Tigers Trample Tech

For all of the eye-popping, Playstation-esque numbers associated with Texas Tech's prolific offense before it visited Missouri Saturday, none would be so telling as these: 4th and 43.


During the fourth quarter of the Mizzou defense's shockingly dominant performance against Tech's heralded offense, the Tigers had bullied the Red Raiders so thoroughly that they find themselves in the aforementioned down and distance – fourth down, 43 yards to go for a first down. Or, as one observer put it: ‘Fourth and Jefferson City.'

The Tigers' defense, until now though to be the weak link of an otherwise dominant team, overwhelmed the NCAA's most powerful offense in an inspired 41-10 victory that further solidified MU's status as an elite team in college football.

Questions abounded all week as to whether how Missouri would react to the Oklahoma loss last weekend – Would the Tigers deflate and fade toward the middle of the pack, or would they jumpstart the season again? – but those were answered quickly and emphatically.

Stryker Sulak led the way with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter, giving Mizzou (6-1, 2-1) a lead it never truly was in danger of losing. The Tigers held Texas Tech to 388 yards, nearly below its NCAA-best average of 582. Tech also was averaging 50 points per game, but mustered only one touchdown, a 68-yard pass from Graham Harrell to Edward Britton in the first quarter.

Asked about Mizzou's rushing attack, whose most productive day all season – 212 yards and three touchdowns by reserve running back Jimmy Jackson – coincided with the defensive breakout, quarterback Chase Daniel immediately changed the subject.

"It's pretty good, but how about the defense?" he said. "When you score as many points [on defense] as Tech does [on] touchdowns, you've got a pretty good shot of winning."

Missouri's defense has given up its share of points this year, including 41 last week in the loss to Oklahoma. But it's also shown signs of improvement from week to week, and against the nation's most prolific passer (Harrell) and receiver (redshirt freshman Michael Crabtree), it looked downright fierce. The Tigers had four interceptions of Harrell, who entered the game with 31 touchdown passea dn three interceptions.

"We've probably seen the most pressure we've seen all season. They just came out and played more excited than we did in every position," Harrell said.

During its progression, MU's defense has seemed to become more physical from one game to the next. The Tigers go for the big blow, and though it costs them now and then as it did with a personal foul that negated another Tech turnover, it is also by design.

"After watching their film, we saw other teams weren't really physical with them," said safety William Moore, who intercepted a pass and sacked Harrell to set up the 4th and 43.

"Our top goal was to be physical with them, whatever it takes … They were surprised."

Added defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams, who also sacked Harrell: "Guys [are] just refusing to get blocked."

Meantime, Daniel didn't post his usual gaudy numbers, finishing with 210 yards and a 57-yard scoring strike to Jeremy Maclin, but the running attack had its best game, by far. Jackson, playing in place of injured starter Tony Temple, had a career day (59 yards, three touchdowns). True freshman Derrick Washington continued to impress, gaining 66 yards on nine carries, including several physical runs during which he bounced off of would-be tacklers.

Earl Goldsmith added 37 yards and Marcus Woods chipped in 30, on seven carries apiece.

"Jimmy, Early, ‘D-Wash', Woods – they've all stepped their game up, and they've picked a pretty good time to do it," Daniel said.

"This was a great win for the program coming off a hard loss for the team., Beating a ranked team and beating them pretty handily says a lot about our program, says a lot about where we're at from years past," Daniel said.

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