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Let’s Talk Defense

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After surrendering 340 rushing yards, the Tiger run defense is firmly on the hot seat

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Missouri at Kentucky Photo by Jeff Moreland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today, Nick Bolton is going to make his NFL debut for the Kansas City Chiefs, and yesterday, the Missouri Tigers missed his services more than ever in a 35-28 defeat against the Kentucky Wildcats.

In the game, the Tigers surrendered 340 rushing yards just one week after Central Michigan found many a running lane at Faurot Field as well. Those two subpar performances now have the Tigers sitting dead last among Power 5 schools in yards allowed and rushing yards allowed.

Last year, the Tigers had Bolton to lead this front-7 and shore up running lanes, but this year he’s gone. Blaze Alldredge and Devin Nicholson are struggling to replace Bolton’s consistency, and last year’s defensive line has only shown flashes, even with a record-setting performance in Week 1.

When the Tigers faced an SEC caliber offensive line yesterday they looked lost and Kentucky abused those mistakes. “It was people just not executing, not being in their right gaps with gap integrity,” explained defensive captain Martez Manuel in his postgame presser.

If there is a silver lining to how the defense has played these first two weeks, it’s been the success of the secondary since the return of Jaylon Carlies after his first half suspension in week 1.

QBs are just 20-42 for 295 yards against Mizzou in the Tigers’ last three halves. On top of that, they’ve also forced three turnovers, two picks and a fumble, all of which have been forced by Carlies.

So for all the struggles the front-7 has had, the secondary is doing their very best to keep the Tiger defense working, and they did enough to give Kentucky all it could handle. However, giving a team all they can handle is different than going into a hostile road environment and walking out with a victory, and that’s what Coach Drinwkitz, his players, and all of Mizzou Nation want to see.

Right now, the Tigers aren’t quite there, but if Drinkwitz and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks can go back to the drawing board to figure out these issues in the front-7, the 2021 edition of the Missouri Tigers could become a formidable foe.