Tigers Tame Wildcats 20-10, Lead SEC East

On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers (7-2, 4-1) moved into first place in the SEC East with a 20-10 win over the Kentucky Wildcats (5-4, 2-4).

On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers (7-2, 4-1) moved into first place in the SEC East with a 20-10 win over the Kentucky Wildcats (5-4, 2-4).

Maty Mauk connected with Bud Sasser for a pair of 2nd-quarter touchdowns passes, and Missouri ground out 156 yards rushing on 45 carries, while the Missouri defense was dominant, as they limited Kentucky to 3.6 yards/offensive play, and 2.9 yards/rushing attempt.

Missouri’s Shane Ray sealed the deal with his school-record 12th sack of the season, as he burst around the edge on fourth and 8 from the Missouri 49-yard line and tackled Kentucky QB Patrick Towles with 35 seconds remaining on the clock in the 4th quarter. Missouri took over on downs, and moved into sole possession of first place in the division, the beneficiary of Florida’s 38-20 victory on Saturday over Georgia.

“It really was a good win,” said Coach Pinkel, who dedicated the game ball to “Mr. Mizzou”, John Kadlec. “There were a lot of good things in the game, and a lot of things that I think we’ve improved at. Certainly, we’ve got to get better………………………………………. Our defense played remarkably well……………………………………… We played a really good offensive football team really exceptionally well……………………………………… You know, I thought we did some good things offensively, too.”

Mauk finished 18-33-0 for 164 yards and 2 TDs. He also ran for 75 yards on 14 carries

Missouri took the game’s opening kick-off to begin what Coach Pinkel would later describe as their best half of football “maybe for the year”, and drove to the Kentucky 41-yard line, where Christian Brinser pinned the Wildcats deep in their own end. On that opening drive, Missouri ran the football 7 times, and kept the football for over 5 minutes.

Kentucky managed just a single first down, and Missouri got the ball right back at their own 34-yard line midway through the 1st quarter.

From there, Missouri again moved the ball on the ground, but an intentional grounding penalty on Mauk halted the drive, and again, Brinser pinned Kentucky deep in their own end.

Kentucky went three and out, and Missouri got the ball back when Marcus Murphy returned the punt to the Missouri 45-yard line.

From there, Mauk and the Tigers put together a 9-play 55-yard drive that was capped off with a 3-yard slant pass from Mauk to Bud Sasser to put Missouri ahead 7-0 with 12:56 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

Kentucky answered with a 27-yard run on first down by Mikel Horton to the Missouri 48-yard line, Kentucky’s initial incursion of the game into Missouri territory, and the longest run from scrimmage that Missouri had allowed during conference play. Horton came right back with a 16-yard run, but the Missouri defense stiffened, and Kentucky had to settle for a 47-yard field goal to cut the Missouri lead to 7-3 with 9:35 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

Missouri answered, as well, as Mauk and the Tigers put together an 8-play 72-yard drive that resulted in Sasser’s second TD reception of the half, a beautiful 26-yard pass that Mauk dropped into the back right corner of the end zone for the over-the-shoulder catch. Missouri led 14-3 with 5:26 remaining in the half.

Missouri took that 14-3 lead into the locker room at halftime. Missouri had patiently run the football, with 25 carries in the 1st-half for 92 yards. That, and terrific defense, had allowed the Tigers to control the ball for over 19 minutes, and win the field position battle, in the 1st half. It also opened up the passing game for the Tigers, as Maty Mauk was 13-18-0 for 126 yards and 2 TDs in the 1st half.

Kentucky had some success running the football, with 97 rushing yards on 16 carries in the 1st half, but the Wildcats had only been in Missouri territory once before intermission. And in the 1st half, Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles was 3-6-1 for 14 yards passing.

Kentucky went three and out to begin the 2nd half. So did Missouri.

Then, Towles completed a screen pass to RB Stanley Williams for 32 yards to the Missouri 39-yard line. The dangerous Williams showed tremendous speed and elusiveness on that screen pass. But, Kentucky went backwards on the next play, as Kentrell Brothers came across and tackled Williams for a 6-yard loss. Kentucky was behind the chains, and after the Wildcats failed to convert on fourth and 8, the Tigers took over on downs at their own 37-yard line, with 10:15 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

Missouri went backwards, and Kentucky’s Demarco Robinson returned Brinser’s punt to the Missouri 49-yard line.

The Missouri corners had a great game, except for a bone-headed personal foul penalty that Aarion Penton incurred when he shoved a Kentucky player after the whistle. Kentucky had a first down at the Missouri 34-yard line, but again, the Missouri defense stiffened. Once again, Kentucky went for it on fourth down, but Shane Ray sacked Towles for his 11th sack of the season.

