Do you remember the 2014 Missouri football team? It was quite the experience. They finished that season seventh in the SEC in scoring offense, but somehow managed to win the SEC East.
I say somehow, but we all remember how they did it. They had arguably the best pass rushing duo in program history.
Markus Golden and Shane Ray dominated the SEC in 2014 in a way you rarely see from any defensive duo, much less an edge rushing duo. Ray led the conference with 14.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss. Golden was tied for fourth in the conference with 10 sacks and third with 20 tackles for loss.
If you could point to any one game that signified the importance of Golden to that ‘14 Mizzou roster, it was the fourth game fo the year. The Tigers took on Indiana at home. Mizzou was off to an impressive 3-0 start to the season. Indiana was 1-1 coming off a loss at Bowling Green.
This was supposed to be a “gimme” game. It turned out to be anything but.
Golden was listed a surprise inactive that evening as he recovered from an injury. Indiana’s offense took advantage. Tevin Coleman finished the day with 19 carries for 132 yards and a touchdown, and three receptions for 57 yards. The Tigers defense simply couldn’t get stops.
I’ll never forget that day. We all knew Golden was important to the defense, but I’m not sure even I knew he was that critical to what the Tigers wanted to accomplish defensively.
Golden was the all-around player who dominated against the run and the pass. His greatest attribute as a player was his motor. He never gave up on a play. Never.
Ray was different. His success was about his speed off the line. He wasn’t your traditional “bendy” pass rusher, but he was just so good at finding his way to the quarterback, and the numbers were consistent. He had at least one sack in each of the first five games of the season. He had multiple sacks in five fo the opening nine games.
He consistently got to the quarterback in a way no Mizzou pass rusher ever had before 2014. No Tigers pass rusher has matched his 14.5 total sacks since.
The duo’s season came to a perfect end in the Citrus Bowl when Golden was named the MVP with 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Ray’s game is almost forgotten despite also posting four tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
#NewZou New Year Look Back— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) January 1, 2021
2015 Citrus Bowl ⤵️
Markus Golden takes home MVP honors after 10 tackles, 4.0 TFL & 1.5 sacks
Marcus Murphy & Russell Hansbrough combine for 337 yards on the ground
#Mizzou defeats Minnesota 33-17 to finish 12-2#MIZ x #NewZou pic.twitter.com/IefczZQVUT
Watching those two meet at the quarterback is as much fun as I’ve ever had watching any pass rush duo as a Mizzou fan.