The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 21st-ranked Missouri Tigers are set to play their first true road game of the season, as they invade College Station this weekend to take on the Texas A&M Aggies in Big 12 play at Kyle Field.
It's hard to believe now in mid-October the Tigers haven't played a true road game yet, but after opening the season with a neutral site win over Illinois, the team returned home for four straight contests. Missouri capped off a perfect homestand last weekend, blanking Colorado, 26-0, its Big 12 opener.
"I thought it was a really good team victory. It's nice to see our defense step it up," said head coach Gary Pinkel.
It marked the program's first shutout since a 58-0 thrashing of Colorado back in 2008. The Tigers are now in search of a 6-0 start for just the fifth time in program history and first since 2006.
On the other side, A&M is hoping to rebound after dropping narrow back-to-back decisions. After falling 38-35 in their league opener at Oklahoma State, the Aggies were edged, 24-17, by 11th-ranked Arkansas last weekend.
"As I said to the players after the game, we prepared and we came up here with a mind set to win a football game. We didn't do it. Regardless of people saying, "Well, you played a good game." we cant accept that because we didn't come away with a victory," stated head coach Mike Sherman.
On a positive note, A&M now returns back home, where it has gone 3-0 thus far and is always difficult to beat.
The head-to-head series goes in favor of TAMU, which owns a 7-3 advantage over Missouri. The Tigers, though, have won three of the past four meetings, including a 40-26 decision in the most recent clash in 2007.
Offensively, the Tigers weren't at their best versus Colorado last weekend, gaining a modest 345 total yards. Then again, QB Blaine Gabbert didn't play all game either, as he suffered a hip injury in the fourth quarter and left after completing 17-of-29 tosses for 191 yards and two TDs. Gabbert, who has completed 66.7 percent of his pass attempts, is expected to be ready this weekend and that is certainly good news for the Tigers.
"Blaine Gabbert has a high hip pointer and we have him as probable," said Pinkel. " For a quarterback, obviously he's got to be able to torque with his waist and hip action. But, hopefully he'll be ready to play."
T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew certainly hope Gabbert can go, as they have benefited from his passing ability. Moe leads the team with 44 catches and 479 yards, while Egnew ranks second with 39 receptions and 350 yards. Both were factors versus Colorado last weekend, as they combined for 13 receptions, 137 yards and two TDs.
The Tigers are churning out 147.0 ypg on the ground this season, but they don't have one go-to back, as Henry Josey leads the team with just 226 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Missouri ranks third nationally in scoring, allowing just 11.2 ppg. That number was certainly helped by last weekend's performance which resulted in a shutout of Colorado.
"We had to put up a big stop and get this shut out. We really wanted that goose egg tonight," said DB Carl Gettis.
The Tigers limited Colorado to 311 total yards, including just 61 on the ground, while recording an INT and four sacks. Missouri has done a real nice job of creating turnovers all season and the team has already notched nine INTs. The defense has also had success bringing down opposing QBs, recording 13 sacks. Aldon Smith paces the team with three sacks, but he has missed two games due to injury and isn't expected back this weekend either. Even with him out of the lineup last weekend, Missouri was able to get four sacks, so the team does have other options.
Turnovers continue to plague the Aggies, as they gave away the ball four times in last weekend's 24-17 loss to Arkansas. Expected to be a big strength of the team, the A&M offense has only hurt the squad with 18 turnovers, negating the 472.6 ypg the unit is averaging.
After throwing four INTs that basically cost Texas A&M the prior game against Oklahoma State, QB Jerrod Johnson was much more cautious this past weekend. He tossed just one INT on a Hail Mary at the end of the game, but the tentative play was evident in a poor 15-of-40 passing effort.
"I'd be lying to say that he didn't internalize a little pressure on himself to make sure he didn't have any miscues with the football, but it didn't take away his aggressiveness," said Sherman.
Johnson finished the game with 212 yards and a score through the air and another 40 yards on the ground. He has the potential to be electric, but most avoid mistakes, with nine INTs already on the season.
Jeff Fuller is his primary target with 34 catches for 503 yards and six TDs, while Christine Michael paces the ground attack behind 507 yards and four scores. Bot got involved last weekend, as Michael had 79 yards and a score on 18 carries, while Fuller pulled in eight balls for 154 yards and a TD.
The Aggies gave up 21 first-half points last weekend, but stepped up after the intermission and limited the powerful Arkansas attack to only three points and 125 total yards.
"We just started playing the defense better [in the second half]," stated Sherman. "We really didn't do anything a whole lot different. Basically, we just played better. We settled down and played better."
The defense helped its cause by bringing more pressure, resulting in three sacks and two takeaways. The Aggies have just eight sacks on the season, so that was a nice improvement last weekend. Freshman Damontre Moore tallied one of those sacks and he continues to impress with a team-high four sacks for the year.