When Martin Rucker dropped an uncontested touchdown pass from Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel last week, he took it personally.
Not only was the drop uncharacteristic of the sure-handed tight end, but it was embarrassing. In his own words, the flub made him look like “one of those dummies you see on TV.”
Consequently, there was only one thing Rucker was thinking as Daniel lofted the ball into the end zone in his direction in the closing seconds of the first half: Don’t drop it again.
“All I was thinking was, ‘Catch the ball,’” Rucker said. “Everybody will forget about last week.”
After the catch, the Tigers sprinted into the locker room with a commanding 21-6 halftime lead over the Colorado Buffaloes. Rucker’s one-yard touchdown grab also complemented the two touchdown catches fellow tight end Chase Coffman had already made in the first quarter.
“We were just getting open,” Rucker humbly said. “We take what the defense gives us. There was a lot of space up there.”
With the preseason buildup surrounding the playmaking capabilities of both Rucker and Coffman, it had been somewhat of a surprise that the duo had combined for only two touchdown catches through the season’s first four games.
Their statistics weren’t mediocre by any means, but they were just less than the towering preseason expectations because of the myriad of passing options Daniel has enjoyed this season. Each had only one touchdown catch coming into Saturday’s contest against Colorado.
Both Rucker and Coffman said the statistics didn’t matter. Daniel, however, was ready for things to change.
“We wanted to get them involved in the offense, said Daniel, who finished the game with 253 yards passing. “They haven’t been involved the past couple of weeks as much as we would like to. They’re playmakers, and they showed that today.”
Coffman’s two first-half touchdown catches were crucial in picking up a Missouri defense that didn’t seem nearly as dominant as its No. 1 national ranking would have suggested. The defense that has been the cornerstone of the Tigers’ success so far this year, took advantage of an early offensive explosion to pick it up.
“We were sitting on the sidelines saying, ‘Hey, what is the defense doing?’” Rucker said. “But you know, we just got to pick it up because I’m sure at times this season they’ve been like, ‘Man, what is the offense doing?’ We’ve just got to pick each other up.”
Rucker’s six catches for 66 yards also propelled the tight end into select company, as only the fourth Missouri tight end to amass 1,000 yards receiving. The milestone was a goal that Rucker had set, though not a priority.
“Of course it always means something to you. You set goals and want to meet them,” said the junior, who now has 212 receiving yards on the season. “But in the large scheme of things, it really doesn’t mean anything. Just keep winning.”
INJURY REPORT: A crowd-pleasing 41-yard punt return by wide receiver Tommy Saunders in the third quarter was dampened by an ACL injury that sophomore cornerback Domonique Johnson sustained on the play. While there was no specification on the severity of the injury, Johnson will undergo surgery, which will likely keep him out for the rest of the season.
Defensive back Pig Brown only saw minimal action on Saturday. He is still nursing a sore ankle.