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Missouri football focused on containing Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | 8:06 p.m. CDT; updated 4:21 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 5, 2013

COLUMBIA — There are a few things you should know about Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

He runs like a gazelle with blazing, long strides that leave defensive backs behind more often than not. He's big, too, but you won't always see him coming. The Commodores line him up all over the offensive formation — because he's experienced enough to do it, and it keeps the defense off balance.

But most importantly, you should know that Vanderbilt will throw his way often when Missouri heads to Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday. Almost too often, though Matthews will never admit that.

In Vanderbilt's opening game of the season against Ole Miss, in which Matthews caught 10 passes, the star wide receiver's exhaustion reached an all-time high. He was experiencing full-body cramps and needed to return to the locker room to get an IV.

Matthews hustled back into the game only to make another outstanding catch. On his way back to the huddle, he doubled over and vomited all over the field. Matthews missed just one play.

This isn't your normal wide receiver. This is the type of player who can alter the course of the game and requires the attention of the defense every time he steps on the field. Missouri knows that.

"They have one of the best wide receivers in the country," Pinkel said. "He's going to get his catches. You just have to contain him the best you can."

No team has been able to contain Matthews in 2013.

He's averaging eight catches per game and has more than 500 receiving yards through five games. Containing him is easier said than done. After all, how do you contain a player that can do it all?

"I haven't found any flaws in his game yet," Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines said. 

Gaines, an all-conference player in his own right, would seem to be the most likely candidate to mirror Matthews' every move. It's not that simple, though, because Matthews doesn't line up in just one spot.

That means Randy Ponder will be called on to help out and line up across from Matthews occasionally.

When talking about Vanderbilt, Matthews' name is the first thing that comes out of Ponder's mouth. He saw the performance against Ole Miss, and he's been looking at the stats and trying to find a flaw to exploit.

Like Gaines, he's coming up empty. 

"I have to keep watching film, keep evaluating. He's one of the best wide receivers in the country, Ponder said."

Matthews isn't going to sneak up on Missouri. He came to Columbia in 2012 and used his long arms and blazing speed to make easy work of Missouri's secondary. 

Gaines is quick to point out, however, that while Matthews looked impossible to guard one-on-one last season, Gaines hasn't had his chance to line up across from him.

That will change Saturday. Gaines is 4 inches shorter than Matthews, but he says that doesn't matter. After all, look at who he lines up across from in practice.

"I don't think I'm going to find any bigger receivers than Dorial (Green-Beckham)," Gaines said. "So going against them in practice definitely will help me this week."

It's part of Gaines' nature. No receiver is too big, no quarterback too talented. He doesn't know the game plan yet, but if Gaines finds himself following Vanderbilt's pass-catching machine around the field Saturday, there will be no hesitation. 

Picture it now: Gaines and Matthews, on an island. Two preseason All-Southeastern Conference players. Can Gaines handle it?

"I'm sure I could if that's the game plan," Gaines said.

Supervising editor is Erik Hall: sports@ColumbiaMissourian.com, 882-5729.


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