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Top Moments of the 2010s: Defense, Marcus Murphy lead a crazy win at The Swamp

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The 2014 Tigers needed a pick me up, and they got one — albeit in one of the strangest games a Missouri football team has ever played.

Missouri v Florida Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The 2014 Missouri Tigers were an enigma, which is just about the last thing you want from a team one year removed from a Top 5 finish and SEC East division title. The defense, buoyed by another crop of excellent pass rushers, was excellent. But the offense was a mess. Sophomore Maty Mauk couldn’t throw his way out of a wet paper bag. Russell Hansborough and Marcus Marphy couldn’t find room to run. And when the offense did find ways to string together points, the defense couldn’t find ways to hold.

After dropping a home game to Indiana (who would only win three more games on the year), the Tigers split their opening SEC games and went into Gainesville for Florida’s homecoming game fresh off a 34-0 pasting from the Georgia Bulldogs.

What followed was one of the weirdest, wildest, and most befuddling games Missouri fans will ever see.

There were many Rock M pieces written about this game, but my favorite is The Godfather’s piece on Mizzou as an example of the extremes:

This was fun (at times). And if you don’t pause to enjoy it, you don’t really have a reason to follow sports. Our approach here has always been to maximize the happy feelings and try to move on from the negative as quickly as possible. That’s not the same as ignoring the negative or pretending it doesn’t exist; it’s just an attempt at being as healthy as possible within our obsession. And 29-point wins over name teams are always happy things, even if we figure more negativity awaits soon enough. Forgoing present-tense happiness because of potential future-tense sadness is the opposite of healthy.

Get a load of some of these box score highlights:

  • Maty Mauk had a QB Rating of 14.6 and averaged 1.1 yards per attempt
  • Missouri’s leading receiver — Darius White — had 9 yards on two receptions
  • Missouri’s running backs averaged 2.65 yards a carry and totaled 68 yards — between three backs!
  • Christian Brinser punted for almost 300 yards

Those, of course, entirely ignore how Missouri ran out to a 42-0 lead.

  • Marcus Murphy totaled 197 return yards
  • The Missouri defense forced six turnovers, returning two of them for touchdowns and sacked Florida’s QBs six times
  • Darvin Ruise (remember him?!) logged his lone college touchdown

Watching this drug was like being on Ambien, or at least it’s what I would imagine being on Ambien is like. You’re barely lucid, you’re not sure what’s happening and you think there might be actual Tigers and Gators running around playing football — the two offenses made it feel that way in any case.

The mood after the game was decidedly less enthusiastic than it seems all these years removed. This game has aged incredibly well, especially if you take the expectations set forth by Bill in the piece mentioned above.

Just beat Vandy, and you’re bowl eligible. The bottom-tier goal for 2014 will be met. But as I wrote last night in the post-game thread, Mizzou is in an incredibly strange place right now; assuming the Tigers do indeed win next week (and I understand if you aren’t comfortable enough to assume that), then Mizzou will enter November with a legitimate chance of going either 6-6 or 10-2. All four November opponents are beatable if Mizzou can just develop some sort of offensive competence, but all four November opponents can beat Mizzou if the Tigers are forced to rely on defense and return touchdowns.

The Tigers didn’t need to just rely on those two things moving forward... mostly just the first. But that strong defense would be enough to catapult the Tigers to another SEC Championship game and a Citrus Bowl victory, capping off a two year run in which Missouri amassed 23 wins, two SEC East titles, Cotton and Citrus Bowl trophies and a healthy supply of memories for Mizzou fans everywhere.