Player of the Week, Illinois game

It isn't often that punters get positive recognition for their excellence. They are usually only pointed out when they perform poorly. On Saturday, versus Illinois, Brock Harvey showed why he is a finalist for the Groza Award, given annually to the nation's finest punter.

What a difference one week makes.

In the Tigers' last scrimmage August 20, Brock Harvey was perhaps the worst player on the field. He didn't have a punt go for more than 45 yards, and several went between 30 and 35 yards. He didn't have any inside the 20.

But against Illinois, Harvey was a deciding factor, if not the deciding factor. He averaged 42.4 yards on seven punts, but it's hard to have a great average with three punts inside the 20. First, he had to punt seven times, primarily due to Missouri's ineffective offense. When a punter has to punt that many times, he's bound to have an impact on the game.

The best punt was a 63-yarder in the first quarter that, in effect, led to the Tigers' first touchdown. Harvey's punt from the Missouri 33 went in the air to the Illinois 15 and then bounced to the four, where speedy Shirdonya Mitchell downed it. After the Tigers stopped an Illinois punt, the offense received the ball on the Illinois 3 and scored to go up 7-3.

Harvey next punt looked just as good at first. From the Illinois 46, Harvey kicked a punt that looked like it landed just short of the end zone and bounced back to the 4-yard line. The officials, though, ruled it a touchback. Replays on ABC were inconclusive as to whether the ball hit the line or not.

Finally, Harvey's last punt, before Illinois' last drive, helped the Tigers keep the Illini out of the end zone. Christian Morton fielded Harvey's punt at the 3-yard line, perhaps remembering the bounces on the other punts, and he could only return the ball to the 10. Illinois could not make up the 90 yards in two minutes. Had the field been shorter, perhaps the game would have gone to overtime.

It's unclear whether Missouri will need this output every game from Harvey, but it's nice to know that he can perform at that level.

With the field goal kicker position still undecided and a mystery because the Tigers didn't attempt any field goals vs. Illinois, field position was paramount on Saturday.

If Harvey continues to perform at such a high level, the Tigers will have a tremendous defensive weapon indeed this season.


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