NASHVILLE, Tenn. • Missouri’s explosive offense was a big reason the Tigers took down Vanderbilt 51-28 Saturday night, but the Vandy offense was powerless with star receiver Jordan Matthews barely a factor.
“We concentrated on stopping him, and then you basically stop their offense,” Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines said. “Everything runs through him.”
Matthews, the Southeastern Conference leader with 40 catches through the first five weeks of the season, finished with impressive statistics — 123 yards on seven catches — but as the Tigers surged ahead early, the ball rarely found its way to the 6-3 senior. He had just two catches for eight yards at halftime. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels targeted the 6-3 senior wideout six times in the half as the Tigers responded with a mix of zone and man coverage, with Gaines usually drawing the assignment on Matthews when he lined up inside or outside.
Matthews dropped what would have been a first down on third-and-7, when safety Braylon Webb clobbered him along the sideline.
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“Any time you get a big hit on a big player, that’s definitely a good thing,” Gaines said.
Later, with a crowd of defenders circling him over the middle, Matthews let a catchable pass sail past him.
The All-American candidate finally broke through on Vanderbilt’s first third-quarter series, snaking through the defense on a bubble screen, 26 yards to the end zone. The touchdown catch was the 22nd of Matthews’ career, a Vanderbilt record.
Matthews added a 35-yard reception in the third quarter but avoided disaster when he recovered his own fumble, forced out by safety Duron Singleton.
After the game, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel found Matthews on the field and put his arm around him.
“I said, ‘You’re just a great player,’” Pinkel said. “He was very appreciate of that comment.”
TIGERS REDISCOVER WATERS
Missouri’s passing game has rediscovered the tight end. Tight ends Eric Waters and Sean Culkin had combined for just two receptions through Mizzou’s first four games, but Waters tripled his season output through the first three quarters, including the second touchdown reception of his career.
“You always have to be alert and ready,” said Waters who finished with three catches for 39 yards.
Set up by Kentrell Brothers’ interception in Vandy territory, the Tigers needed only one play to capitalize as Vanderbilt didn’t bother covering Waters on a play-action pass. James Franklin found him for the 11-yard touchdown.
Waters made another grab on a play-action pass, good for 10 yards, followed by an 18-yard pickup on a pass along the sideline.
BUSY NIGHT FOR JOSEY
Henry Josey made sure his first SEC game was a memorable one. Josey, who sat out during Mizzou’s inaugural SEC season while recovering from a 2011 knee injury, interrupted what had been a balanced three-back rotation with his biggest workload of the season.
As the Tigers led 44-21 early in the fourth quarter, Josey had 13 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns through three quarters, matching his previous single-game season-high for carries against Murray State. He finished with a game-high 69 yards on 14 carries.
The Tigers seized their 30-7 halftime lead despite three untimely first-half penalties.
Vandy’s offense was powerless early, failing to pick up a first down on its first three possessions. The Tigers provided Vandy its first as safety Ian Simon drew a 15-yard personal foul for hitting receiver Jordan Matthews out of bounds after a 3-yard catch. As the drive continued, the Tigers appeared to have a third-down stop in the red zone, but defensive end Kony Ealy was flagged for another personal foul, hands to the face of a blocker. Two plays later, Vandy running back Wesley Tate punched in a 2-yard touchdown.
On Missouri’s final series of the half, wideout Dorial Green-Beckham cost the Tigers a touchdown with a 5-yard penalty for an illegal shift, wiping out a 27-yard touchdown pass from James Franklin to L’Damian Washington. Missouri settled for a 41-yard Andrew Baggett field goal, taking a 30-7 lead into halftime.
After missing last week’s game against Arkansas State with a sprained toe, defensive tackle Matt Hoch returned to the starting lineup, playing alongside nose guard Lucas Vincent. Left guard Max Copeland was also back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench last week while recovering from a sprained ankle.