JM Rieger, Staff Writer

Senior captain Jordan Gafford and senior Brandon Stephens crush a Colorado State player Sept. 18. (MICHAEL GRIGGS | The Miami Student)

The Miami University football team will face one of the toughest teams remaining on their schedule Sept. 25 when they travel to Missouri to take on the Tigers.

Missouri enters the game with a 3-0 mark and ranked No. 24 in the Coaches Poll, while Miami enters Saturday’s matchup coming off back-to-back wins for the first time since 2007 with a record of 2-1.

The Red and White only allowed one total rushing yard against Colorado State last week, but they allowed the Rams to throw for 305 yards, which will be a major focus for Miami this week.

The Tigers are the strongest offensive opponent the RedHawks have faced this season statistically, ranked 39 in total offense. In addition, Missouri is 16 in the nation in passing yards per game, and Miami will have to slow down their air attack if they hope to knock off the Tigers.

“We need 11 hats to the ball every play,” sophomore safety Pat Hinkel said. “We need to play our game and not play their game. They are a passing offense and they run a spread offense and their quarterback is really good. We need to stop the passing game.”

Junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who threw for over 3,500 yards last season to go with 24 touchdowns, leads Missouri. He has four touchdowns on the year along with two interceptions, both of which came last week when the Tigers squeezed out a last second victory over San Diego State at home, 27-24.

“They are a good football team,” Head Coach Michael Haywood said. “They like to sling it and throw the ball downfield. The best thing we can do is to stop the run. It is not a good matchup (for us), but we have to create it to level out the playing field.”

Meanwhile, Miami looks to take advantage of a Missouri defense that has struggled defending the run this year. The Tigers are 81 in the country in rushing defense and they allowed San Diego State to rush for 250 yards last week. However, the RedHawks will still try to maintain the balanced offensive attack they have had the past two weeks.

Senior running back Thomas Merriweather and senior wide receiver Jamal Rogers will both be back this week, but senior left guard Bob Gulley and junior offensive lineman Brandon Brooks will likely miss their second straight game.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Luke Kelly will not play against Missouri, but is expected to be back in the lineup within the next couple of weeks, as he was scheduled to participate in some individual practices this week.

Look for Miami to use their rushing attack led by Merriweather and freshman tailback Tracy Woods to open up the passing game. Missouri is 22 in the nation in passing defense, and the running game will be essential for the Red and White this week.

“(Missouri’s) corners are really athletic,” Haywood said. “Their safeties like to come into the box a lot (to stop the run). They are run stoppers. Their defensive ends are really good and they are going to cause us some problems.”

Miami will likely use sophomore offensive lineman Joseph Williams and redshirt freshman offensive lineman John Anevski to fill in for the injured Gulley. Both players had limited reps last week in practice, but they should be prepared this week.

Five RedHawks return to their home state this weekend, including Thomas Merriweather, junior wide receiver DeMarco Paine and Defensive Coordinator Carl “Bull” Reese, who graduated from Missouri in 1966.

“(The game) is very important to Coach Reese,” Haywood said. “He keeps saying, ‘I can’t wait!’ and, ‘We’ve got to take it to them!'”

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. in Columbia.

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