Illinois' Melvin Bryant had blown past him, and quarterback Jon Beutjer found Bryant for a 10-yard reception. Harrington was beat, but he wasn't done.
Harrington, a redshirt freshman outside safety, caught up to Bryant and, with a prize-fighting punch, knocked the ball out of Bryant's hands. Missouri recovered the fumble, stopping the Illini drive.
"I don't know how many coaches I thanked after the game for that," Harrington said. "That's all we every talk about: takeaways, takeaways, takeaways. I saw my opportunity, and I thought, ‘Now or never.'"
With that forced fumble early in the second quarter, Harrington established himself as a cornerstone of this new defense, and he kept on making plays. He had seven tackles and broke up a pass, not to mention he seemed to be close to every play. It's still not enough for Harrington.
"I'm not really satisfied with it, but as my first game, I guess I'll have to take it," he said. Anyone at the game would have thought that scout team linebacker Matt Coonley was making all the plays because of a mix-up with the public address announcer. Coonley also wears No. 33.
"That's why I don't listen to the P.A. announcer," coach Gary Pinnkel said.
However, for the real No. 33, Pinkel was pleased with Harrington's first show. Harrington rarely missed a snap, and there were a lot of snaps to play on Saturday with Illinois dominating the clock.
"For a first game, a huge game, I was very pleased with his performance," Pinkel said. "I think he'll get 10 times better. Dedrick takes everything personal, he's smart, he's a competitor, and he'll look at the things he needs to do to get better.
"He's got a very bright future."
Harrington won't make excuses. "We can't keep allowing teams to march down like they did a couple times on us," Harrington said. "We can't say the offense didn't do this or that, whenever we're on the field, we have to take care of our plays.
"As a defense, we're going to get better. We just have to stop their long drives."