in Columbia. It had been a very long team since we saw a team quit on us, but even Mizzou’s own Rock M Nation said they quit. I don’t expect that to happen again, but you have to feel good with Purdue playing at home against a team it embarrassed a year ago.

Way-too-Early Prediction

Night home non-conference games always seem to be a lot of fun and I think this is no different. I think we’re going to see a lot of points scored between two pretty good offenses. Both defenses also have a lot of questions. First team to 40? Purdue 41, Missouri 34