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VIDEO: Ole Miss-Missouri Highlights

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Missouri Highlights

Kennedy: 'It's a huge win'

 

Ole Miss notched its first top-50 RPI win of the season, as the Rebels held on for a 91-88 win over Missouri on Saturday in Oxford. Marshall Henderson led the way with 29 points, including eight 3-pointers, while three other Rebels scored in double figures and Aaron Jones and Sebastian Saiz grabbed double-digit rebounds.

"It's a huge win," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "It's a huge, huge win. It's a huge win because it's a home game against a top-50 team that everybody has slotted ahead us. It's a huge win."

"It was most definitely a must-win for us," Henderson said. "We had the same approach we had with the LSU and Tennessee games. It's the only time we play them during the regular season.  Us four teams (Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU and Tennessee) are going to be battling, especially to get the double-bye in the SEC Tournament. That would be crucial. Missouri is ahead of us. They're one of the last four teams, I'm pretty sure. For us to get the win, it's huge. It puts us one-up on them." 

Henderson had 18 of his 29 points in the first half, as Ole Miss took a 50-35 lead into halftime. The Rebels shot 53.1 percent (17-of-32) from the floor, including 9-of-16 from 3-point range, led by Henderson who was 6-of-8 from 3.

"We could sense it," said Henderson of shots falling in the first half. "It was crazy because it felt like we were blowing them, but they were still right there."

Missouri got to within two at 77-75 with 4:49 left in the game, but Jarvis Summers answered with straight points for Ole Miss to stretch the lead to 85-78 with a minute left in the game. He finished with 16 points, as did LaDarius White who scored 16 on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Summers' 16 marked his 13th straight game in double figures.

"He's a winner," said Kennedy of Summers. "He's always won. He expects to win. He wants the ball, and I want him to have the ball. It's his experience. He makes plays. He's done it for us all year."

After being outrebounded for the third straight game against Kentucky, Ole Miss won the rebounding battle, 34-33, including 14 on the offensive glass. Jones grabbed 11, including six on the offensive end, and Saiz grabbed 10 with four on the offensive end. None were bigger than back-to-back defensive rebounds by Saiz during Summers' eight-point stretch late in the game.

"Coming into the game, Missouri had won two SEC road games, and in those at Auburn and at Arkansas, they were plus-16 on the glass in both. It's a huge stat. We won the battle of the board by one in a one-possession game." 

Missouri scored five points in 16 seconds and forced an Ole Miss turnover to have the ball and a chance to tie down 91-88 with 0.9 seconds left, but Earnest Ross' deep 3-pointer hit off the front of the rim.

"We have embraced the grind," Henderson said. "We know every game is going down to the wire, no matter who we play. We just have to fight through and get the win."

The Rebels hit the road for back-to-back road games against Alabama on Tuesday and Georgia on Saturday before returning home for a pair of big home games against Kentucky and Florida, which are rated No. 4 and No. 13, respectively, in the RPI.


Resume-Building Opportunity For Rebels

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Ole Miss opens the second half of Southeastern Conference play, as the Rebels host the Missouri Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net). Ole Miss (15-7, 6-3 SEC) has won each of its first four conference home games, and a win over Missouri (16-6, 4-5 SEC) would be its best RPI win of the season.

The Rebels enter Saturday's game ranked No. 57 in the latest Ratings Percentage Index (ESPN.com), while the Tigers are rated No. 46. Ole Miss is 4-6 against top-100 RPI teams, including 0-4 against top-50 RPI teams. It is the Rebels' third top-50 RPI opponent in four games, having previously lost to Tennessee (No. 49) and Kentucky (No. 13).

"We knew it was going to be a big week for us," head coach Andy Kennedy. "We knew going into Rupp was going to be difficult, and I know coming home against Missouri is going to be difficult. That's why you're in the SEC. That's why you play big-boy basketball to have these opportunities. We have been better with a 4-0 record at home in league play. We have to continue that trend if we have any hopes of playing meaningful basketball once we get into the postseason."

Against Kentucky, Ole Miss went into halftime down just 35-34 before the Wildcats opened the second half on a 15-7 run to stretch the lead to 50-41. The Rebels got to within seven at 50-43 and 58-51, but they were not able to cut too far into the lead after that run to open the half.

