WACO, Texas — After the defense’s lead, the Missouri offense recovered from a sluggish start to make Missouri undefeated in two weeks of Big 12 Conference play.
The Tigers beat Baylor 30-10 at Floyd Casey Stadium on Saturday, taking sole possession of first place in the Big 12 Conference-North Division for the first time since the conference formed in 1996. The game was a big road win. The Tigers (4-1, 2-0) improved to 5-12 in away games under coach Gary Pinkel.
Fox Sports Net televised the game that had a 9:15 p.m. kickoff and featured a sparse crowd of 22,652.
“Obviously it feels good to win,” Pinkel said. “(There was) pretty good defense, pretty strong (defense), turnovers were really big.”
Missouri’s defense owned the game, allowing just 10 first downs, getting four sacks and forcing four turnovers, the most this season. In its last three games, Missouri has allowed a total of 19 points.
That type of stubborn defense abruptly ended the Bears’ momentum late in the first half when they threatened to come back.
Baylor (3-2, 0-2) took advantage of a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty on Calvin Washington, getting new life after kicker Kenny Webb missed a 52-yard field goal. Webb converted a 30-yard attempt four plays later, making the score 6-3 with 5:05 left in the first half.
During the next Baylor drive on third-and-seven from the Missouri 48, Tiger safety Jason Simpson dashed hopes of a comeback. He was in loose coverage and then broke on quarterback Dane King’s pass, taking the interception 46 yards to Baylor’s seven.
Tight end Martin Rucker then scored his second touchdown of the year on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Brad Smith. Kicker Joe Tantarelli’s extra point made it 13-3 with 1:41 left in the half.
The Missouri defense was intimidating early, getting two interceptions and a turnover on downs in the first half. The Tigers allowed just four first downs in the half and stuffed Baylor on fourth-and-two on a crucial drive in the first quarter.
“Our offense could not get anything going,” Baylor coach Guy Morriss said. “Overall, it was a frustrating game.”
The Missouri offense showed life at times, with Rucker scoring again on Missouri’s next drive to start the second half, but it was inconsistent and sputtered when it looked to be building momentum.
Against the worst rushing defense in the Big 12, the Tigers could muster only 176 yards on 52 attempts, short of the season average of 201.3 yards per game. Tailback Damien Nash led Missouri with 87 yards on 27 carries.
The Tigers relied heavily on the pass, but could not string completions together. Smith was a paltry 13-for-27 for 151 yards. Three of his completions were touchdowns and he had no interceptions.
Baylor’s slow start offered a chance for Missouri to break the game open, with the defense intercepting quarterback Dane King’s pass on the third play from scrimmage of the game.
King’s pass up the middle deflected off fullback Jonathan Evans and into the hands of cornerback Shirdonya Mitchell, who was tackled on Baylor’s 29-yard line after a two-yard return.
Missouri could not capitalize, though, with kicker Joe Tantarelli missing a 38-yard field goal wide left. It was Tantarelli’s fourth straight missed field goal.
After driving 42 yards to the Baylor 2-yard line on their second drive, the Tigers failed to put the ball in the end zone again, but Tantarelli made good on his second attempt of the game, a 22-yard field goal, giving Missouri a 3-0 lead.
Missouri also failed to put the ball into the end zone on a 7-minute, 58-second drive that spanned the first and second quarters.
After wide receiver Thomson Omboga made a 24-yard catch on fourth-and-21 to put the Tigers on the Baylor 7-yard line, Missouri again could not score a touchdown and Tantarelli had his third attempt of the game. He completed the 20-yard field goal for the 6-0 lead.
Along with Rucker’s second touchdown, Missouri scored another touchdown and a field goal in the second half.
Wide receiver Sean Coffey scored his fourth touchdown of the season with 14:17 left in the game on an 8-yard pass from Smith. It was Smith’s ninth touchdown pass of the season and his last drive of the game, before Brandon Coleman replaced him.
Tantarelli finished the scoring for Missouri with 13:02 left on a 31-yard field goal following a fumble recovery by the defense.