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Missouri Defense Shuts Down Snell, No. 12 Kentucky, but it’s Not Enough in Last-Second Loss

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The Tigers’ offense couldn’t muster up a single first down in the second half, leaving Missouri fans speechless.

Kentucky v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson dropped back to pass with just under three minutes remaining in the ballgame. Although it was third-and-two, he decided to throw a bomb downfield.

Missouri corner DeMarkus Acy sprinted down the field with his man on a deep post and caught the ball in stride for an interception. If the Tigers could get a first down or two, the game would virtually be over.

But an eighth-straight three-and-out by Missouri ensued, and Kentucky got the ball back with ample time to drive down the field and score. Tre Williams sacked the quarterback to open up the drive, but four plays later the Wildcats found themselves in the Missouri red zone with 15 seconds remaining.

A Terez Hall sack followed, giving Tiger fans some hope, as the Wildcats would have to go 28 yards in less than ten seconds. That shouldn’t happen, right?

But a wide-open pass in the flat brought Kentucky to the Missouri 10 yard line with four seconds remaining. On the next play, a pass to the back-left corner of the end zone fell to the turf.

“Pass interference on the defense.”

Acy was flagged on a questionable pass interference call as time expired, but the game goes on. Missouri had stopped Kentucky time and time again in short-yardage situations, so why should this be any different?

The ball sat at the two-yard line with zeroes on the clock. This was the game.

Shortly after, Kentucky wide receiver C.J. Conrad found himself wide open on a quick out to the left side of the end zone, as silence engulfed Memorial Stadium.

Kentucky 15, Missouri 14.

“I’m devastated for our football team,” Barry Odom said. “It’s one you live with forever.”

A milestone victory over a ranked opponent eluded Odom and Drew Lock Saturday afternoon due in part, shockingly, to Missouri’s offense. It could do nothing right in the second half, going three-and-out in all eight possessions and accumulating just 34 yards.

But if Missouri stopped Kentucky on that final drive, fans would be talking about how Lock and Barry Odom finally got over the hump and defeated a ranked team. They would be confident going into Gainesville to face Florida next week; and they would think a 9-3 season is very well within reach.

Instead, they’re in agony, dealing with an all-too familiar feeling of disappointment.

While Missouri’s offense looked incompetent in the second half, the defense nearly made everyone forget all about it with its stout play Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers came into Saturday’s matchup with the 93rd-ranked defense in college football, allowing a staggering 419 yards per game. Fortunately for Missouri, their defense has been stout all year against Kentucky’s only dimension on offense — running the football.

The Wildcats have relied heavily on star running back Benny Snell Jr. to carry their offense, but he wasn’t as electric as usual Saturday afternoon. The junior was held 67 yards on 19 carries (3.5 ypc) — his second-lowest total of the season.

Snell showed his frustration on the last play of the third quarter, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after getting rocked by Terez Hall at the line of scrimmage. Snell proceeded to get in a fight with his coaches shortly after, earning himself a spot on the bench for the Wildcats’ ensuing drive.

Part of this frustration was due to an ineffectiveness on third/fourth-and-shorts. Three times Kentucky ran the ball on fourth and short, and three times Cale Garrett and the Missouri defense came up with the stop.

The most crucial of Garrett’s 14 tackles came on a fourth-and-one play on Missouri’s two-yard line with just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats lined up in the wildcat and the Missouri linebacker charged into the middle gap, snuffing out Kentucky’s chances of scoring.

Garrett’s performance was critical to limiting Snell all game, forcing Kentucky to throw the ball more than they would like to.

Although one would think that bodes well for the Wildcats — seeing as Missouri’s secondary was ranked 117th in the country coming into this week — that wasn’t the case.

Awful throws downfield and dropped passes in key situations plagued both of the Kentucky quarterbacks all day, as they couldn’t get momentum going on a big gain.

The cornerback duo of DeMarkus Acy and newly-appointed starter Christian Holmes came to play as well, combining for three pass-breakups and an interception on the day. Although some may pin the outcome of Saturday’s loss on Acy’s costly penalty, his and Holmes’ performance helped keep Missouri within reach of upsetting the No. 12 team in the nation.

Sure, one can look at Kentucky’s game-winning drive and say the secondary is Missouri’s biggest problem. And for seven games, it has been — but not Saturday afternoon. Not this game.

This loss is on the team’s leaders, Lock and Odom. Losing in this fashion with the talent Missouri has is absolutely inexcusable.

Things won’t get any easier in the foreseeable future, as the Tigers face the Florida Gators in The Swamp next weekend. Missouri has to figure something out, as Florida has of the nation’s best defenses. If this week’s performance is any indication, it could be a long day in Gainesville, FL.