Sunday, January 4, 2015

Missouri holds off A&M, heads to Tennessee next

Football seasons have a handful of moments that you remember, moments that come to mind when we recall that particular year. Missouri (8-2, 5-1 in SEC play) had one of those in the closing minutes of its 34-27 win at Texas A&M last Saturday. The Aggies (7-4, 3-4 in SEC) were driving for the tying touchdown and faced a third-and-one at the two-yard line. Missouri stuffed A&M’s Brandon Williams for no gain on third down, then tackled massive Aggie tight end Cameron Clear short of the line to gain on fourth down after he caught a short pass.

The Tigers took possession of the ball after the stop and were able to run out the last few minutes to seal the victory. It was an impressive win before 104,756 spectators at Kyle Field, the biggest crowd ever to see Missouri play a football game. It was also Missouri’s ninth straight road win.

Missouri trailed 13-6 at the half, but the Tigers just kept digging. In the third quarter, Missouri reeled off four straight touchdown drives, all 75 yards or longer. The Tiger offensive line took control, driving back and demoralizing the Aggie defense as the Tigers pounded away on the ground.

For the game, Missouri ran the ball 49 times for 335 yards, an impressive 6.8 yards per carry. Russell Hansbrough had 199 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

The win kept Missouri in the lead of the SEC East Division race as the end of the season approaches. Second-place Georgia hammered Auburn on Saturday, so the Tigers have to win their last two games to win the East.

Up next is a tricky trip to Tennessee on Saturday (6:30 p.m. on ESPN). Before the renovations to Kyle Field, the Volunteers’ Neyland Stadium was the biggest football stadium in the South, with a capacity over 100,000. When the Vols are playing well, it can be a thunderous venue, with the ultra-catchy “Rocky Top” playing over and over and the fans going crazy. Last year, during an upset of South Carolina, a Tennessee mom tied her sleeping toddler to the bench seating so she could stand and yell for the Vols as they drove for the winning score.

This year’s Tennessee team started 3-5, but the Volunteers (5-5, 2-4 in SEC) have won two straight games with sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs starting. Dobbs came off the bench to play a solid game against Alabama, then he started and led Tennessee to wins over South Carolina and Kentucky. Those two aren’t a Murderer’s Row, but Dobbs has provided a spark. He can pass and run well, one of the toughest skill sets to defend against.

Missouri will of course need a big game from its talented defensive line, not just getting pressure on Dobbs but keeping him contained.

I expect another very competitive game under the lights this Saturday. I’m looking forward to making the trip to Knoxville to take in the scene, and Tiger fans are surely looking forward to the chance to get one win closer to the SEC Championship Game.

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