For the third straight game and 14th game overall this season, Ole Miss was outrebounded, as the Rebels rank last in rebounding margin (-3.1 rebounds per game) and defensive rebounding percentage (63.3 percent) and 11th in offensive rebounding percentage (24.3 percent).

"I thought we were getting better at rebounding, but look at our last three outings," Kennedy said. "At Tennessee, we got destroyed. That was a difficult matchup for us, and they're pretty good at what they do. Against South Carolina at home, we get beat by 10. And then we go to Kentucky, and they're maybe leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we just got destroyed. 

"We obviously had these issues in November and December, and we thought we had come to some sort of a conclusion as to how to remedy them, and then they have seemed to have risen back up."

Like Ole Miss, led by Marshall Henderson and Jarvis Summers, Missouri is a guard-oriented team. Jabari Brown leads the SEC in scoring (20.1 points per game), 3-point field goal percentage (47.4 percent) and minutes played (36.7 minutes per game). 

Brown, who transferred from Oregon two season ago, has topped 20 points in six of his last seven league games and is averaging 24.3 points and shooting 61.9 percent from 3-point range during that stretch. Brown and Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson, who ranks sixth in league in scoring (18.7 points per game), rank fourth nationally among scoring tandems.

"They are a good team with really, really good guards," Kenendy said. "Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown have size, athleticism, and they are both highly skilled. Jabari Brown is having a Player-of-the-Year-type campaign. He's averaging around 22 points per game and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the floor and from 3, and he's a volume guy. He's Marshall, but Marshall is around 33 to 34 percent, while he's at 53 to 54 percent, so it gives you an idea of the challenge that they present. 

"They're a group that is athletic. They are going to play fast. They are the most efficient team in our league in transition, so there are a number of things that we have to be good at defensively to give ourselves a chance."

VIDEO: Andy Kennedy Media Opportunity

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy met with members of the media Thursday, ahead of the Rebels hosting the Missouri Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net).

On Julius Randle's dunk against Derrick Millinghaus:

We had a tough night on a number of fronts. The game, and then we had a tough time getting out of Lexington because of the weather and then we had to fly to Memphis and drive back. What was about an hour and 15 minute flight turned into about a four and a half hour debacle. On the bus ride home, they showed it with a graphic like nine times in an hour and 15 minutes, so he got to see it. He will get to see it again today.

On Kentucky being a teachable game:

We gave ourselves a chance. Early, we were up five or six points and we seemed to be executing and not getting completely dominated on the glass. The zone was bothering them a little bit. Our primary objective going into the game was to try to keep them in front of us. That's where they broke us down. We couldn't keep anybody in front of us and then we were in a poor position to rebound the ball. Any shots that they did miss, they cleaned up off the offensive glass. Their length is difficult, and it's really hard to simulate. If you don't create some space, then it's difficult to continue to try to score over them all night, and we had trouble with that in the second half.

On rebounding:

I thought we were getting better at rebounding, but look at our last three outings. At Tennessee, we got destroyed. That was a difficult matchup for us, and they're pretty good at what they do. Against South Carolina at home, we get beat by 10. And then we go to Kentucky, and they're maybe leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we just got destroyed. We obviously had these issues in November and December, and we thought we had come to some sort of a conclusion as to how to remedy them, and then they have seemed to have risen back up.

On the different defenses Ole Miss plays:

It's all matchup dependent. If you look at it, our man-to-man has helped us in moments. Our half-court trap really saved us against South Carolina, and it had not been that effective in the three or four games prior to that. Our 1-3-1 zone has been good to us at times. The 2-3 zone has probably been our best overall statistical defense. We will continue to mix and match depending upon whom we're playing, how we're playing, who they have in the game and who we have in the game. There are a number of factors.

On Missouri:

They are a good team with really, really good guards. Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown have size, athleticism, and they are both highly skilled. Jabari Brown is having a Player-of-the-Year-type campaign. He's averaging around 22 points per game and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the floor and from 3, and he's a volume guy. He's Marshall, but Marshall is around 33 to 34 percent, while he's at 53 to 54 percent, so it gives you an idea of the challenge that they present. They're a group that is athletic. They are going to play fast. They are the most efficient team in our league in transition, so there are a number of things that we have to be good at defensively to give ourselves a chance.

On defense against Missouri:

We will do what we always do in most every game. We will mix and match and see what is the best. I don't think you will see a steady diet of any one thing because they are too good. From a size standpoint, they can play over the top of us, if we went primarily with man defense, but I don't think you can sit in a zone because they're too proficient from 3.

