ALBUQUERQUE, N.M — Missouri’s defense led the Tigers to a 27-17 victory against New Mexico Saturday.
The defense was dominant, proving why going into the game it was ranked No. 2 in the nation.
“The D played unbelievable once again,” Chase Daniel, Missouri’s sophomore quarterback said.
The Tigers wreaked havoc in the Lobos’ backfield, getting eight sacks on New Mexico quarterback Chris Nelson for a combined loss of 55 yards. The eight sacks allowed is the most New Mexico had given up since 1991.
“They were ready to play, so we had to bring our A game,” Brian Smith, a Missouri senior defensive end said. “I’m at a loss for words right now, I’m so excited.”
Smith was a major part of the Missouri’s success. He tied a school record for sacks in a game with four, the fourth player to achieve that mark. Coming into this season he already had the career sack record.
“He’s just unbelievable,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said of Smith’s performance.
Brock Christopher, who led the team with seven tackles said people should expect the line to play the way it did.
“Everybody knows by now that our defensive line is pretty phenomenal,” Christopher said. “That should be expected. Smitty’s motor is unbelievable. That whole D line’s motor is unbelievable.”
Defensive end Xzavie Jackson credits the Tigers’ preparation for the team’s great pass rush.
“I think we work on pass rush more than anyone in the nation,” Jackson, who had two sacks, said. “When they got third and long all we could do was get to the quarterback. It worked great.”
The offense, which averaged 40.5 points per game coming into Saturday’s game, only scored 27 points. In the second quarter the defense forced three turnovers, but the offense could only produce three points.
“We didn’t do enough on our side,” Daniel said of the offense’s lackluster performance.
The one bright side of Missouri’s offense was Tony Temple, who ran for 168 yards on 22 carries.
When asked what he said to the defense after the game, Temple’s response was simple.
“You just keep saying ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Smith said picking up for the offense when it’s down is all part of the game.
“Football is an offensive and defensive game,” Smith said. “Offense have to do their part and defense got to do their part. When offense is not up to par, it’s up to the defense to pick up the slack and that’s what we do.”
One downside to Saturday’s strong defensive performance is that Ziggy Hood, a defensive tackle, broke a bone in his right foot and will miss four to five weeks. At halftime it was announced that Hood was doubtful for the second half. With about 4:20 to play in the third quarter Hood came back the field in street clothes, using crutches. After the game Pinkel said that Hood will have a pin placed in his foot Monday morning.
The Missouri defense gave up its first points in the game with 31 seconds left in the third quarter when Kenny Byrd kicked a career-long 51-yard field goal.
Earlier in the game New Mexico scored its first touchdown on an interception return by Michael Tuohy. After the game Daniel said he had a bad read on the play.
The Lobos’ other touchdown came on a 13-yard pass from Nelson to Marcus Smith with 25 seconds left in the game.
“You give them credit,” Pinkel said of the late touchdown. “Their kids kept on fighting to the end. I thought that showed a lot of character from their standpoint. I was disappointed with our defense because we played such good defense the entire game.”