Missouri’s defense has big day against ColoradoBy BEN PICARDI, For the Associated Press Monday, Oct 11, 2010
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)—Missouri’s offense usually gets all the attention. After shutting out Colorado, an unsung defense cannot be ignored.
The No. 21 Tigers (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) are among the stingiest teams in the nation, allowing only 11.2 points per game. On Saturday night, defense and special teams compensated for an unproductive offense in a 26-0 Big 12-opening victory that gave the school a 5-0 start for the fourth time in five seasons.
Missouri has two shutouts in Big 12 play, both against Colorado, including a 58-0 whitewash on Oct. 25, 2008.
“Every time we needed them to come out and make a stop, they did,” wide receiver T.J. Moe said of the defense. “You don’t see many shutouts in college football. They were really impressive.”
Special teams also was a major contributor with a blocked field goal, blocked punt, 26-yard run by Trey Barrow on a fake punt, a 39-yard kickoff return by freshman Marcus Murphy and punts downed at the 2 and 1.
“Those are huge plays,” coach Gary Pinkel said.
Missouri made an immediate statement forcing a safety when pressure from linebacker Luke Lambert caused an intentional grounding penalty from the Colorado end zone on the second possession of the game. The Tigers also thwarted three fourth-down chances, two on big plays in the fourth quarter by sophomore cornerback Kip Edwards.
Edwards sacked quarterback Cody Hawkins for an 8-yard loss on 4th-and-12 from the Missouri 22, and made his first interception of the season on 4th-and-5 from the Missouri 28, returning it 49 yards.
Perhaps the most dramatic improvement has come in the secondary. The Tigers have finished last in the Big 12 in pass defense two out of the last three seasons, but after five games they’re second in the conference with nine interceptions.
“We definitely had a chip on our shoulder coming into this season,” cornerback Carl Gettis said. “We know what we’re capable of doing and we’re making a point to come out and prove to people we can play at a high level.”
Missouri has excelled with top pass rusher Aldon Smith the last two games. Smith, who leads the team with three sacks after setting a school record with 11.5 as a freshman, had been hopeful of returning from a broken bone in his right leg in time for the conference opener.
Without Smith, who hopes to be back in the lineup next Saturday at Texas A&M, there were plenty of big plays.
Terrell Resonno blocked a field goal early in the second quarter and Jacquies Smith had two tackles for loss and two pass deflections.
“There’s no doubt that Aldon is a great player,” linebacker Zaviar Gooden said. “You can mess up and he will still make the play for you but we trust that everyone can step in and not miss a beat.”
Missouri is one of 13 remaining unbeaten teams and will be seeking a 6-0 start for the first time since 2006 and fifth time in school history at Texas A&M on Saturday.