OH YEAH, we’re still doing these!
Saturday night’s return to play after three weeks of downtime wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing display of football. However, that matters little in the win-loss column. At the turn of the clock, Missouri was 3-3.
Despite the relative ugliness of the Mayor’s Cup, there were a number of outstanding performances from the Tigers, including one that was nothing short of brilliant. As we do after every game, our masthead submitted ballots for their MV3, or the three players most deserving of praise. Number one should be no surprise...
1. Nick Bolton
I feel like a broken record when I write about Nick Bolton — what else is there to say about him at this point? We can dress it up in lots of fancy adjectives, but only one word wholly sums up Bolton’s performance in this game and season: special.
All of his Bolton’s best qualities were on display in the battle for the Mayor’s Cup. He was disruptive in the backfield and always found himself around the ball. He once again led the team with 14 tackles, two of which were TFLs. He was the standard-bearer in both execution and energy.
Maybe the best thing here is to point at BK, who wrote succinctly about Bolton’s brilliance in his takeaways piece after the game: “These are the last three games we’ll have the pleasure of watching Bolton in a Missouri uniform. Enjoy it.”
2. Martez Manuel
The sophomore out of Columbia West has been scratching at a breakout all season, and it finally came in Columbia East. Manuel was all over the place for the Tiger defense, swarming the Gamecock backfield for 1.5 sacks and logging a pass defended to go along with five total tackles. While Nick Bolton is always brilliant, the Tiger defense is often dependent on one or two other defenders to help him carry the load. Manuel stepped up into that role on Saturday and put himself in pole position to become a leader once Bolton inevitably heads to the NFL.
T-3. Tyler Badie
It feels like Tyler Badie has been lost in the shuffle a bit this year. After all, his partner in the backfield just became the all-time leading rusher among Mizzou running backs.
But let’s not take Badie’s status as the change-of-pace back and resign him as some sort of second fiddle. In many ways, Badie was the most important Tiger on offense against South Carolina. When the offensive line couldn’t open holes for Rountree, Badie used his speed to gash the defensive front. When the receivers couldn’t get any separation, Drink drew up a wheel route for Badie to run. On a night when the offense struggled to maintain momentum, Badie averaged 7.7 yards per touch. Without him, who knows if Mizzou even gets to 17 points?
T-3. Grant McKinniss
No, no, you’ve got this correct. McKinniss ended up on several ballots, earning enough to tie Tyler Badie for the third spot.
McKinniss has been a solid punter for the Tigers in his grad transfer year, but you’d be hard-pressed to call him a game winner. That changed on Saturday night, when McKinniss pinned the Gamecocks deep in their own territory several times. The most crucial punt came in the closing minutes, when he skied one perfectly, giving the punt team enough time to grab the ball at the one-yard line.
Missouri has proven adept at winning the field position battle at times this year, and that was an important part of the Mayor’s Cup victory. McKinniss played a central, irreplaceable role.
Others receiving votes: Keke Chism, Devin Nicholson, Larry Rountree III
How about y’all? Who were your most valuable players against South Carolina? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @RockMNation.