Hibbetts makes the best of his time

Josh Hibbetts doesn't get a lot of time on the field as the third-string free safety. But when he got his chances on Saturday, he made them count. Hibbetts was one of the biggest reasons for Missouri's 37-0 win against Eastern Illinois.

It was the first time a reporter had even asked to talk to Josh Hibbetts after a game. And on Saturday, it just wasn't one reporter. It was all of them, swarming around Hibbetts as he left the locker room.

After blocking two punts and returning one for a touchdown in Missouri's 37-0 win against Eastern Illinois, all of Hibbett's discouragement, disappointment and hard work had vanished in three hours.

"Just being able to help out the team, that's an awesome feeling," he said.

Hibbetts came to Missouri as a quarterback, and redshirted last season. However, it become clear as Brad Smith continued to get better that Hibbetts wasn't going to be seeing a lot of playing time. So starting last spring, he moved to safety.

But Missouri had other ideas for that position, too. Nino Williams and David Overstreet stepped in ahead of Hibbetts on the depth chart. Discouragement grew in Hibbetts as he worked hard for playing time.

He found that time on special teams. After the first two games, Pinkel looked at the video and saw how well Hibbetts was doing on punts and kickoffs.

"We said, ‘We got to get this guy involved,'" Pinkel said.

It definitely worked. Hibbetts' first punt block gave the Tigers the ball on the Eastern Illinois 27 with 56 seconds left in the first half. After the Tigers scored their second touchdown in two minutes, the momentum was on their side.

"Blocked punts change football games," Pinkel said. "Your chances of winning go up dramatically if you can block punts. They just are huge turnovers."

In the second half, Hibbetts blocked Tom Schofield's punt again, and picked up the football at the 14-yard line. With none of the Panthers around, he ran it into the end zone. He didn't imagine that's how he would score his first Missouri touchdown when he came here, but at this point, he didn't mind it.

"This makes it all worth it," he said.

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