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If Missouri does well in 2017, we’ll look back at last year’s win over Vandy as a harbinger

Attacking defense, explosive offense, and fourth-quarter domination? Yeah, that sounds fine.

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NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
  • Missouri defensive ends had seven tackles for loss.
  • Vanderbilt’s primary running backs rushed 25 times for just 98 yards.
  • Damarea Crockett rushed 20 times for 154 yards.
  • Drew Lock completed 22 of 37 passes at 13.4 yards per completion.
  • J’Mon Moore caught eight balls for 138.
  • Slot receivers added five catches for 85.
  • Dimetrios Mason caught five balls, and tight ends caught four.
  • Johnathon Johnson had a 28-yard punt return.
  • Mizzou dominated the fourth quarter.

Missouri’s 26-17 win over Vanderbilt last November was noteworthy in a couple of ways. First of all, it was a win, Missouri’s first SEC victory of the year. It ended a five-game losing streak, and when wins are rare, you remember them no matter what.

Beyond that, though, it provided a blueprint. If Missouri is to do well this fall — a distinct possibility, albeit one far from guaranteed — it’s going to be a with a team that looks like that one. Mizzou leaned on Crockett, distributed the ball pretty well, and attacked on defense.

If not for place-kicking (something that Mizzou would do well not to resemble from this game), this would have been a far more comfortable win. Missouri flipped the field on Vandy as the teams traded a couple of early punts, and Crockett scored from four yards out to give Mizzou a 6-0 lead. Vandy found a quick offensive spark, but Joey Burkett picked off Kyle Shurmur at the Mizzou 16, and Mizzou spent the rest of the quarter dominating the field position battle.

On the second play of the second quarter, with VU facing at third-and-5 from its 14, Aarion Penton stepped in front of a Shurmur pass and took it to the house. 13-0.

Vandy responded by driving again — the Commodores should easily have their best offense in quite some time this coming fall — but Shurmur couldn’t hit Bailey McElwain on fourth-and-2 from the Mizzou 18, and on the next play, the Tigers went for the dagger: Lock and Moore connected for an 82-yard touchdown pass. Tucker McCann missed his second PAT of the game, but the score gave Mizzou a 19-0 lead that would eventually hold up.

To their credit, the Commodores responded well. They cut the lead to 19-10, with McCann missing a field goal to end the first half, then scored on their first drive of the third quarter to make it 19-17. McCann missed a 21-yard chip shot field goal, and on Mizzou’s next drive, the Tigers muffed a snap at the Vandy 1. Instead of trailing by two touchdowns, the Commodores entered the fourth quarter trailing by just two with the ball near midfield. But Mizzou would quickly put the game away. Charles Harris sacked Shurmur for a huge loss, and after a punt, the Tigers drove 85 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a Lock-to-Moore connection to make the score 26-17. Backup Ben Tesson made the PAT.

Fourth quarter yardage: Mizzou 88, Vanderbilt minus-6.

Missouri should have been up by a far greater amount late in the game, but given the choice between blowing another lead or putting the game away, they did the latter with vigor.

Mizzou and Vanderbilt have played seven times; the Commodores went 2-0-1 to start the series, and the Tigers have won three of four since. Mizzou’s 51-28 win in Nashville in 2013 was probably the most memorable overall, but if in about five months we’re looking back at a successful 2017 campaign, we’ll find the 2016 Vandy game — like the 2012 Tennessee game — as the first sign of things to come. Here’s to hoping, anyway.

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NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri
Damarea Crockett
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports