By: Emil Lippe
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Moving the ball down the field was a big problem for the Missouri Tigers. For a team that prides themselves in defense, the members of the AP Poll aren’t convinced to say the least. After Saturday’s narrow 9-6 victory over the UConn Huskies, the Tigers dropped three spots in the AP Poll from No. 22 to No. 25. Why the sudden drop? Missouri may have won on the field, but their performance was flat, plain and simple.
The Tigers set the tone early in the game with defense, as they forced a safety on a blocked punt to make the score 2-0 in the early going. The problem for the Tigers wasn’t defense; it was offense. After receiving the free kick from the safety, Maty Mauk threw an interception that the Huskies turned into a touchdown. However, the extra point was blocked, making the score 6-2 in favor of UConn. The blocked PAT was the third that UConn has suffered this season.
Along with the interception that Mauk threw on Missouri’s second possession, the Tiger’s offense also punted the ball five times and had a drive that resulted in a missed 40-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett.
In the second half, the Tigers turned it up a notch, as Mauk led the Missouri offense down the field for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 9-6 lead over UConn. It took the Tigers 6:34 to go 68 yards on 15 plays. Mauk had to make some plays with his feet during the drive and ultimately ended up making the biggest play, as he walked in for the touchdown on fourth and goal.
After the touchdown, the Tiger offense regressed to stagnation, turning the ball over on downs on two of the next three possessions, the other resulting in a punt. When it came down to it, the defense continued to hold strong. UConn got all the way down to the Missouri 25 and was facing a fourth and four. Only a field goal away from forcing overtime, the Huskies attempted a fake field goal attempt and the pass was picked off by Anthony Sherrils to end the game with just under a minute left.
Gary Pinkel has every reason to believe that his defense can compete when the Tigers kickoff conference play next week against Kentucky. Along with the safety and interception, the Tiger defense forced five punts, two fumbles (one lost), and a missed 49-yard field goal.
Pinkel also has every reason to believe that his offense is not ready for SEC play, as Mauk (14-for-22) and Drew Lock (6-for-9) combined for only 185 yards of passing, with an interception by Mauk. The Tigers only managed 85 rushing yards against the Husky defense as well.
Missouri is hoping that they can get their starting running back Russell Hansbrough back next week when the Tigers travel to Lexington, Ky. next weekend to face off against the Kentucky Wildcats, kickoff time at 6:30 p.m.