Missouri disappointed in its season opener, but the Tigers are ready to bounce back in a big way.
After Mizzou opened the season with a disappointing 37-31 loss to Wyoming, Tiger fans have been outraged by the poor performance from the team. The defense has fallen victim to criticism after giving up 297 rushing yards to a Cowboy team projected to win around five games this year.
However, fans should not expect a similar showing in Week 2 against West Virginia.
The Mountaineers narrowly defeated James Madison, 20-13. However, much like Mizzou, the Dukes defeated themselves by turning the ball over. James Madison had more first downs, rushing yards and total yards while also possessing the ball longer and converting more efficiently on third down.
The good news for Mizzou? West Virginia had 34 rushing yards.
Missouri was destroyed by Wyoming in the run game, which played a huge role in its loss. Now motivated and hungry for redemption, the Tiger defense faces a team that only averaged 1.4 yards per carry against an FCS opponent.
If Mizzou truly learned from its loss, the Tigers should have no issues with stopping the Mountaineers’ run game.
An area of concern is the passing defense.
Wyoming threw the ball fewer than 30 times. Meanwhile, senior Austin Kendall threw 42 passes against James Madison. He completed 27 of those attempts for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
Kendall has big shoes to fill with the departure of Will Grier, but his performance against the Dukes was respectable to say the least. Missouri must avoid committing too much to stopping the run, because Kendall may be primed to build upon his last game.
The defense needs to force turnovers, which is easier said than done. Kendall has never thrown an interception in 55 career pass attempts. However, the Tigers can’t afford to lose the turnover battle again.
Third down will be crucial for both sides. The West Virginia offense only converted 6 of 18 third downs, meanwhile Wyoming was 4 of 12 on its third downs. If Missouri’s defense can win the battle on third down, the offense should be able to put enough points on the board to win comfortably.
Most importantly, Missouri desperately needs to bounce back in a big way to bring back the hype that surrounded the team before the opening game. The Tigers’ schedule still provides them the chance for nine or 10 wins, assuming they can clean up the mistakes they made in Week 1.