A big thanks goes out to Bill C. from Rock M Nation for joining us on the Sooner Nation podcast to preview the Oklahoma/Missouri game but our coverage doesn't end there. Today we're tracking down "The Beef" one of the terrific editors at Rock M for a little Q&A.
CCM: We have to start out by asking about the health of the Tigers. You guys have been plagued by injuries early on. Where does Missouri stand now?
RMN: On one leg with a bum knee and a bad ankle on the other leg? The summer had been pretty kind to us, and then Marcus Murphy (RB) went down. Clearly, we did not appease the karma Gods when that happened, and most Mizzou fans dismissed this injury, as Murphy was likely to be the fourth RB of four returning. But then senior all-conference left tackle Elvis Fisher went down with a season-ender. And then it was Travis Ruth, our center, missing a lot of camp with an achilles, causing our O-line to really get shuffled around. Add to that, senior WR Jerrell Jackson was slowed, taking away our best down-field WR.. Then the defensive injuries started with corner Kip Edwards, LB Will Ebner and DE Jacquies Smith. And then the injuries to the RB's started as Kendial Lawrence and Devion Moore were both lost as well, leaving us with only one scholarship RB with any experience in Henry Josey. The theme here is that these were all people who were either going to start or play significant minutes. The team is starting to get a little healthier again, as Smith and Edwards are expected back for this game, and Jackson and Ruth saw some time against WIU. But the thin-ness remains in other areas. For me, and not to say this game is not important, but we have our bye week after this before getting into the rest of our conference schedule. I would love to see the team have a bunch of pieces returned to it by our game in the Little Apple in two weeks.
CCM: It's only been three games but how would you evaluate the performance of quarterback James Franklin?
RMN: I have to say I have been pretty pleased overall, though the three games were really pretty different both in performance and take away. He clearly struggled a bit (as did our offensive line in protecting him at times) against Miami, OH, but did enough to get the job done and did not lose his head. Against Arizona State, he accounted for over 400 yards and led the team back from 2 TD deficit in his first road game. Last week, he was not asked to do much and he did a decent job with solid-looking numbers, those though really paying attention can tell you he got bailed out a couple of times on throws he should not have made and that should have been picked. Clearly, the atmosphere changes this week and we will need a very solid performance from him on one of the biggest and toughest stages.
CCM: Henry Josey is averaging over 13 yards per carry. Why is he averaging less than ten carries per game?
RMN: Coming into the summer, Henry Josey appeared to be the #3 option behind an invigorated Kendial Lawrence and senior Devion Moore. Josey was solid at times last year, and certainly put a hurting on McNeese State early in the season. Josey received about as many carries as I would have expected against Miami (OH) considering both Lawrence and Moore were still in the mix at that point. Against ASU, he saw more action, and I could certainly see where he maybe should have carried the ball more, but we had no one else behind him after Moore got hurt early on. As for last week, some MU fans might have been disappointed he did not get a carry in the 2nd half, but he does remain our only experienced and healthy RB, so he did need to be protected a tad. I imagine the gaudy per carry yards stat equalizes a bit this week after averaging 18 a pop against WIU last week.
CCM: Breakdown the defense for us. What are the strengths and weaknesses?
RMN: Three games into the season, and they have yet to really establish as much of an identity as some thought we might. We have been pretty solid against the run, and that was to be expected with the return of Dominique Hamilton upfront. All-American Recruiting Saga Sheldon Richardson has shown flashes, but is certainly not yet at the level some may have thought he could be by now given his pedigree. Getting J. Smith back on the edge this weekend should help, as MU has not yet really created as much pressure on the QB as many thought they would be capable. At LB, the group is still pretty deep and experienced, even with the injury of Ebner (who has missed more time than anyone over the past few years in that group). Andrew Wilson is slowly turning into a tackling machine and may make it hard for Ebner to get back on the field once he is ready to go. In the secondary, we saw some communication issues early on against ASU, but those did improve as the game went on. The secondary is young, and while they have shown the best ability in some time to stay with WR's, they have not shown the ability to turn around at the right time, resulting in numerous PI calls.
CCM: I have to ask about Gary Pinkel's timeouts in the overtime loss to Arizona St. Do you have any idea what his logic was and has kicker Grant Ressel started talking to him again?
RMN: The logic was that Vontaze Burfict is an undisciplined maniac who had almost been offsides on most kicks that evening. Ressel went out there knowing full well he was not going to kick the ball, and has said the timeouts had no effect. If the exact same kick was from 5 yards closer, it would have been good and MU wins the game. Now, I think you can question play calling down the stretch there to get into that position and why maybe we went away from the run with the extra timeouts we did have,, but I don't have an issue with trying to get 5 more yards there and the manner in which it was attempted.
CCM: Bonus Question - Care to give us a score prediction?
RMN: I will be honest when I say I have not seen a live minute of OU action this year. That being said, unless we are able to generate pressure on Jones, I think he will have a big day against us. I think Franklin will struggle at times with the crowd and defense, and in the end, you may see a score not entirely indicative of how much better I believe OU may be than Missouri at this point in time. I will go with a 31-13 score that won't even feel as "close" as that.
A big thanks goes out to Rock M Nation for all that they do. To check in on the game from a Missouri perspective make sure to visit them.