COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri Tigers’ beleaguered defense hasn’t caught any breaks lately. At least not any positive ones.
The Tigers lost redshirt senior outside linebacker Donavin Newsom to a left quad injury in the first half of Saturday’s 35-21 loss to visiting Kentucky.
“That stung a little bit,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “We’ve got two guys there in (Michael) Scherer and Donavin who have played a lot of ball. Really, at the one linebacker position we were down to (redshirt freshman cornerback) T.J. Warren, who we moved there earlier in the week, so more of a nickel look.”
Newsom entered Saturday’s game second on the Tigers in tackles behind Michael Scherer, a redshirt senior linebacker who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s loss to Middle Tennessee.
Newsom had three tackles and a forced fumble — recovered by defensive end Charles Harris — in Saturday’s game before leaving with the injury.
“It was pretty different not having Donavin,” Missouri defensive tackle Rickey Hatley said. “He’s a fast dude, always running around and making tackles and really hardly ever missing tackles. Just to lose him we know we have to pick up the pace and tackle more.”
The severity of Newsom’s injury was unknown, Missouri coach Barry Odom said after the game, but the linebacker joins the list of injured players that include Scherer, defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr., cornerback John Gibson and linebacker Terez Hall. Offensively, starting right guard Alec Abeln missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.
Freshman wide receiver Dimetrios Mason was one of the bright spots of Saturday’s loss, catching four passes for 101 and two touchdowns in his fourth start of the season. It marked his second 100-yard game this season.
“Every time I go out there I just believe that I can make big plays and I’m ready for the ball at all times,” Mason said. “I’m just ready to score and ready to make a play, that’s all.”
Mason caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock along the right sideline with 2:22 remaining in the first half to cut the deficit to 21-7. Then he caught a 57-yard bomb from Lock down the right sideline with 4:13 left.
The true freshman from Georgia has become Missouri’s second-leading receiver behind junior J'Mon Moore, who has 33 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. Mason now has 26 catches for 350 yards — both numbers rank second on the squad — and two touchdowns, which is tied with four others for the second-most among the Tigers.
BEISEL MAKES FIRST START
For Burkett, it was his sixth start of the season — he started the first five games before being replaced in the starting lineup by freshman Cale Garrett. For Beisel, it was his first career start.
“It’s bittersweet,” Beisel said. I never thought my first start would be a loss like this. I’ve played this game in my head a thousand times and I saw each one a little bit different. But each one I saw us coming out with a win, so I’m disappointed in myself for not getting that done.”
Beisel finished with five tackles, including three for losses, in the loss.
HOWARD SEES FIRST ACTION
Sophomore defensive end Nate Howard had knee surgery in the offseason and had yet to appear in a game this season before Saturday.
It looked like Howard might be headed toward a redshirt season but that won’t be the case now that he saw his first action of the season.
“He’s done some things here over the course of the last few weeks in practice,” Odom said. “He’s going to give us a pass-rush guy off the edge I think that will compliment some of the things that we’re going to do moving forward. I also think, against the run, he’s 255 pounds and he’s got good explosion and can hold the point pretty well. We’ve got to get him more game ready. There’s certain limited things that he can do today. We’ve got the chance to get him in position that he can help here us a lot more than he did today.”
Howard played in 11 games as a true freshman a year ago and recorded 12 tackles, including two for losses.
“We’ve had many conversations the last two weeks,” Odom said. “He wanted it. He said, ‘Coach, if I can do anything to help this team I want to do it.’ I admire his attitude and I want to lean on him a little bit here the next couple weeks.”
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