On the Missouri game being a resume-building opportunity for the NCAA Tournament:

We knew it was going to be a big week for us. We knew going into Rupp was going to be difficult, and I know coming home against Missouri is going to be difficult. That's why you're in the SEC. That's why you play big-boy basketball to have these opportunities. We have been better with a 4-0 record at home in league play. We have to continue that trend if we have any hopes of playing meaningful basketball once we get into the postseason.

On Martavious Newby:

He's out of the cast, and he has begun his rehab process. As is typical with kids who are playing high-level SEC sports, he heals pretty quickly. The doctors will give you the landscape for the people they typically deal with and then you can usually accelerate that, and Martavious is no exception. Our anticipation is that if he continues to progress the way he has once rehabilitation has started, hopefully we can have him back sooner rather than later. He's a big void and you see his toughness, coming up with loose balls and he gives us a matchup on the perimeter defensively that we miss.

On winning on the road in the SEC:

Coming into this past week, I think Ken Pomeroy said that the SEC had the most games of any league that were decided by four points or less, or overtime, which shows you it's a balanced league. It's a company line, and it's one the SEC has not been able to shake for a couple of years. It's an easy company line. I do think there is a bias in the national media because they get tired of talking about the SEC because it dominates in football, and they get tired of it. When there's an opportunity to talk about something else, that's what they're going to do. 

Kentucky loses on the road to LSU, which is a very good basketball team, in a competitive game, and then they go and win at Missouri. And Missouri has beaten West Virginia, Northwestern, at NC State and UCLA, and they didn't lose a non-league home game. Kentucky goes in there and wins, and they still drop seven spots in the poll. The mindset is kind of crazy. 

Our league, it will start shaking out in the next two or three weeks. You will start seeing the pretenders from the contenders, and that will be the case in any league. The Big Ten has done a job like everybody does of eating their own. You have teams that were undefeated before league play and they lose three, four or five in a row. It happens at this time of year. 

I don't get too caught up in that with my group because we have to find a way to get better. Let's get better and improve. I can't be a big-picture thinker with this group. It's not productive. For us, it's about getting better. It's about figuring out what we did right for 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky and what went wrong, and let's correct those things and let's try to make an improvement Saturday.

On that bias carrying over into the NCAA Tournament committee room:

I don't think so. I think those people don't get caught up in that. We all deal with human nature. The numbers are going to say what the numbers are going to say. The numbers on that piece of paper have to make sense, and if they make sense, then our league will be properly represented. 

Think about last year. We obviously knew we had to work to do going into Nashville. There were two teams that went into Nashville that were probably safe regardless with Florida being one and Missouri being the other. Missouri finished fifth or sixth in our league. However, similar to what they have done this year, their non-league had enough pop where they were good. 

Everybody else -- us, obviously, Tennessee still had an opportunity to play their way in, Alabama was still in the conversation, and certainly Kentucky was. There were only two that were in regardless of what happened in Nashville, but there were still six in play. It just so happens that Kentucky got beat by Vanderbilt, which was a "bad loss," so they're out. Tennessee and Alabama happened to play one another, but the loser got immediately eliminated, and then the other lost the next round to Florida. We were the only one that wiggled our way through. We went in with an opportunity for six. 

Let's say Kentucky would have beaten Vanderbilt, and if we would have beaten them, they're probably still in, and we would have probably had to have beaten them to get in. There's so much still in play, and that was when Kentucky was not considered a Final Four contender because of the Nerlens Noel injury.

The Kentucky team that I saw Tuesday night was the Kentucky team that many people projected them to be when they named them preseason number one in the country. Those kids are growing up, and when Willie Cauley-Stein plays the way he did, and the Harrison twins are really getting better. They're so long. That's what blew me away. Things that we can typically do against other people, their length made up for that on Tuesday, and it made it problematic.

On excuses being made to say the SEC is down:

It's a mindset. For instance, the Big East. When the Big East turns to basketball, the attention turns to that in November. There's not a lot of thought put into basketball until about now. It's the nature of the geography, the communities that you're in and because of the dominance of football. 

You can't feed two masters a lot of times. Many times, we're a slow build. When Missouri loses to Georgia, it's considered bad, even though it's very, very difficult to win on the road in the league. Going into this last week, Florida and us were the only teams in the league with multiple road wins. It's difficult to win in any league. 

