Missouri’s Defense Must Contain Mertz

Photo Cred: Mizzou

Missouri will play its final home game on Saturday night as they host Florida at Faurot Field. In order for the Tigers to take care of business against the Gators, the defense will need to find a way to slow down UF quarterback Graham Mertz.

Graham Mertz

Mertz is having a solid season as Florida’s starting QB. The redshirt junior has thrown 2,720 yards and 18 touchdowns through 10 games this season, which is good for fifth in the Southeastern Conference.The former Wisconsin Badger has had many strong performances in his first season as a Gator. Mertz’s most notable performance of the year came in UF’s 41-39 victory over South Carolina in October. 

The QB threw for 423 yards and three touchdowns, completing a game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Ricky Pearsall with 47 seconds remaining in the game. The Overland Park, Kansas native also recorded 254 yards and three touchdowns in Florida’s 38-14 win over Vanderbilt in early October. The starting QB has some talented receivers to throw to. Pearsall leads UF WRs with 876 yards and four touchdowns. The senior is coming off an impressive performance in last week’s loss to LSU, with 103 yards on seven receptions. 

Freshman Eugene Wilson III is also a solid receiver for the Gators, putting up 479 yards and five touchdowns through 10 games this season, including two in Florida’s 39-36 overtime loss to Arkansas. Tight end Arlis Boardingham is also a talented target for Mertz that Blake Baker’s defense needs to watch out for. The freshman has 289 yards and four touchdowns on 26 receptions coming into this weekend’s matchups.

Prior to arriving in Gainesville, Florida, Mertz was the starting QB at Wisconsin for three seasons. The redshirt junior is an experienced QB who has seen all kinds of great defenses throughout his college career. MU’s defense needs to be prepared on Saturday as Florida looks to become bowl-eligible.

Missouri’s Defense

The Tigers’ defense has been picking it up lately. Baker’s defense is ranked 20th in the nation in run defense. However, Missouri has struggled to stop the passing game as their passing defense is ranked No. 75 in the country. MU’s passing defense struggled in their 49-39 loss to LSU in early October. LSU Tigers QB Jayden Daniels threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns, including two touchdowns in the second half, allowing the game to get away from them. 

Missouri football's defense is elite...if it could only stop shooting itself in the foot - Rock M Nation

Photo Cred: Rock M Nation

The Tigers defense also had trouble stopping Memphis QB Seth Henigan despite coming away with a 34-27 victory in September. Henigan threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns throughout their contest in St. Louis. Eliah Drinkwitz’s team has had some strong performances on defense as well. MU is most recently coming off an exceptional performance defensively last weekend against Tennessee, as they limited the Volunteers to just seven points. Missouri gave up just 149 total yards of offense in the second half and came up with a pick-6 by defensive back Daylan Carnell towards the end of the game. 

The Tigers’ defense also came up big in their 38-21 victory over Kentucky in Lexington last month. Wildcats QB Devin Leary only had 120 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper and DB Joseph Charleston lead Missouri in tackles with just two regular-season games left this year. Hopper has 55 total tackles, including 36 solo, and Charleston has 53 total tackles (35 solo). DB Kris Abrams-Draine leads the Tigers in interceptions with four. Defensive lineman Darius Robinson is the sacks leader for MU this season with six and a half.

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