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Mizzou 51, Vanderbilt 28: Tigers' defense nearly flawless in the first half

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

KC Star: MU notes: Tigers bottle up Matthews in first half

For a few weeks, coach Gary Pinkel has talked up Missouri’s improving pass rush, which failed to record any sacks against Toledo or Indiana.

Five sacks against Arkansas State last week seemed like a step in the right direction, but the pass rush showed up with even greater authority against Vanderbilt.

The Tigers recorded seven sacks, including three by senior defensive end Michael Sam for the second consecutive week.

Junior Kony Ealy added two sacks, while junior Markus Golden added 1 1/2 sacks and junior Lucas Vincent registered a half-sack.

Post-Dispatch: Mizzou defense contains Vandy receiver

Matthews, the Southeastern Conference leader with 40 catches through the first five weeks of the season, finished with impressive statistics — 123 yards on seven catches — but as the Tigers surged ahead early, the ball rarely found its way to the 6-3 senior. He had just two catches for eight yards at halftime. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels targeted the 6-3 senior wideout six times in the half as the Tigers responded with a mix of zone and man coverage, with Gaines usually drawing the assignment on Matthews when he lined up inside or outside.

Matthews dropped what would have been a first down on third-and-7, when safety Braylon Webb clobbered him along the sideline.

"Any time you get a big hit on a big player, that’s definitely a good thing," Gaines said.

Later, with a crowd of defenders circling him over the middle, Matthews let a catchable pass sail past him.

PowerMizzou: Pick kicks off a rout

"They were running a little play action pass and I turned around and looked for somebody to match and there was nobody behind me," Brothers said. "I turned around and looked at the quarterback and I saw the running back in there so I just tried to bait him to throw it right to me and he did. A couple linemen tried to get me, I guess I was too slow, I couldn't take it to the end zone."

Eric Waters turned Brothers' interception into six points with his first touchdown catch of the season.
"That's something we always want to work on is scoring points off turnovers. Not just points, but touchdowns," Franklin said. "Kentrell did a good job intercepting it and he joked around after saying he wanted me to get a touchdown, that's why he didn't run it back."

The pick was Missouri's 11th of the season, putting the Tigers into a three-way tie for second nationally. Virginia Tech leads way with 13. All of last season, Mizzou intercepted just seven passes.

"That's what we preach every day in practice," E.J. Gaines said. "Only having seven last year, that wasn't acceptable and we knew that. Coming out this year, we really concentrated on getting interceptions, getting takeaways."

Here are Vandy's 17 first-half rushes:

  • Jerron Seymour rush for 1
  • Seymour rush for 7
  • Seymour rush for 4
  • Austyn Carta-Samuels rush for 0
  • Wesley Tate rush for 3
  • ACS rush for 9
  • Tate rush for 3
  • Tate rush for 3
  • ACS rush for 1
  • Tate rush for 2
  • Seymour rush for 2
  • Tate rush for 10
  • Tate rush for 2
  • ACS rush for 2
  • Seymour rush for 1
  • Seymour rush for 2
  • ACS rush for 1

Three of 17 went for more than three yards.

Here are Vandy's 17 first-half passes:

  • INC to Seymour
  • INC to Jordan Matthews
  • Complete to Seymour for 4
  • INT by Kentrell Brothers
  • ACS sacked for loss of 4
  • INC to Matthews
  • Complete to Kris Kentera for 5
  • Complete to Tate for 5
  • ACS sacked for loss of 4
  • Complete to Matthews for 5
  • Complete to Seymour for 4
  • INC to Matthews
  • Complete to Kentera for 5
  • Complete to Kentera for 4
  • INC to Matthews
  • Complete to Tate for 13
  • INC to Tate

One went for more than five yards, and the Spike Factor was 53%. On 53% of Vandy's first-half passes, a spike would have been as or more successful than the actual play. Vandy was intent on establishing the run and couldn't, and it gave Mizzou time to build a lead before the Commodores said "Screw it" and opened things up for Matthews and Jonathan Krause.

Things certainly loosened up in the second half, and Mizzou's coverage of deeper passes is, to put it kindly, lacking at times. (Georgia, by the way, is really, really good at the intermediate passing.) But Mizzou was ridiculously dominant when it mattered. This isn't an amazing offense, but it's better than Mizzou made it look in the first half. And it probably goes without saying that the play of the defensive line has been beyond encouraging.