Missouri took over on downs, and this time Mauk and company moved the ball. Eight plays later, Andrew Baggett nailed a 41-yarder from just inside the right hash, and the Tigers had a two-touchdown lead, at 17-3, with 3:42 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

After each team went three and out, Kentucky moved the ball to near mid-field, and on the final play of the 3rd quarter, the Wildcats downed a punt at the Missouri 3-yard line. From that deep in their own end, Coach Pinkel was taking no chances, and the Tigers went three and out.

Kentucky took over at their own 43-yard line, but the Wildcats were unable to move the ball. Once again, Kentucky pinned the Tigers deep in their own end, as the Wildcats were winning the battle for field position. Mauk and the Tigers took over at their own 10-yard line, leading 17-3, with 12:30 remaining in the game. This time, Mizzou moved the football. Missouri put together a 13-play 87-yard drive that resulted in a 21-yard Andrew Baggett field goal, and perhaps more importantly, consumed over 5 minutes of time off the clock. There were two key plays on that drive. One was a 32-yard run over the right side by Mauk. The other one was on the very next play, as Lady Luck smiled on Mauk and Missouri. Under a rush and in the grasp of a defender, Mauk inexplicably threw the football directly to a Kentucky defender, who had nothing but turf in front of him. Disaster was averted when the defender dropped the pass. Missouri led 20-3, with 7:23 remaining.

Trailing by three scores, Kentucky threw caution to the wind. Towles found Ryan Timmons for 21 yards on third and 6 in their own end. He beat Duron Singleton on the play, and Towles and the Wildcats started to get into a rhythm with their up-tempo offense. On fourth and 4 from the Missouri 15-yard line, Towles was under pressure and threw a low pass in the direction of Garrett Johnson, who dove back for the ball at the Missouri 1-yard line. The ball appeared to bounce off the turf as Johnson corralled it, but the Wildcats quickly lined up and snapped the ball before the play could be reviewed. Two plays later, Towles found Javess Blue in the end zone to cut Missouri’s lead to 20-10 with 3:26 remaining.

Both teams lined up for what was sure to be an onside kick. John Gibson and Aarion Penton ran into each other trying to catch the ball, and Kentucky recovered the football at their own 46-yard line.

“That was the first time, I believe in 23-24 years as a head coach that I’ve executed the onside kick and actually lost the ball,” explained Coach Pinkel. “It created a lot of chaos, which we really didn’t need at the end of the game.”

On first down, Kentucky was flagged for holding, and the Wildcats were looking at a first and 20 from their own 36-yard line. Four plays later, Towles dropped back on fourth and 20, and got it to Blue for 19 yards, just short of the first down. But Braylon Webb was flagged and ejected for targeting, and Kentucky had a first down at the Missouri 30-yard line. On first down, Towles found Blue at the Missouri 21-yard yard line. But, the Missouri defense stiffened, and Towles was stopped for a loss on fourth down.

Missouri took over and ran the ball, forcing Kentucky to use all of their time outs. By the time Kentucky got the ball back, they trailed by 10 with only 1:18 remaining. Marcus Golden sacked Towles on second down, and Ray got him for the record-breaker on fourth down.

“I’m happy for (Shane Ray),” said Coach Pinkel. “He is such a team player! He’s a good leader. He talks to the team just like a senior captain. Players have great respect for him because he works incredibly hard and he performs at this high level all the time.”

Ray finished his record-setting day with 5 total tackles, 2 sacks, and a pass-break-up.

Penton finished with 4 tackles, 2 PBUs, and an interception. Half of Kenya Dennis’ 3 tackles were for loss, and he also finished up with 4 PBUs.

Mauk had nearly half of Mizzou’s rushing yards, as Kentucky did a pretty good job of bottling up the Missouri running backs. But the Tigers were patient and stayed with the run. Marcus Murphy finished with 13 carries for 52 yards, and Russell Hansbrough finished with 15 carries for 19 yards. But Hansbrough also had 3 receptions for 26 yards.

Sasser finished with 6 receptions for 67 yards and 2 TDs. Sean Culkin had 4 receptions for 30 yards. And, Nate Brown showed good run-after-catch ability as he finished with 3 receptions for 27 yards.

“It was a good win for our football team,” said Coach Pinkel. “We played outstanding defense consistently, and I think we improved on offense. There were a lot of good things, and like always, there are some things we need to improve on. I’m very happy with our team; 1-0 in November.”

“We’ve got a bye week, and here we go, trying to get better,” continued Coach Pinkel. “We’re getting a lot of confidence back, and you know, there’s one game on the schedule, and that’s (Texas) A&M.”

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