Cale Garrett had never scored a touchdown before the 2019 season. He now has three consecutive games with one. His teammates are impressed.
“I wish I could do it like him, but I can’t,” said safety Ronnell Perkins, who returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown against South Carolina on Sept. 21 in Missouri’s last game. His streak of one consecutive game with a TD ended Saturday.
In football, quantity matters.
In the second quarter against Troy on Saturday, Garrett had two interceptions. On the first one, he tipped the pass and hauled it in near the 27-yard line. He nearly dragged three tacklers into the end zone before he was brought down at the one. Then, two minutes later, Garrett found the paydirt he just missed with his first pick. Troy quarterback Kaleb Barker threw to the right side while being pressured and Garrett cut in front of the receiver to pick it off. This time, no one was in the linebacker’s vicinity and he took it 33 yards, surrounded by blockers.
The past three games show just how good Garrett, a senior defensive captain, is, as well as how often he has found himself in the right place at the right time, of course. His teammates, however, insist it is more than dumb luck that has led to Garrett’s three touchdowns.
“Every interception (Garrett) has got has been off of film study,” linebacker Nick Bolton said. “(Garrett) is a good football player with good instincts.”
Troy head coach Chip Lindsey was aware of Garrett before the game, and was complimentary of the senior linebacker afterward.
“He does a great job, from what I understand, of studying film,” Lindsey said. “I think he just reads the eyes of the quarterback. The one he tipped up, he made a great play on.”
By now, Garrett’s teammates don’t seem to be surprised when he makes a big play.
“What’s setting (Garrett) apart is his dedication,” defensive tackle Kobie Whiteside said. “(Garrett) wakes up at four, five o’clock in the morning and starts watching film.”
He now has 39 tackles and four takeaways in what so far has been a senior campaign to remember.
Wide receiver Jonathan Nance, who had a 64-yard touchdown reception against Troy, now has three touchdowns on the season — same as Garrett, a defensive player.
“As long as he keeps scoring and helping us out, I’m cool with that,” Nance laughed.
Nance, naturally, will get more opportunities to reach the end zone than Garrett will going forward. The same can’t be said about the linebacker’s colleagues on defense, all of whom would like nothing better than to join him in the scoring column. Right now, Perkins and Bolton are the only other Missouri defenders with touchdowns.
“I don’t think there is anything we can do (to keep up with Garrett’s scoring),” defensive tackle Jordan Elliott chuckled.
Whiteside is still motivated to at least get on the board with a touchdown.
“Me and Jordan Elliott were talking about it today. We have got to get us one,” Whiteside said.
After Garrett fell on a fumble in the end zone against South Carolina, he was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. Wide receiver Jalen Knox believes his teammate deserves another.
“Watching all the things he does, and how much success he brings to this team, it makes you want to go out there and do the same thing,” Knox said. “(Garrett) is not one of those cocky guys. He’s just humble.”
Missouri head coach heaped praise on Garrett after the game, calling the linebacker “the heart and soul” of the team. On the first interception, Garrett was following the defensive play call and found himself in a good spot.
“I’d like to give our player all the credit, but I’d also like to give our call all the credit,” Odom said. “It was a perfect marriage of the two.”
While most Tigers were praiseworthy of Garrett, left tackle Yasir Durant was a little more reserved.
“For the record, I think I think I have better hands than Cale,” Durant said playfully. “I think if I played linebacker, I’d have about five (touchdowns).”
Unfortunately for Durant, he likely won’t get many opportunities to back up that claim. Garrett doesn’t get many, either, but so far he has made the most of them. Saturday was just the latest example.
Contributing editor is Michael Knisley.