For us, we're going to have opportunities. The league is sitting in a much better place today than it was at this time last year. The biggest reason being even the teams at the bottom, it's not so much weighty at the bottom. We had two or three 200-plus RPI teams last year, and we lost to a couple of them. As a result, it makes the climb very, very difficult to get up and out of. 

This year, that's not the case. Even though we have teams that have not performed as well as they have liked, their numbers don't indicate that. Take Vanderbilt, for instance, and Kevin (Stallings) has done a masterful job. People think they're down because of their injuries and the attrition that they have suffered, yet you look today, and they're in the 60's in the RPI. That win at Vanderbilt, even though you say it's not the Vanderbilt they had two years, granted, the numbers still give you some life.

On what Ole Miss did well in those 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky:

Number one, we were moving the ball better. We got really stagnant in the second half, and then we got into trying to make a play without moving the defense. Their size ate us up, and we could not get clean looks. And the ones we got, we were looking for a 10-point shot as opposed to staying within the rhythm of the offense. 

And then you don't get stops. They shot 60 percent against us in the second half. We did not get a defensive rebound until Janari (Joesaar) came in and got one that hit off the side of the rubber part of the backboard. That was the first time a Rebel got a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but we did not have a clean defensive rebound until under two minutes to go in the second half.

On limited opportunities for resume-building wins:

We have Missouri, and they're in the low 50's in the RPI, and they're a quality team. We have Kentucky coming back in here, and you have Florida, who's in the top five and might come in here number one in the nation, so you have your opportunities. We still have Vanderbilt coming back in this building, and they're sitting in the 60's in the RPI, so there are opportunities for us. We have to play better and we have to earn our way in. That's the only way it should be, and that's the way it is.

SEC MBB Teleconference 2.3

Full transcript of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Missouri head coach Frank Haith. The Rebels travel to Lexington, Ky., to play the Wildcats on Tuesday (6 p.m., ESPNU) and then return home to play the Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

We have two very big challenges. We have tomorrow night in Lexington against one of the better teams in the country. We have not had an unbelievable amount of success in Rupp and then turning around and hosting Missouri, which is playing very good basketball and presents a number of challenges with quite arguably the best backcourt in college basketball. It's another week of SEC play with those challenges.

On Missouri guards Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson and Earnest Ross:

They're very good players. Clarkson has had a Player-of-the-Year-type start to SEC play, and Jabari Brown has taken his game to another level, coming off I believe it was a career-high in their outing against Kentucky, as I was preparing for Kentucky and Missouri this week. I saw the game. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He has always been a very good shooter and now his game his game has expanded when he can do more things off the bounce. And then Earnest Ross was at Auburn prior to going to Missouri and has developed into a deadly perimeter shooter and a guy who physically you have to match his intensity.

On Kentucky's perimeter play:

The biggest concern for us is their size. We're not overly big in the backcourt, and they have a lot of size. They play (Jarrod) Polson a little bit, and he's probably the only guy on their roster under 6-foot-5 who gets in the game. They present a number of issues with their size and versatility. The (Aaron and Andrew) Harrison twins are really starting to play much more confidently like with all freshmen, as the season gets longer and they get more comfortable in their roles. James Young is as prolific a scorer as Calipari has had from day one who has scored as efficiently as he has. They present a number of challenges with their size, athleticism and ability to make shots.

On Kentucky's Julius Randle:

His overall game is what sticks out to me. He's very physically strong and attacks the ball. Great players are always around the ball, and he always seems to be around the ball. He faces up and makes shots from the perimeter. Most everybody will do what we will try to do, which is put some bodies between him and the basket, and hopefully we can get him off his straight path. If you let allow him to get to his left hand and have a straight path to the basket, there's going to be very little you are going to be able to do.

On NCAA Tournament projections:

We have opportunities on the horizon, and we don't pay a lot of attention to the projections in the first week in February. There is so much basketball left to be played, and we certainly lived that last year. We were dead numerous times, and our guys continued to grind and fight. Anytime you're in a league such as the SEC, you're going to have quality opportunities. We have two this week, and my focus is just on getting our kids ready for the challenges.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari

Opening statement:

You're talking about two teams that have two teams that have players who can break you down and score when they need to. Mississippi State was up four on us when they played us here, and we kind of wore them down with a little bit of our depth, but I'm not sure we will be able to do that down there. Mississippi, Andy has them playing so well. They're running their stuff and executing and playing through the people they need to play through. They're playing zone and scrambling it up a little bit. They're putting out a 1-3-1 zone and putting out a little bit of a half-court trap. They're doing great stuff. Both teams are well coached. Both teams are in position to win games because of how they're being coached, and players are playing their roles well.

