Sunday, September 21, 2014

Missouri finds another gear vs. UCF, hosts Indiana next

This Mizzou football post and the ones below it are my newspaper columns on the team for the season preview and the first four weeks of the season, if anyone wants to have a read. I'll plan on posting my column on here each week going forward. As always, thanks to the newspapers that are running my Mizzou columns this season. 

Some college football games go pretty much like you expect. For more than half the contest, Saturday’s Missouri-UCF game followed the script I was expecting. I thought it would be a close, fairly low-scoring game, with Mizzou pulling out the win by 7 to 10 points. UCF has a good defense and running game, so they can burn a lot of clock and hang in most games.

Deep into the third quarter, Missouri led 14-10, with the game more or less meeting my expectations. Then, the Tigers (3-0) found another gear. Defensive lineman Josh Augusta, known to his teammates as “Big Bear,” batted a UCF pass up into the air. Augusta leapt up and grabbed the ball out of the air for an interception and one of the more athletic plays you’ll see an interior defensive lineman make. It extended Missouri’s nation-leading streak to 47 straight games forcing a turnover, and it swung the momentum in the Tigers’ favor.

Minutes later, Maty Mauk tossed a touchdown pass to Bud Sasser to put Missouri up 21-10. UCF (0-2) is a decent team, but they aren’t built to come from behind. For the Knights, trying to rally from 11 down in the fourth quarter and needing to pass is like me trying to cook a three course meal: we might do some things right, but eventually something is likely to get messed up along the way.

UCF had three more turnovers in the final period, and Missouri kept scoring, rolling to a 38-10 win.
The big win combined with pretty much ideal college football weather to make for a near-perfect day for Tiger fans at Faurot Field. The fight song works best when skies above are actually blue, like the song says, and the air had just a hint of crispness and fall chill as Mauk tossed four touchdown passes. It was all a preview of the fall that is just beginning, and the bigger games that lie ahead.

But first comes a pretty manageable home game with Indiana on Saturday (3 p.m., SEC Network). The Hoosiers have been a popular pick to be a breakout team for a few years now, but they haven’t done much more than serve as a countdown for basketball season in Bloomington. Indiana lost 45-42 last week to Bowling Green, a team that lost by 28 to Western Kentucky earlier this year.

The Big Ten’s image has taken a hit again this season with several nonconference losses, but the conference still manages to pulverize Indiana; the Hoosiers are 16-64 in Big Ten play over the last 10 years.

Fourth-year coach Kevin Wilson has built a decent offense, but it struggled in some of the Hoosiers’ biggest games last year, and Indiana’s defense still has a long way to go.

There’s a chance Missouri might be tempted to look ahead with SEC play kicking off next with a huge game at South Carolina, but the Tigers should still win fairly comfortably on Saturday.

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