The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Behind Enemy Bylines: Missouri Tigers

The Hustler went Behind Enemy Bylines to interview Austin Bidwell, staff writer at The Maneater, to preview Vanderbilt’s matchup with Missouri.
Nour Abida
Vanderbilt players huddle, as photographed on Sept. 23, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Nour Abida)

In hopes of snapping a disappointing three-game losing streak, Vanderbilt will welcome the No. 23 Missouri Tigers to FirstBank Stadium on Saturday afternoon. After starting the season with two comfortable wins over Hawaii and Alabama A&M, inconsistency on both sides of the ball has plagued the Commodores in September.

On the other side, Missouri has enjoyed one of their best starts in the last decade, earning them an official ranking for the first time since 2019. Coming off of four consecutive victories, the Tigers will play in their first SEC game of the season in Nashville.

Despite early bumps in the road towards making a bowl appearance, Vanderbilt will look to bounce back and win their first SEC game of the season. Prior to kickoff, The Hustler interviewed Austin Bidwell, staff writer at The Maneater, Missouri’s student newspaper, to preview Vanderbilt’s matchup with Missouri.

The Vanderbilt Hustler: Mizzou is playing at an extremely high level right now; what significant changes are there to this team compared with last year’s?

Austin Bidwell: The big one is WR Luther Burden III, who has taken a gigantic step this year. He’s playing at the level that everyone thought he would play at last year when he was recruited as a five-star. Him taking a big stride has been important, and QB Brady Cook has been, as well. Last year, he was efficient, but he wasn’t going to go out and win you games. This year, versus Memphis and K-State, he threw for over 300 yards in both games. He’s been playing great and the quarterback controversy is out of the window.

Honestly, we’ve just been putting it together on offense. We got a new offensive coordinator this year, Kirby Moore, and his offense this year has been absolutely spectacular. He’s done a great job getting Brady Cook into a rhythm and getting the offense going early. On defense, Johnny Walker Jr. has been our best player. He’s a defensive end and a big dude who gets to the quarterback; he already has multiple sacks and has the ability to fly all over the field.

VH: What kind of quarterback is Cook and what should Vanderbilt’s defense expect from him on Saturday?

AB: It’s funny because the last time Brady Cook threw an interception was Week 7 of last year — against Vanderbilt. He has been really efficient since then not turning the ball over, but also has been extremely efficient in the passing game. I think where he’s improved from last year is the ability to stretch the ball downfield. Against Memphis, especially, he was pushing the ball heavily downfield, including a 76-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Early in the season, he has also been running the ball extremely well. His ability to get out of the pocket, use his feet and make the defense stay true on him has made the pass game better, as well.

VH: Vanderbilt’s offense has been very pass-happy to start the season; how do you expect Mizzou to match up in the passing game?

AB: Our pass defense really starts with a strong defensive line, but our secondary has also been good this year. There have been moments where they haven’t looked their best, typically later into games when they soften up a bit after Mizzou has gone up. Forcing turnovers is an area where they have improved a lot from last year; they had two interceptions against Memphis and that’s definitely something they need to build on against a pretty good Vanderbilt passing offense.

VH: Who are some Missouri players on either side of the ball that Vandy should watch out for on Saturday?

AB: I’ll start with two in the secondary, first with Daylan Carnell. He had a sack against Middle Tennessee and is absolutely someone who can fly around, play multiple coverages as well as blitz. He can be used in any way that is needed. Another is senior Kris Abrams-Draine. He had an interception and seven solo tackles against Memphis; he has just been spectacular these past couple weeks.

Offensively, it’s our two-headed running back duo of Cody Schrader and Nathaniel Peat, who have looked fantastic. Schrader has multiple games averaging over eight yards-per-carry, which is ridiculous. Peat is more of a receiving back for us, but he is just as good. The key to getting it done on offense is going to be getting it done early on the ground.

VH: What’s your score prediction for Saturday?

AB: 20-16 Missouri. I think people tend to take conference games too lightly, and I think it’ll be a good defensive battle.

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About the Contributors
Anish Mago
Anish Mago, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
Nour Abida
Nour Abida, Staff Photographer
Nour Abida ('25) is majoring in political science and medicine, health and society with a minor in Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. She is from Tunis, Tunisia. You can reach her at [email protected].
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