On the Missouri win on Saturday:

The whole mantra and message for the week was passion, outward emotion and enthusiasm for each other and showing it. We practiced all week on recognizing each other's good plays and verbally doing it. We have such a young team. We have the youngest team I have ever coached and one of the youngest teams in college basketball history. Their emotions are all tied to how they're playing offensively. Our strength of schedule is top-five. That's why when everybody gets caught up with us having to win every game, we don't. We just have to take care of business. Our strength is top-five, and it's not going to change a whole lot to finish out the year. 

Our efficiency on offense, we're holding onto the ball too much, and it's top-10 or top-five. The issue becomes the enthusiasm, passion and spirit we play with on defense. We should be a better defensive team than we are last year. A lot of it is transition defense. How about we sprint back? Last game, they were driving right. Make them drive left, and they just kept driving right. There are some things that we can do to make us better. It's not a skill set. It's not that we don't have good guys or we're a good team. All of the things that people say are our weaknesses are things we can change. We have size, athleticism and depth. The things you have no control over, we have. We have things we can change, and we're going to try to.

On Missouri's Jabari Brown:

He was outstanding. He flew up and down the court and put himself in position to get out ahead of our defense. If you leave him alone, he makes shots. The last five or six games, he was making 60-70 percent of his threes. Whoever is playing Missouri, and I'm happy we're not playing them again, you have to prepared to say when he gets going, what are you going to do? We went a little zone and trapped some pick-and-rolls. We did some stuff to try to slow him down, and he and (Jordan) Clarkson ended up with 70 points between them. 

We have had now two games where teams have shot 50 percent against my team. I bet if you look over my 20 years of coaching for back-to-back 50 percent shooting nights, I can't imagine that it's happened against my team, but it did, and LSU and Missouri are both tremendous basketball teams.

Missouri head coach Frank Haith

Opening statement:

We're coming off a tough loss here on Saturday against a very good Kentucky team. Our guys played extremely hard and competed. Kentucky played great, particularly the Harrison twins. Going back to look at it, their performance was outstanding. We have two difficult challenges ahead of this week playing two road games, starting tomorrow night against one of the best teams in the country, Florida, and then at Ole Miss, probably one of the hottest teams in our league. It's going to be a great challenge for us this week.

On standing in NCAA Tournament projections:

I have not paid attention to it. I know we have some opportunities in our conference to continue to improve our resume. We have to take care of business and do what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to have our name called out on that Sunday.

On freshman guard Wes Clark:

He's getting more and more comfortable as all freshmen do, as they get more court time and get more used to the speed of the game. We're seeing Wes be more confident and get a better feel for what he can and can't do in a game of this level. Because of that, it makes us better with his improving.

Tough Test In No. 8 Missouri

There's a different air surrounding this week's primetime showdown with No. 8 Missouri, the Rebels' first top-10 test since a 27-24 win over then-No. 6 LSU back on Oct. 19.

"It's a huge week for us," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We get to see how good we are. We had some games that we felt like we didn't play as well in that we could have been in, but this is our redemption game that we can go back and see how good we are."

"In the weight room yesterday, it was crazy," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "No one was talking or doing anything. We're telling each other this a game that no one should have to get you amped for. You should be motivated and feel that urge to do what you can do.

The Rebels (7-3, 3-3 SEC) have won four straight, having eclipsed 500 total offense yards in each of the four games, including a school-record 751 against Troy this past Saturday. They also re-entered the BCS and Associated Press polls at No. 24.

The Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) rank in the top three in the SEC and top 20 in the nation in both scoring offense (41.3 points per game) and scoring defense (20.2). Other than their loss to South Carolina, none of their wins have been decided by less than 15 points.

"I don't know that having to win the game will answer the question, 'Are you really a top-25 team?'" Freeze said. "But if we go out, compete and have a chance to win it, that's what we're asking for right now out of our kids in Year Two. 

