Kentucky Derby: Wildcats Run Over Missouri

Kentucky hands Missouri its fourth straight loss and 10th straight Southeastern Conference defeat.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri Tigers were looking for a spark this week, something to change their fortunes following their disappointing Homecoming loss to visiting Middle Tennessee. 

But Missouri coach Barry Odom’s plan to be more involved with the defense, a change back to last year's scheme and a few new starters on defense, replacing some key players injured, didn’t fix the problems that have plagued the Tigers all season long. 

The Kentucky Wildcats ran all over Missouri on Saturday, led by the dynamic duo of Stanley Williams and Benny Snell, and handed the Tigers their fourth straight loss with a dominating 35-21 Southeastern Conference victory at Memorial Stadium.

“We’re not playing very good football," Missouri coach Barry Odom said. "Have to look in the mirror and I have to find a way to get it fixed and absolutely I’m going to. Discouraged? Without question. Very discouraged. But never once did I think this was going to be easy. Never once did I think that we would just breeze through and everything would plan and happen and execute just like I wanted it to. That’s why college football’s hard and it’s hard to be winning consistently. We have a long ways to go. We’re going to get there.”

The loss dropped disappointing Missouri to 2-6 overall and 0-4 in league play, while Kentucky improved to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in conference action.

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Kentucky racked up 582 yards of total offense (377 rushing, 205 passing) — the fourth straight game Missouri has allowed at least 523 yards of offense.

Williams had 182 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and added a 13-yard touchdown reception. Snell, a freshman, added 192 and two touchdowns on 38 carries. Quarterback Stephen Johnson completed 14 of 23 passes for 208 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Jeff Badet caught three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. 

"You have to give credit to the offensive line," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "Those guys are finishing blocks. I saw them being really physical. They are playing extremely hard and smart. They really set things up nicely for the offense that is what teams do."

Missouri had 386 yards of offense (229 passing, 157 rushing). Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock completed 18 of 31 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman wide receiver Dimetrios Mason had four catches for 101 yards and two scores.

The offense wasn't great on Saturday, but it wasn't the biggest issue. 

That would be the defense that was without linebacker Michael Scherer, defensive tackle Terry Beckner and cornerback John Gibson because of injuries and then lost linebacker Donavin Newsom to a left quad strain in the first half. Scherer and Newsom are the Tigers' top two tacklers this season.

Several players said afterward that the Tigers went back to the scheme that they ran last season — something the players said they thought worked well — but the tackling problems were on display once again and directly contributed to at least two Kentucky touchdown runs.

“They were able to find creases and hit us for a big run every now and then," Missouri defensive tackle Rickey Hatley said. "We just have to come out here and tackle.”

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Kentucky led 21-0 midway through the second quarter. 

Williams opened the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Then Stephen Johnson connected with Jeff Badet for a 65-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter, followed by a 1-yard touchdown run by Snell midway through the second quarter.

Lock connected with Mason for a 27-yard touchdown pass — Mason’s first touchdown of the season — with 2:22 remaining in the first half. 

The Tigers couldn’t get any closer than that in the second half. 

Kentucky got a 13-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Williams with 5:17 left in the first half and led 35-7 after an 18-yard touchdown run by Snell with 14:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. 

Mizzou got a 1-yard touchdown run from Josh Augusta — set up by a 63-yard punt return by redshirt freshman Johnathon Johnson — with 10:03 left and then a 57-yard touchdown pass from Lock to Mason with 4:13 remaining.

“We didn’t play well today on either of the ball to win a football game," Odom said. "Give Kentucky credit. Mark (Stoops) has done a really good job. They were playing with momentum. They’ve played well the last three weeks, now four, and that showed with the way they played. They played a pretty clean game. We didn’t do well enough. We didn’t tackle well defensively. I have to figure that out. That’s maybe the single most frustrating thing right now is we’re not very good tacklers. I have to find a way to get that fixed.” 

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com.

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