Sunday, November 13, 2011

Missouri's defense dominant in win over Texas

In the Southeastern Conference, Missouri’s conference home starting next year, teams usually win with dominating defense. Last Saturday, Missouri did just that, shutting down Texas in a 17-5 win.

Missouri (5-5, 3-4 in Big 12 play) held No. 16 Texas (6-3, 3-3 in Big 12) to just 247 yards of offense a week after yielding nearly 700 at Baylor.

It was something of a watershed win, as Texas was the one Big 12 school Missouri coach Gary Pinkel had never beaten. Texas had won 15 of its last 16 games with Missouri, including three straight wins by at least 25 points. Fairly or unfairly, Texas has been portrayed as the conference bully responsible for driving Missouri and three other schools away from the Big 12 over the past year and a half. (That is, the off-the-field bully; Oklahoma has ruled the conference on the field, to chagrin of the Longhorns.)

To be fair, two of Texas’ top three running backs were out with injury, and the other, Fozzy Whittaker, was knocked out of the game with a knee injury on the first drive. Texas’ two quarterbacks, David Ash and Case McCoy, are limited passers at this point and were almost completely ineffective on a gray, windy day at Faurot Field, completing only 44.4 percent of their combined pass attempts.

But make no mistake, this was still a fine defensive performance by the Tigers. Missouri stood strong at the line of scrimmage and made some nice open-field tackles to prevent big plays.

Against Texas’ strong defense, Missouri did enough offensively, scoring two first half touchdowns. But the black mark on an otherwise encouraging day came in the third quarter, when Missouri running back Henry Josey, already a 1,000-yard rusher on the season, suffered a gruesome knee injury, tearing his ACL, MCL and patellar tendon. Doctors expect a full recovery, but he will miss the rest of this season and quite possibly some of next season.

The silver lining is that Missouri’s two remaining games are against maybe the two worst teams in the Big 12, Texas Tech and Kansas.

To call Texas Tech (5-5, 2-5 in Big 12) an enigma would be an understatement. The Red Raiders scored an epic upset at Oklahoma in October, snapping the Sooners’ 39-game home winning streak. The very next week, Texas Tech was roasted at home by Iowa State, 41-7.

Tech supposedly has an explosive offense, but then last week No. 2 Oklahoma State humiliated the Red Raiders 66-6 in Lubbock. That gasp-worthy final score makes you wonder how Tech could possibly bounce back against Missouri on Saturday in Columbia (2:30 p.m. on ABC), except for Tech’s aforementioned unpredictability.

Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege can be dangerous when he gets rolling. Tech’s pass-based offense plays more to Missouri’s defensive weaknesses than Texas’ ground-based attack did.

However, Texas Tech’s defense isn’t very good, ranking 117th out of 120 Division I-A teams in run defense. Even without Josey, I expect Missouri to have a big day on the ground and get the win to become bowl-eligible.

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