"Let's go find out where we stand and how we match up with the elite in the nation right. Hopefully, we'll be in it at the end and see. With the schedule we have played, looking back on it, we have had our share of tests, and this will be another one Saturday night."

When asked about keys to the matchup, Freeze mentioned two specifically: running the ball effectively and eliminating explosive plays in the passing game.

"We're pretty good when we can run it and mix in the play-action pass and the stuff we like to do off our run game," Freeze said. "When we're not running it -- you look at the Alabama and Auburn games -- we're not the same team. 

"(Cornerbacks coach) Jason Jones put together a reel of their explosive receivers play, and it's quite impressive, so we have a tall task there. If we can eliminate those and are able run the ball the ball effectively, that will go a long way in helping us be in this game.

The Challenge On Defense

Senior James Franklin is listed as the starter at quarterback for the Tigers this week, having missed the last four games since suffering a shoulder injury against Georgia on Oct. 12. 

Franklin averages 225.3 passing yards per game and has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions. His backup, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, averages 95.1 passing yards per game and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

"There's not much difference in the two quarterbacks, so that's the good thing," Freeze said. "They are going to be who they are. They have done the exact same things with their second guy that they do with their first guy, so it's not like you're preparing for two different schemes. They have confidence in both of them and have good reason to."

The Tigers also have a talented group of receivers, led by sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and senior L'Damian Washington who each have 500-plus receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Each of their four starting receivers are listed at 6-foot-2 or taller, with Green-Beckham at 6-foot-6 and Washington at 6-foot-4. 

Ole Miss junior cornerback Senquez Golson compared it to playing against three or four Mike Evans from Texas A&M. Both he and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton said it's about playing physical with the tall, speedy receivers from Missouri.

"That's a physics problem that we can't solve," said Freeze of their height. "It's a concern for sure because there are times where their guys are more able to make a play on the ball than some defensive backs they have faced. That is a great concern and something that we have to try to figure out what the best answers are when those cases arise."

The Challenge On Offense

One of the keys to the game, Freeze said, is Missouri's ability to stop the run. The Tigers rank second in the league and 14th nationally in rushing defense (111.9 ypg). In earlier losses to Alabama and Auburn, Ole Miss rushed for 46 and 124 yards, respectively. 

In recent games, the Rebels have run the ball better, including a season-high 382 yards against Troy, and Freeze credited the offensive line progressing and being more multiple, while senior offensive linemen Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray credited continuity and working better with double teams.

"Very few people have been able to line up and just run the ball effectively on them to keep you off balance, and then they get you one-dimension and those ends are quick and cause trouble in the backfield for you," Freeze said. "We have to try to find a way to run the ball effective enough so that we can be who we are and want to be and keep them thinking we're balanced, which we have been as of late."

Missouri also does a great job of generating pressure and forcing turnovers, and it starts with their defensive line. 

The Tigers lead the league in sacks and rank third nationally with 34 sacks, as well as lead the league and rank seventh nationally with 17 interceptions. It's a great challenge for junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who after throwing 17 interceptions last year, has only been picked off five times through 10 games this season.

"Sometimes the pressure is causing some of it, but they do a great job also of mixing up their coverages and causing you to want to be greedy," Freeze said. "If you're not patient against them, because they're going to make you go 8, 10, 12-play drives to get points and they're very good in the red zone. In most of their games, they're ahead and forcing you to throw a lot, and they're stopping the run, so the sacks are coming because when they get you in a position where they know you have to throw, their guys are very good at that."

"I have to be sharp every week, no matter who we play," Wallace said. "We play in probably the best conference in America. Every week, we're going to play against guys who can go get the ball and great defensive backs. There are great defenses in this league, so it's the same every week."

Their defensive line is led by a talented duo at the ends. Senior Michael Sam leads the league and ranks sixth nationally with 10 sacks and also leads the league and ranks fifth nationally with 16 tackles for loss. On the other side, junior Kony Ealy, ranks fourth in the SEC with 6.5 sacks and leads the team with 13 quarterback hurries.

"They do a lot of movement, so it will be a unique challenge for us," Burton said. "It's not just like I'm watching a defensive end every time. The defensive end is going to be slanting. They're doing run-game twists on first down. We haven't seen that all year except for SEMO. That's a really unique thing to see."

"They are very talented," McCray said. "They are slated as one of the best in the SEC. They play pretty hard and all have pretty good motors. It's not just about outstanding ability, they all play as a good unit."

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