While the Missouri offense was fast asleep for most of the first half, the Tigers’ defense was wide awake.
The defense made the difference in MU’s 45-7 win against Iowa State on Saturday. The Tigers allowed 340 yards, but held the Cyclones to 162 passing yards and forced four turnovers.
A week after Kansas State torched Missouri with its potent running game, the defense ensured early that it would not have a repeat performance.
MU held the Cyclones to 50 yards in the first quarter, giving the offense enough time to wake up and build a 14-7 lead going into halftime.
The Cyclones punted on their first three possessions. Then, Missouri got tired of waiting for Iowa State to punt, forcing its first turnover.
Outside safety Dedrick Harrington blitzed from the end and hit quarterback Waye Terry hard at the Iowa State 40, jarring the ball loose before Brandon Barnes recovered for the Tigers.
The offense seemed to get going after the turnover, but a missed field goal ended MU’s hopes of scoring.
Iowa State gained little yardage in the first half, and if it weren’t for one big play with two seconds left in the first half, the Tigers would have gotten their second shutout.
A 62-yard touchdown pass from Terry to Lane Danielson at the end of the first half was the Cyclones’ score.
Coach Gary Pinkel said the defensive breakdown happened because of a lack of intensity, something that his team has struggled with most of the season.
“We broke down in the secondary,” Pinkel said. “It was unfortunate because we did a lot of good things today. Our team has got to learn to play at the highest intensity level all the time, and we still don’t do that.”
The Tigers regained the momentum at the start of the third quarter. The defense forced a three and out on Iowa State’s first possession to set up a Mike Matheny field goal.
On the Cyclones’ ensuing possession the defense made another big play. Atiyyah Ellison rushed Terry and hit him hard at the Iowa State 22, forcing another fumble.
Freshman Xzavie Jackson recovered and took it to the Cyclones’ 4, leading to a Damien Nash touchdown run. The fumble recovery was the first of Jackson’s career.
Defensive tackle Russ Bell said the defense was upset with itself after allowing the touchdown, but used the play as motivation for a shutout in the second half.
“That was typical Missouri football at the end of the first half,” Bell said. “It was a little nuts, but it got us up and motivated for the second half. We took the momentum back.”
Michael Harden recovered another fumble at the end of the third quarter and cornerback Shirdonya Mitchell made his first interception of the season with one minute left to preserve the second half shutout.
Cornerback Calvin Washington said it was important for the defense to come up with a strong performance with the offense struggling to score.
“That is our job,” Washington said. “We have to stay on point and take responsibility for that.
“We want to score and create turnovers to put our offense in good position to score. We picked up the slack today.”