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October 4, 2013

Matthews the key matchup for Mizzou



The list of things to know about Vanderbilt starts with one thing.


"Obviously, they've got one of the best wide receivers in the country," Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel said.


That would be Jordan Matthews. As a junior in 2012, Matthews caught 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. Quarterback Jordan Rodgers departed, Austyn Carta-Samuels came in and Rodgers has gotten better. He is currently on pace to catch 96 balls for 1,414 yards and ten scores.

"He's one of the better receivers that I've seen since I've been playing the game so I'm excited to go up against him," said E.J. Gaines, who is likely to draw the bulk of the assignments on Matthews this weekend.


"He's a great receiver," added Randy Ponder, Mizzou's other starting cornerback. "He's one of the most complete receivers, runs nice routes. I've watched a little film on him and he's pretty good."


The question for the Commodores is the passing game beyond Matthews. Chris Boyd was dismissed from the program early this season due to his connection to a rape allegation involving other Vanderbilt players. Boyd was Vandy's Robin to Matthews' Batman last year, catching 50 balls for 774 yards and five scores. No other Commodore caught more than 12 passes last year.


"I didn't really guard him last year. I guarded the other receiver last year, but Jordan Matthews had some big plays on us," Gaines said. "I think he led them in receiving yards last year when we played them."

Indeed, Matthews caught nine balls for 91 yards in Vandy's 19-15 win in Columbia last season. Boyd had three catches for 83 yards, while no other Commodore had more than one catch.


With Boyd gone, Jonathan Krause is second on the team with 19 catches for 349 yards and one score through five games. No other player is averaging as many as two receptions per game.


Of course, one-man wrecking crews at wide receiver have caused Missouri problems in the past. Way back in 2005, New Mexico's Hank Baskett caught 10 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-35 Lobo win. No other player caught more than two passes in that game. More recently, Syracuse's Alec Lemon had 12 catches for 244 yards and two scores, including the game-winning touchdown, as the Orange beat Mizzou 31-27 last November. Only one other receiver caught more than two passes.


So does Missouri load up to stop Matthews or does it allow him to get his while looking to completely shut down the supporting cast?

"I think you just contain him the best that you can, obviously, eliminate the big plays. Certainly he's a great player and we're deciding kind of what we want to do with him," Pinkel said. "He's a very experienced player so they do all kinds of things with him. It's a little bit more difficult than saying he's at one spot and this is what we have to do to control him."

"If you ask me, I would just rather my guy not catch the ball period," Gaines said. "That's just the way you've got to think of it as a corner. Yeah, he might have a few plays, but I'd like to think I'm gonna have plays of my own."


Who makes more plays? The answer to that question could go a long way toward determining Saturday night's winner.

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