Story by Christian Clark, KBIA Sports
Missouri (3-1) begins Southeastern Conference play against No. 13 South Carolina (3-1) on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. Here are four things to keep in mind before the Tigers and Gamecocks kick off at 6 p.m.:
- Marcus Murphy versus South Carolina’s special teams unit: Embarrassing was South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s adjective of choice to describe his team’s 48-34 road victory over Vanderbilt last weekend. The Head Ball Coach sounded especially irked by a Gamecocks special teams unit that allowed two kickoff returns to be returned for touchdowns. The Gamecocks’ inability to limit big special teams plays last weekend could bode well for Missouri’s Marcus Murphy. The junior is averaging 39 yards on four kickoff returns this season, including a 100-yarder he took back for a touchdown in Missouri’s season opener.
- Missouri’s revamped offensive line: The Tigers debut a new-look offensive line this weekend due to a combination of injury and poor performance. Junior Brad McNulty will take over Anthony Gatti’s starting spot at left guard. Gatti went down early in the game against Indiana last Saturday with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament — a season- and likely career-ending injury for the senior. Over on the right side, Connor McGovern will move from tackle to guard in place of Mitch Hall, who struggled last weekend. Junior Taylor Chappell will take over McGovern’s old position at right tackle.
- Mauk against a weak Gamecocks’ secondary: Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk will get a chance to add to his 14 passing touchdowns on the year against a suspect South Carolina secondary. Through four games, the Gamecocks are allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for 311.5 yards per contest. Spurrier’s team checks in at 111th nationally in terms of total defense, per NCAA.com.
- Tigers try to start a new turnover streak: Missouri lost its NCAA-best 47-game takeaway streak in the process of suffering a 31-27 loss to double-digit underdog Indiana. Despite losing the turnover battle 1-0 to the Hoosiers, the Tigers are still plus-five in turnover margin on the season — tied with Duke and Southern Mississippi for 17th in the NCAA. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel’s crew will try to get back to their interception- and fumble-forcing ways on Saturday.