COLUMBIA — Ian Simon knew it was coming.
The redshirt freshman safety from Mansfield, Texas, just had three bad plays in a row. Waiting for him on the sideline was defensive coordinator Dave Steckel.
Missouri (5-5, 2-5 SEC)
vs. Syracuse (5-5, 4-2 Big East)
WHEN: 6:02 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
Steckel was not happy.
"I actually verbally assaulted him," Steckel said at the Missouri football team's media day Monday.
But the young safety would soon ease his coach's temper. In the fourth overtime of Tigers' game against Tennessee, Simon made the play that would take the Volunteers' offense off the field for good.
On a fourth-and-3 play, with the game tied at 48, Simon leaped out and pulled the right arm of Tennessee receiver Zach Rogers down, preventing him from securing the ball. It rolled to the ground, and Missouri took over and kicked a field goal for a 51-48 victory Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
"Trust me, he's got a lot of mental resolve," Steckel said. "I actually apologized to the kid. He said, 'No, no, coach. I needed that.' And then he comes back and shows his mental toughness and makes that great play. It's just awesome for him to have that."
Simon had to come in after cornerback E.J. Gaines left the game with a sprained ankle, and he let his excitement get the best of him.
"I lost my head on a couple of plays," Simon said. "Thankfully, they weren't magnified into the big plays they could've been. I definitely made some mistakes out there."
Simon felt like he deserved to be yelled at. In his time at Missouri, Simon had already seen Steckel yell at some of the defense's best players from time to time, so it wasn't a shock to him.
Besides, Steckel's verbal assault wasn't the worst he has ever taken.
"That was about a two (out of 10) if you want to put my family into it," Simon laughed.
Simon said the one-sided conversation with Steckel actually helped him focus.
"Coach Steck definitely went hard on me a little bit," Simon said. "But he also told me that he still had the utmost faith in me, that he just wanted me to calm down and just make the play."
He was only calm for one play, but that was all he needed.
After the ball hit the ground, Simon rolled up and pumped his fist as his teammates jumped all over him and congratulated him.
Simon said he was so overcome with emotion that he broke down and cried.
"It’s great for his confidence level," Tigers senior cornerback Kip Edwards said. "He’s a new guy right now. He’s a whole lot more smiles and giggles. So yeah, it’s a great confidence boost for him, and I’m happy to see him out there making plays.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.