By 6:15 PM Saturday night, the Missouri Tigers found themselves atop the SEC East standings with only three games to go. Mizzou turned in a dominate defensive performance in a 20-10 business-like win over the Kentucky Wildcats, meanwhile, in Jacksonville, Florida, the Florida Gators had upset Georgia to vault Mizzou into 1st place.
The Tiger offense continues to show small signs of improvement. Maty Mauk threw for 160 yards and 2 TD’s and did not turn the ball over for a second straight week. Mizzou managed 156 yards rushing, but Mauk was the teams’ leading rusher Saturday, a trend that cannot continue if the Tigers hope to win its final three games. Obviously, the Tigers did not need a plethora of points in the game as the defense dominated the Wildcats throughout the contest, however, the offense only managed six points in the second half and had a dropped touchdown pass in the process.
The final numbers are a tad skewed considering the fact that Kentucky scored on a late, garbage-time TD drive and recovered an onside kick, but rest assured, this was a completely dominate performance by the Mizzou defense. This Wildcat team was able to put up 31 points against #1 Mississippi State a week ago, but were continuously bludgeoned by the Missouri defense on Saturday. Kentucky were only 2-16 on third down attempts and 1-5 on fourth down. The Tigers are playing championship-quality defense right now and will have every chance to return to Atlanta should they maintain this level of play. Also, big congratulations to defensive end Shane Ray, who broke Missouri’s single-season sack record as he notched his 11th and 12th sacks of the season on Saturday.
Special Teams: A
A very good day for the special teams despite the fact that teams are starting to kick away from Marcus Murphy, making it increasingly difficult to spring him on a kick return. Kicker Andrew Baggett booted two second-half field goals to help salt the game away for the Tigers. Baggett was also tremendous on kickoffs, routinely booming the ball out of the back of the endzone. It felt like Kentucky started deep in its own end most of the day, in large part due to Christian Brinser’s efficient punting.
The coaching staff is doing a much better job finding the strengths of this team and putting players in positions of success. Defensive Coordinator Dave Steckel seems to be getting the most out of his defense each and every week. Clearly, the offense is not where it needs to be, but at this point, it is clear the coaching staff is putting quarterback Maty Mauk in more manageable situations and, in doing so, the turnovers have subsided significantly the past few games. Coach Pinkel should have challenged a fourth-down Kentucky reception late in the game, but aside from that, the coaching staff put together a solid game plan that defeated a much- improved team.