After taking down Arkansas State on Saturday, the Missouri football team looks to win its second game tonight against a Sun Belt Conference opponent.
The Tigers (1-0) play Troy State University (1-0) at 6 p.m. at Movie Gallery Stadium in Troy, Ala., in a nationally televised game on ESPN2. It is the second meeting between the teams, with Missouri winning 44-7 in 2002 at Memorial Stadium.
Missouri faces a much-improved Troy team that beat Marshall 17-15 in its season opener Saturday. The Trojans dominated Marshall defensively, holding the Thundering Herd to 25 rushing yards on 34 attempts and tallying eight sacks against an offense that is traditionally one of the most potent in the nation.
“To hold generally one of the most impressive offenses in the country to 15 points is pretty staggering in itself,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Monday. “It’s going to be a very difficult game for us, but also a game that is a good game for us. We play a good team at their place. We’ll find out a little bit more about Missouri after this game.”
Senior Demarcus Ware led the Trojans defense against Marshall with three sacks. Pinkel said Ware, a defensive end, has been impressive on the tapes the team watched in preparation for tonight’s game.
“Ware is a guy that is an impact player with great speed, great quickness, a great athlete,” Pinkel said.
After amassing 296 total yards, including 63 on the ground Saturday against Arkansas State,
Tiger quarterback Brad Smith will face a more experienced and athletic defensive line tonight. Smith said there are a few adjustments to be made when playing a good defensive line with agile players like Ware.
“You definitely have to be aware of them and there are some things you can’t do,” Smith said Monday. “So you have to make quicker decisions. That’s probably the big thing, is to get the ball out and let (the receivers) run with the ball.”
Troy coach Larry Blakeney said, like all Missouri opponents, there will be an emphasis on trying to slow down Smith. He said the Trojans have to focus on good tackling and use different defensive schemes to apply pressure to the Heisman Trophy candidate.
“Brad is a little different,” Blakely said. “He can do so many things to beat you with his speed and carrying the football.
“He’s a total player from our perspective looking at him.”
Troy quarterback Aaron Leak, who threw for 196 yards on 13-for-26 passing against Marshall, hurt his ankle on the second play of the game but played every offensive minute. Blakeney said Leak’s ankle was still sore, but he should be ready to play tonight.
“I thought Aaron Leak played his best game since he’s been here,” Blakeney said. “He really overcame some pain and adversity to help this team win.”
Although both teams play tonight on five days rest, Pinkel and Blakely said it is an exciting opportunity for their teams to play on national television.
“For the University of Missouri, as we build our program, we need the exposure,” Pinkel said. “Certainly the dollars are an issue, but the bigger issue for me is exposure. So we’re not in a position at all to turn down a game like this.”