FROM THE SIDELINES: CAN LOCK AND TIGERS DUPLICATE OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE AGAINST GEORGIA?
By Charlie Clarke
Drew Lock put together a historic performance last Saturday against Eastern Michigan, throwing for 450 yards and 5 TD’s in a 61-21 win at Faurot Field.
For such an abysmal offensive performance in 2015, the Mizzou offense looks pretty, pretty good in 2016. MU ranks 15th in total offense (1109 yards) and Lock ranks fifth in total yards (730) among FBS quarterbacks. The wide receiver position appears strong; Jonathan Johnson, Ray Wingo, Chris Black and Emmanuel Hall all scored in the first two weeks.
However, with 2015’s top-ranked pass defense coming into town on Saturday, the Drew Lock hype train may come to a screeching halt. Head coach Kirby Smart’s Georgia defense will easily be Mizzou’s toughest task so far.
Georgia’s defense allowed an NCAA-low 1753 passing yards in 2015, equating to just 146.1 yards per game. The Bulldogs held 10 of their 13 opponents to 20 points or less in last season’s contests.
The scary part for Lock & co. is that UGA returns the five members of its secondary who played all 13 games in 2015. Of the 11 secondary pieces that played nine games or more in 2015, 10 of them are still at Georgia. Smart has helped the new-ish Georgia linebacker crew settle in. The Bulldogs allowed just 156 yards to UNC’s Mitch Trubisky and 111 to the Nicholls passing attack.
Simply put, Georgia’s pass defense is incredibly sound.
“They’ve got all the traits that you’re looking for,” said Mizzou offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. “They’re fast, they’re physical, they can cover things up on the back end, they create negative plays and they can hawk the ball too.”
The back heavy defense of UGA allowed UNC to rush for 159 yards on just 19 carries (8.4 yards per carry). Granted, North Carolina has a stellar run attack, something Mizzou is working towards. While the Tigers have rushed for a 350 yards in their first two games, they mustered up just 21 yards on 22 carries in last year’s contest against Georgia.
The focus will be on Lock. The sophomore QB faces one of the toughest tasks in his early career.
“(The level of competition) is definitely going to jump up,” Lock said. “We’ve got a good team coming in playing against us this week. Our ‘A game’ is going to be what it takes.”
Potential was never the question with Lock. He’s well known for having a cannon for an arm and his accuracy improved dramatically in week two. Smart praised the sophomore earlier this week.
“Our defensive backs better be ready to win their one-on-one match-ups,” Smart said in his Tuesday media session. He added that Lock has “great touch, great arm strength and throws the ball to all parts of the field.”
Lock has shown flashes of greatness in his brief time at Missouri, but if there’s ever a time for his coming out party, Saturday appears to be it. Georgia’s pass defense is notably a difficult task for a young quarterback. But if Lock passes and Mizzou can grab the victory, the sky is the limit for Missouri football’s future.