Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

5 Things to Watch: Missouri vs. Mississippi State

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

5 Things to Watch: Missouri vs. Mississippi State

Article excerpt


Drew Lock can stop looking over his shoulder. This was supposed to be the week Maty Mauk was reinstated, but Missouri's former starting quarterback is suspended for the rest of the season, leaving Lock as the undisputed starter behind center. After three rough outings against Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt, will Lock benefit from the bye week and recapture a semblance of a functional passing game? Mizzou's receivers were last seen letting passes skim off their fingers in Nashville. This could be a more favorable matchup for Lock and his wideouts: Five of Mississippi State's opponents have completed 60 percent of their passes. The Tigers haven't completed more than half their passes since Lock's first start, a month ago against South Carolina.


The big anticipated change along Missouri's offensive line at Vanderbilt was subtle as Nate Crawford moved from right tackle to left guard. Will the Tigers unveil any more personnel or scheme changes after a bye week? Offensive coordinator Josh Henson has hinted at possible changes, but the Tigers only held one full practice during the bye week. With a compressed schedule this week the staff's time was limited to install major changes.


Missouri's return game has been atrocious all season. The Tigers rank No. 127 out of 128 FBS teams in average kickoff returns. Punt returns have been especially tumultuous as freshman Cam Hilton has fumbled away a return each of the last two weeks. The Tigers sound like they'll stick with Hilton. "We're not giving up on him," said assistant coach Cornell Ford, who coaches the punt return unit. "Punt returners are going to drop some every once in a while. I want him to have a little more urgency in going to get it and cover it."


The last time Missouri played a Thursday night home game, thunderstorms rolled in and made Faurot Field a 100-yard slip and slide. That was Oct. 8, 2009, a 27-12 Nebraska victory. That season changed on one play when quarterback Blaine Gabbert wrenched his ankle under the weight of Huskers star lineman Ndamukong Suh. The Tigers never recovered that night, managing just 225 yards of offense. Could history repeat itself? The forecast calls for a good chance of thunderstorms, and with blocking issues of late, the Mizzou offense can't afford to lose its footing on a slippery turf. …

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