Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Missouri Tigers

October 24, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC (regional)

Last week wasn’t pretty. But, a win in Dallas in a win in Dallas. Of the ‘Horns tough three week stretch, they’ve started off on the right foot. There are still some changes that need to happen on offense, but as expected, the defenses dominated at the Cotton Bowl. In Eyes Of TX’s opinion, ou made a horrible decision in bringing back QB Sam Bradford from injury to play in this game – and, when he went down on second series of the game, you could feel the life being sucked out of the sooners sideline.

With the ou game behind Mack Brown and the ‘Horns, they face two match-ups this week and next against Missouri and Oklahoma State, respectively, away from the safety of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Let’s check out the game this week, with rebuilding M-I-Z…Z-O-U.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 30, Missouri 17

Missouri TigersMissouri Tigers (4-2)
It’s homecoming in Columbia, Missouri, this weekend and that means that the playmakers from last year’s Tigers team might be back. On the sideline. This Missouri team is re-building, and despite the loss of several starters from last year’s team, have a nice complement of players that have replaced them this season. That starts at the quarterback position with Blaine Gabbert, a 6’5” 240-pound gunslinger. The strong-armed quarterback is also mobile in the pocket, although not necessarily a running threat. He’s thrown for 1,620 yards, 12 TDs, and five INTs this season, but is only completing 57 percent of his passes. All five of his INTs have come in the last two games – losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma State – and he also sprained his ankle in the Nebraska game and that has limited his mobility since. At wide receiver, Gabbert has a solid group, including Wes Kemp, Jared Perry, and Danario Alexander. Alexander is the biggest threat, at 6’5” 215 pounds, and he has 66 catches for 627 yards and five TDs on the season, and Perry is the deep threat with the ability to get behind defenses. All told, the wide receivers will need to have a solid day to ease the pressure on the Missouri running game, although with the Texas front seven and secondary, it might be difficult for Gabbert to have the time to find open receivers down field.

The running game goes through Derrick Washington, although he is only averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and an average of 16 carries per game. He’s only scored three TDs on the season, and Missouri ranks 91st in rushing in the country. That means the Texas secondary needs to have their eyes on the man in front of them as Gabbert will likely be winging the ball all over the field. If the offensive line is having trouble with the Texas front seven — and they did against Nebraska — then they could try to defer to quick screen passes and hot routes to try and slow down the Texas rush. With the Texas linebacking core playing lights out, though, it won’t help their offensive efforts.

On defense, Missouri has been less-than-impressive. Against good competition, they’ve given up points, including 33 to Oklahoma State last week and the disaster against Nebraska in the final minutes of the game as well. The defense is led by stud linebacker Sean Witherspoon, who will surely be playing on Sunday’s next year. He leads the team with 50 tackles on the season, and he is the emotional leader – their play will largely be based on his success or failure on Saturday. The defensive line is solid, but nothing that poses a huge threat against the ‘Horns offense. They can hold their own, but don’t put much pressure on the quarterback. In fact, the defense as a whole only blitzes on 24 percent of their defensive plays, and most of the team’s sacks come from the linebacking core, and not the d-line. The secondary is suspect, as they give up an average of 210 yards per game, and they only have two INTs on the season – that seems like a big opportunity for Texas.

This might be on the best special teams groups that Texas will play this season. Their punter, Jake Henry, averages 42 yards per punt, and they give up very little (under a yard) on punt returns. Their kick-off coverage isn’t quite as good, giving up an average of 24 yards per return. Their field goal kicker, Grant Ressel, is lights out, hitting 12-of-13 field goal attempts, and all of his extra points. If they don’t make any mistakes on Saturday, it could be even-Steven in the special teams match-up this week.

Texas Longhorns#2 Texas Longhorns (6-0)
Texas needs to get it together on offense. Fans have been waiting all season to see the Texas offense explode, like last year, but week-in and week-out, the ‘Horns have failed to produce. This week, you’ll see some changes in the wide receiving core. Freshman Marquise Goodwin, who stole the show in Dallas, will get the start, as will Malcolm Williams who has apparently finally earned some playing time. With John Chiles being ineffective, and James Kirkendoll’s stupid head-butt in the ou game, Eyes Of TX feels good about the change, as it will put more speed on the field for Colt – let’s just hope the consistency is there with some new faces on the field. In addition, Jordan Shipley will move back over to the flanker position, where he was so successful last year. With Missouri’s linebackers not being great covering wide receivers in space over the middle of the field, Shipley could have a big day. The running game picked up last week, and Fozzy Whittaker looked healthy and quick, and he’s earned the starting job this week as well. Keep it up!

On defense, just keep doing what you’re doing. Will Muschamp’s troops have looked sharp, and they’re getting strong play up and down the depth chart. There is no doubt that Texas has one of the best defenses in the country. The secondary needs to focus on keeping Missouri’s wide receivers in front of them and making sure tackles against the larger Tigers’ wide outs, while the linebackers need to cover the running backs on screens and hot routes while using strategic opportunities to put pressure on Gabbert in passing situations.

All in all, Texas should win this game. No doubt Missouri will be jacked up for this game with homecoming this weekend, but if the ‘Horns keep their heads, play their game, and manage the clock, they should escape Columbia with a victory.

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Missouri Tigers Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

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Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Tigers

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