Memphis’ pass game could shine against Mizzou secondary

Missouri will welcome the nation’s 5th-ranked rushing offense for homecoming this Saturday.
Missouri defensive coordinator Ryan Walters talks with members of the media after after a practice on Tuesday, August 28, 2018.

After three straight conference losses, Missouri (3-3, 0-3 SEC) will come home to Columbia this weekend and take a break from conference play to face Memphis.

Coach Barry Odom will welcome his former employer for Homecoming this Saturday at 3 p.m. Odom was the defensive coordinator at Memphis from 2012-2014 before Missouri hired him for the same role in 2015.

"There are a lot of memories from there and the people in the community," Odom said. "It was a great place for me and my family to live and build lasting relationships."

Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters was the cornerbacks coach with Memphis in 2014 under Odom before coming with him to Missouri.

Memphis (4-3, 1-3 AAC) isn’t just another out-of-conference cupcake, however, nearly upsetting No. 10 Central Florida before running out of time on a final fourth-quarter drive in a 31-30 loss last Saturday. Memphis’ three losses have been by a combined eight points.

Memphis will run the ball early and often, giving a lot of carries to running back Darrell Henderson.

The Tigers are fifth in the country in rushing offense, averaging 275.4 yards per game on the ground while Henderson leads the country in rushing yards with 1133 yards on 110 carries. Memphis will match up with a Missouri run defense that is 25th in the country, allowing 120.2 yards per game.

“He is a tremendous talent in every area,” Odom said. “The yards after contact are what is most impressive. He is as good as there is in college football.”

But for Memphis, the player to watch this weekend will be quarterback Brady White. The redshirt-junior transfer from Arizona State has a chance to take advantage of a Missouri secondary that has been poor to say the least this season.

White has thrown for 251.1 yards per game this season and has shown efficiency with limited attempts, throwing 15 touchdowns to one interception.

Memphis will still run the ball, but could shift towards the passing game to exploit the back end of the Missouri defense. Purdue – a team with a similar run-pass spread going into its matchup earlier this season against the Tigers – took advantage of Missouri’s secondary and threw 55 passes for 572 yards while running the ball only 16 times.

If Missouri’s coverage struggles continue, Memphis could likely shift its offense to become more pass-heavy.

On defense, Memphis is vulnerable in the ground game, giving up eight rushing touchdowns in the last three games, suggesting a high-scoring Homecoming game.

With Drew Lock struggling to adjust to the pro-style offense, this game could be a good chance to take some of the burden off of him and ride running backs Larry Rountree, Damarea Crockett and Tyler Badie.

Missouri will still be short on depth at receiver with status unknown for Nate Brown, while Emanuel Hall will miss Saturday’s game. Jalen Knox hasn’t been given a lot of help with pass-catching duties and without top pass catchers, it will be hard to get the passing game going.

Lock will likely still find success throwing to tight ends, but Missouri could continue to shift more towards a high-volume rushing attack if they can’t get Brown back.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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