Albert Okwuegbunam back to “doing Albert things” against Memphis

With three touchdowns, the tight end looked to be in peak form against Memphis.
Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam runs away from defenders and sprints into the endzone for his first of three touchdowns in a 65-33 win over Memphis on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.

Albert Okwuegbunam was in a sophomore slump – at least that’s what it felt like.

Coming into Missouri’s Homecoming matchup with Memphis, the tight end’s reception total was up, but untimely turnovers had plagued him at times, and his signature seam route wasn’t working to frequent enough success.

It was apparent that he wasn’t the same weapon for Derek Dooley’s Missouri offense as he was for Josh Heupel’s a season ago. The All-SEC freshman who led the nation’s tight ends in touchdown receptions had just two touchdowns heading into Homecoming. He was also averaging about half of his 2017 total of 14.3 yards per catch, with 7.8 to be exact.

As Drew Lock put it, that six-game stretch apparently wasn’t very Albert. But...

“Albert was doing Albert things tonight,” Lock said after Missouri’s 65-33 thrashing of Memphis.

“Albert things” likely constitutes the six-catch, career-high 159-yard performance that saw Okwuegbunam find paydirt three times before the fourth quarter, accounting for one third of Missouri’s touchdowns on Saturday.

Coach Barry Odom and Okwuegbunam both said after the game that the sophomore’s success was something that was pre-planned throughout the week, as Missouri saw a mismatch in the Memphis defense.

“You just try to pick apart and see where our matchups are,” Okwuegbunam said. “And this week, we saw some matchups with me and we took advantage of them.”

It showed up on one particular play in the second quarter.

“Their linebackers were really flowing heavy inside, and so we called that play based on the game plan and executed it really well,” Okwuegbunam said.

It was 58 yards of “really well” for Albert O and company, as he ran untouched into the endzone on his typical seam route up the middle for his first touchdown of the night.

“It’s good, you know,” Okwuegbunam said, “when I have nothing but green grass in front of me.”

Saturday’s success, like most of last season’s, was due largely in part to that ability Okwuegbunam has to be a walking mismatch. It’s something he prides himself on.

“You can put a big linebacker on me who’s my size, but he’s not going to be as fast as me,” Okwuegbunam said. “Put a DB that can run with me, but that’s a physical mismatch.”

Those matchups are effective not just for the tight end but for his team as well. It was prevalent Saturday. After Okwuegbunam’s first touchdown, the Tigers went on to have six scoring drives, including a 44-yard touchdown catch to a freshman receiver literal seconds later.

“They can’t just key in on one guy, two guys,” Knox said of his teammate. “They have to really start coming inside and looking at Albert.”

Saturday was pretty reminiscent of the Albert O fans saw last season. The one who became Drew Lock’s go-to guy. And it begs a question Lock threw out on Saturday.

“Is ‘old’ Albert back again?”

The quarterback with the question also had an answer.

“It’s pretty special, the things he can do,” Lock said, “and I think he’s going to keep that up.”

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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