TROY, Ala. — An embarrassing defeat typically means a great deal of disappointment, but No. 19 Missouri can’t think all is lost.
Although overshadowed by the failures of the offense in the 24-14 loss to Troy on Thursday night, the Tigers defense, in general, showed improvement after its first-week struggles.
“We felt it was a much bigger stand than last week,” cornerback A.J. Kincade said. “That’s what we worked on all week, making a big improvement from last week. We tried to eliminate a lot of mental mistakes, a lot of mistakes we made ourselves and not so much as what the other team was doing to us.”
Kincade had one of the Tigers’ three interceptions of quarterback Aaron Leak. Kincade’s interception, which came with 12:44 left in the third quarter, stopped a Trojan drive inside Missouri territory. The drive started after Damien Nash lost a fumble.
It wasn’t the only time the defense stopped the Trojans after an offensive miscue. The Tigers’ three turnovers and blocked punt did not result in any Trojan points.
“Getting the ball back for our offense with opportunities and not doing anything with it certainly was frustrating,” coach Gary Pinkel said.
“Most of the turnovers and the blocked punt, remarkably, our defense got us out of those drives. That’s pretty remarkable. We had chances on offense. We just didn’t do anything with it.”
Marcus King set the offense up well in the third quarter when he stepped in front of a Leak pass. Trailing 17-14, King gave the offense the ball at the Trojan 25-yard line, but they could not score.
After the first quarter, the defense spent more and more time on the field without the offense producing. The defense’s production earned some appreciation from the offense.
“The defense battled hard (Thursday),” offensive lineman Scott Paffrath said. “I wish we could have put a few more points on the board because they put in a pretty good effort.”
Leak completed 7-of-20 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. Because of a wide receiver pass which went for a touchdown, the Trojans finished with 121 yards passing.
The Tigers’ rush defense gave up some longer runs in the second quarter, though, and Troy finished with 172 yards on the ground.
Allowing 24 points, though, had sophomore defensive end Xzavie Jackson discouraged. Jackson had two quarterback hurries and nine tackles.
“As a defense, we played pretty badly, giving up 24 points,” he said. “That’s first off. We could have been a lot better up front, put more pressure on the quarterback, force more takeaways.
“We need more. Takeaways equals victories.”
The Tigers had their chances. They forced three Trojan fumbles but did not recover any of them.
“The scoreboard shows how the defense played,” cornerback Shirdonya Mitchell said. “We should have made some plays, missed some tackles, giving up touchdowns. In order to be a great defense, you got to kill all the big plays.”