WACO, Texas – Lost in the late start time against Baylor was Missouri’s quick offensive start.
For only the second time this season, the Tigers failed to score on their first drive and those struggles continued as Missouri scored only three points in the quarter. The Tigers went three-and-out to open the game against Ball State on Sept. 18.
Missouri entered outscoring opponents 45-10 in the opening quarter and while the defense shut out the Bears, the Missouri offense stalled, even with great field position.
On the third play of the game, Shirdonya Mitchell intercepted Dane King and gave the Tigers the ball at the Baylor 25-yard line. After a 12-yard run by Damien Nash on Missouri’s first offensive play, the Tigers lost 3 yards on its next three plays and kicker Joe Tantarelli missed a 38-yard field goal attempt, his fourth straight missed field goal attempt.
Missouri’s offense slowly came alive on its next drive. Tantarelli made a 22-yard field goal. The Tigers again started in Baylor territory after Thomson Omboga returned a punt 16 yards to the 44. Missouri slowly marched downfield, gaining a first down at the 6, but Nash could only muster 1 yard on two carries and Brad Smith overthrew Sean Coffey on a fade route to force fourth down.
The Tigers went three-and-out on its next possession before putting together another scoring drive, sputtering inside the red zone again, which led to a Tantarelli field goal.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel credited Baylor’s defense in the offensive difficulties near the goal line.
“They lined up everybody up there and said, ‘You will not run the ball,’” Pinkel said.
In 17 plays, Missouri moved 62 yards, getting stopped at the Baylor 2-yard line. After Smith rushed six yards on second-and-goal, Nash was stuffed for no gain and Tantarelli made a 20-yard attempt.
Following a Jason Simpson 46-yard interception return to the 9, the Tigers finally found the end zone when Smith hit Martin Rucker for a 9-yard score between two defenders with 1:41 left in the second quarter.
The touchdown jump started the Missouri offense, which reversed its first down fortunes by scoring on its first possession of the third quarter. With the score, Missouri has outscored its opponents 35-3 in the third.
Smith again found Rucker in the end zone, from 17 yards out, to complete an eight-play drive.
TIGERS ON TELEVISION: With the win, Missouri improved to 36-61-1 on television and 2-1 in televised games this year. Missouri lost 24-14 to Troy on ESPN2 on Sept. 9 and defeated Colorado on Oct. 2 on ABC, 17-9. The Tigers also improved to 9-19 on Fox. Baylor fell to 37-56-2 in televised contests and 2-12 on Fox Sports Net. Baylor lost in its first televised game of the season, 44-14 against Texas on Oct. 2 and has lost in seven of its past eight games on television.
TRAVEL TROUBLES: As the Tigers bused to the game from Temple, about 30 minutes south of Waco, one of Missouri’s three buses broke down.
When the bus broke down, the Missouri sports information department, who was riding on the trailing bus, waved down the lead bus and it pulled to the side of the road. Members of the Tigers’ offense were on the broken bus before switching with the sports information department to finish the trip. The media relations employees waited for the bus to be fixed.
SPECIAL TEAM STRUGGLES: In his first start at punter for the injured Brock Harvey, sophomore Matt Hoenes struggled in helping Missouri win the field position battle. Hoenes averaged 32.4 yards on 7 punts with a long of 50. Tantarelli missed his fourth consecutive field goal attempt by pulling a 38-yard attempt wide left.
OPPORTUNISTIC DEFENSE: Missouri’s two interceptions gave the defense 10 interceptions on the season after picking off nine passes a year ago. Mitchell’s interception 58 seconds into the game gave the Tigers possession at Baylor’s 25 and Simpson returned his interception 46 yards to the Baylor 9-yard line.
SOUTH DOMINATION: In the four interdivisional Big 12 games, Missouri was the only North Division team to win Saturday.
No. 22 Oklahoma State defeated Colorado 42-14 in Boulder, Texas A&M downed Iowa State 34-3 in Ames and Texas Tech destroyed Nebraska 70-10.