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Floyd gets return man redemption versus SEMO

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For the first time in almost two years, and after an injury-plagued 2018, Richaud Floyd took a punt to the house.

NCAA Football: SE Missouri State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Richaud Floyd returned a punt for a touchdown Saturday.

It was a beauty, too. Floyd weaved in and out of Southeast Missouri State defenders as he broke toward the right sideline. He picked up a couple of blocks from the return team, then shook off a couple of potential tackles before strolling into the end zone with Adam Sparks right there to celebrate with him.

Floyd’s touchdown, a 71-yarder, was the first Missouri score on a kick or punt return since a 74-yard punt return on Nov. 18, 2017 — by Richaud Floyd.

You see, Floyd’s redshirt sophomore season in 2017 solidified him as the No. 1 return man. Though he only attempted 11 punt returns that year, he averaged 19.8 yards per return and ran two of them back for touchdowns. Even though he wasn’t scoring at will, Floyd’s speed with the ball made him a threat to at least give the dangerous, Drew Lock-led offense solid field position to start.

But an injury-plagued 2018 season didn’t leave Floyd with much to be happy about. A broken bone in his leg forced him to miss the first six games of the season, and then another injury during the Nov. 17 matchup with Tennessee kept him out of the regular-season finale against Arkansas. He ended the year with just three punt returns for -4 yards.

It was a far cry from his 2017 season, and his injury troubles coincided with Missouri’s return struggles. Overall, the Tigers had 19 punt returns but managed just 42 yards on those attempts. The return unit just never seemed to move the ball anywhere when they actually got the chance to return.

But with Floyd back and healthy, the return unit seems to be in good hands.

And Floyd, who has always seemed to want to do what’s best for his team, has definitely taken the opportunity to be the main return man and ran with it — pun(t) intended. He came into college as a receiver and played sparingly his first few seasons, then switched to cornerback in the offseason. As his coaches described it then, it’s because he wanted to do what was best for the team.

Going through a season full of injuries is tough, especially when you can see how much losing you impacts what the team is able to do on the field. Floyd was never a high-profile player on this team, but him getting the offense that much closer to the end zone was a factor in making that 2017 offense so explosive. That’s why he deserved a moment like this.

He’s not going to be relied on to be a part of the player rotation at cornerback this season. Returning punts will be his main job, and it seems like he’s embracing it. He’s already had a couple of strong returns on the year, with a 43-yarder against Wyoming being one of the biggest positives to come out of that shocker.

Missouri waited all of last season for some form of a punt return game to manifest, but it never did.

I said during this week’s Pregamin’ that I wanted to see the return team put in some work against a team like SEMO. It needed to happen, because otherwise there wouldn’t be much hope that it ever would.

But the punt return team looked as good as it has in years against the Redhawks.

Floyd made sure of it.