Missouri’s offense has been hampered by the absence of senior wide receivers Emanuel Hall and Nate Brown, but a silver lining has emerged from that dark cloud: freshman Jalen Knox.
Before Saturday’s 65-33 win over Memphis, the receiver had hauled in 15 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He had a career day against the Tigers from Memphis by grabbing five Drew Lock passes for 104 yards and a 44-yard touchdown score. Knox’s connection with the quarterback grows stronger every week.
“After I have a big game, I just get more confidence,” Knox said. “I feel like I can really do this and I’m here for a purpose.”
The touchdown came on a double-move, deep post route. The Memphis defensive backs were sagging off to begin the game, so offensive coordinator Derek Dooley dialed up some comeback routes for his true freshman. Once the defenders started biting on those, he hit them with the deep ball. It helps that Knox has turned himself into a precise route-runner despite inconsistent playing time at the wide receiver position in high school.
“We put a lot on his plate,” Missouri head coach Barry Odom said. “He is mature beyond his years on his approach. His practice habits are exactly where they need to be. He’s hungry to go be successful. And he understands, at an early point in his career, how much we depend on him. He likes that part of it. He’s a competitive dude and I would take a team full of him.”
Tigers rack up penalties in win
In many ways, Missouri’s lack of discipline allowed Memphis to stick around as long as it did in Saturday’s contest. Missouri committed 12 penalties for 122 yards, and the mistakes helped extend Memphis scoring drives and hampered Missouri offensively at times.
Several of the flags, such as targeting calls on Adam Sparks and Daniel Parker Jr. and a pass interference penalty on Khalil Oliver, are perhaps tied to the heightened aggression with which Odom has implored his team to play. Others, such as the personal fouls, offside penalties and holding calls, stem from lapses in focus. They’re all costly, but the mental ones are what the Tigers will seek to eradicate moving forward.
“That’s just free yards,” linebacker Cale Garrett said. “That’s well over ten first downs for them.”
In his postgame press conference, Odom expressed his displeasure with the excessive penalties, pointing out that they won’t get away with them in closer games. Focus and discipline will be among the things Odom and his staff focus on this week. Eliminating those mental errors and the penalty yards they produce will be crucial for Missouri.
“We’ve got to make sure we get that get corrected and fixed,” Odom said.
Injuries and ejections
Defensive end Chris Turner left Saturday’s game with what was described as a “head/neck stinger,” and did not return. Odom said Turner was featured on the postgame injury report, but said he did not yet know the severity of the injury.
For a third straight week, wide receiver Nate Brown (groin) did not play. He was limited in practice earlier this week, and was not in pads during pregame warmups.
Sparks and Parker Jr. were each disqualified from Saturday’s game for targeting penalties. Parker Jr., who committed his penalty in the second half, will miss the first half of next weekend’s game against No. 14 Kentucky as a result. This is the second consecutive week Missouri has had a player removed from a game for a targeting penalty. Linebacker Terez Hall was ejected last week against Alabama.
Liberty Bowl reps scout Missouri
Representatives from the Autozone Liberty Bowl Football Classic were on hand Saturday afternoon to scout Missouri as a potential candidate for its Dec. 31 bowl game in Memphis, Tennessee. Held at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the game typically features a team from the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences each year.
Missouri has appeared in the Liberty Bowl twice in its history. On Saturday, the school honored its 1978 Liberty Bowl winning team, which led was led by former head coach Warren Powers and defeated LSU 20-15. The Tigers appeared in the bowl game two years later in 1980 as well, falling that time to Purdue.
Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.