In the box score, it looked like just another big game for Vanderbilt senior wide receiver Jordan Matthews: seven catches, 123 yards, and two more broken school records. Indeed, it was the fifth 100-yard game out of six this season for the highly-regarded 2014 NFL Draft prospect.
But Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines, a senior NFL draft prospect himself, felt good about his own performance, and with good reason. When Missouri went to the half with a commanding 30-7 lead, the outcome barely in doubt, Matthews had made just two catches for eight yards. And with softer coverage the order of the second half to help protect the lead, Matthews' explosive second half was somewhat ready-made.
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"He's a great player, but I feel like I'm a great player too," Gaines said, according to kansascity.com. "Anytime I'm in a competition like that, it's fun. It's fun for me and fun for him, too. I talked to him after the game and he said the same thing."
The 5-foot-11 Gaines gave up four inches to Matthews, who has not surprisingly emerged as the top receiver in the SEC East this season. But Gaines, with some occasional safety help, followed Matthews around the field for most of the night, and delivered blanket coverage when it mattered most. Gaines has three interceptions on the season, placing him in a six-way tie atop the Southeastern Conference. None came against Vandy, but it was one of Gaines' best performances of the season just the same.
"We concentrated on stopping him, and then you basically stop their offense," Gaines said, according to stl.com. "Everything runs through him."