Tommy Chavis stood underneath the south stands of Memorial Stadium, tucked away in a corner near the small, makeshift tent for Gary Pinkel’s postgame news conference.
Cameras flooded Chase Daniel, Martin Rucker and the rest of the faces Missouri fans are so used to seeing in the media.
Chavis stood back and answered a message on his phone. Participating in postgame interviews isn’t normally a staple of his postgame routine.
It was Saturday. And the sophomore’s media workload might increase because star defensive end Brian Smith fractured his right hip during the game and will likely miss the rest of the regular season according to MU officials.
After Saturday’s 41-21 victory against Kansas State, it’s hard to claim that anybody made a bigger play than Chavis’ tackle on fourth-and-goal in the second quarter.
With Missouri trailing and the Wildcats driving, Kansas-State slowly pushed down the field and to the Tigers’ 9. Three James Johnson runs later, the ball was on the 1.
Defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams stood in the middle of the field, looked toward the Missouri sidelines and saw running back Tony Temple and the rest of the offense, jumping up and down, waiting and hoping for someone to step up and plug the slow drip that was the Wildcats’ momentum before it sprung a full leak.
“We were ready to go in, we knew what was going to happen,” Temple said. “We just knew we had to make plays.”
Chavis isn’t the flashiest player on a team filled with extroverted personalities. He’s not the biggest player. And he’s certainly not the most recognizable guy coming out of the locker room.
But with a yard standing between the Wildcats and a double-digit lead, Chavis became the star of the day, the play ending with Chavis on top of Johnson, and Johnson a yard short of the goal line.
Dedrick Harrington called it the biggest play of the game. Chavis said it was the best play he has made in recent memory.
“Every day in practice that’s one of our scenarios. Fourth-and-goal and it feels great to go out and do the things I know I can do,” Chavis said.
On the opposite side of Chavis’ stop, frustration was all the Wildcats felt.
“I don’t know what happened,” running back Leon Patton said. “It was a great opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it. We didn’t make the adjustments. They got us.”
Listed as a second-stringer on the depth chart for most of the season, Chavis has seen action in every game. But his name isn’t one Missouri fans hear a lot.
He entered the game with nine tackles for the season. His momentum-changing tackle was one of only two tackles Chavis made on Saturday.
Linebacker Marcus Bacon was eager to talk about his teammate who few people outside of the Tigers’ locker room know.
“He’s just been working hard in practice and he stepped up when he needed to step up,” Bacon said. “He would probably do that any other time. He could probably start on a lot of other teams but we’ve just got such a good defensive line. He just did what he had to do.”
Of course, with the tackle made on the 1-yard line, there was the little matter of Missouri having to march 99 yards to score a touchdown. All it took was 10 plays, and the momentum swung back to Missouri for good.
“We were proud to do what we did and then watch the offense come out and compliment us on our good job,” Chavis said. “That was the best part about it, to go back and watch our offense go 99 yards and score a touchdown.”
Chavis could potentially see more of these situations. The man ahead of him on the depth chart, Smith, injured his hip during David Overstreet’s fumble recovery for a touchdown according to Pinkel.
In the late fourth quarter, Smith exited the Missouri locker room on crutches, which he angrily slammed once just before leaving. With help from the Missouri training staff, he was placed in the back of the car and driven to a hospital for x-rays.
Pinkel said after the game he didn’t know the extent of the injury. But now he will have to prepare for the loss of Smith, who could possibly return for a bowl game.