After a shaky opening game performance against Arkansas State, Missouri’s defense improved against Troy. The Tigers defensive play continued to get better Saturday during Missouri’s 48-0 win against Ball State.
The Cardinals received the opening kickoff and quickly moved the ball to midfield, gaining two quick first downs. Once Ball State reached midfield, though, the Missouri (2-1) defense stiffened and forced the first of 10 Reggie Hodges punts.
Ball State (0-3) gained 56 yards in the first quarter and the Tigers defense continued to improve throughout the game, holding the Cardinals to 142 yards of offense.
The defense limited Ball State to seven first downs, one each in the second and third quarters, in logging Missouri’s first shutout since a 37-0 win against Eastern Illinois last season and Missouri’s largest shutout victory since 1986 when the Tigers defeated Kansas 48-0.
Cornerback Shirdonya Mitchell said a shutout is the defense’s goal every game.
“Every game we try to get a shutout and we were fortunate to get a shutout this game,” Mitchell said. “That’s one of our goals to get a shutout as a defense, and we played well today.”
Mitchell’s big hit knocked the ball out of Terry Moss’ hands on a fourth-and-three play with 6:39 left in the first half to force a turnover on downs.
“I was looking at the quarterback and my ability for a quick out, so I pretty much seen that he wasn’t looking at him,” Mitchell said. “And I saw the other dude, Nino (Williams II) was guarding and I saw he had him wrapped up, so I figured I’d just go ahead and clean him up for him.”
Mitchell’s hit and Brandon Massey’s interception were among the Missouri defense’s biggest plays. Pinkel said not giving up big plays was the difference between the shutout and the loss at Troy.
“I thought we did some good things out there,” Pinkel said. “What we didn’t do today, we did not give up big plays. You take the game last week, we give up the fluke fumble, and I think you can cross that one off. But we gave up the trick play, a broken play and both of those are touchdowns. Good defenses can’t give up big plays. That is something we have to continue to work on and I was pleased with that.”
Defensive tackle C.J. Mosely said the defense played a relaxed game.
“I felt like people were playing on their heels (against Troy) instead of their toes and we played pretty good defense (against the Cardinals),” Mosely said.
After allowing Ball State to drive in the first quarter, the Tigers’ defense gave up two first downs in the next two quarters. Adell Givens’ run gained 21 of the Cardinals’ 40 yards in the second quarter to pick up a first down, and Joey Lynch completed a nine-yard pass to Dante Ridgeway to pick up the lone third quarter first down.
Williams II said the shutout performance was important to build confidence heading into Big 12 Conference play.
“We played the run game pretty well today and that is something we’re going to have to do well against Colorado and I think it’s just confidence heading into conference,” Williams II said. “Colorado is a good team and we have to tighten our screws down and be ready.”