It's #DLineZou for a reason, folks.
Young and old, Missouri is stacked to the brim again with defensive line talent. The focus so far in the 2015 season had been on Kentrell Brothers and rest of the back seven, but an outstanding showing against Connecticut brought the D-line back to the front. Between six defensive linemen, the Tigers tallied 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Let's look at part of the unit's big afternoon in Charles Harris, Walter Brady, and Josh Augusta.
First, we'll start with Charles Harris, who is second in the nation in Tackles for loss (8.0). It was a simple day for Harris, finishing the afternoon with 2.0 TFL and a sack. This after a 4.5 TFL outing against Arkansas State.
Play 1 -- 12:32 in 1Q
Rather than brute force or technique, the Tigers take advantage of a Huskies broken play here early in the first quarter. Mizzou is lined up in the 4-3, UConn in the single back set. Harris is lined up outside the Huskies tight end. The ball is snapped, and Bryant Shirreffs looks completely lost. He'll end up trying to take it himself, only to be brought down by Harris who chased him down from the edge. Easy play, but I'm sure the Tigers will take it.
Play 2 -- 3:24 in 3Q
His next play, a sack, wasn't a broken play, and allowed Harris to show some technique in getting to the UConn QB and applying pressure in the pocket.
Harris is lined up across from the UConn tight end with Mizzou in a 4-3 set. The Huskies are in the shotgun with two receivers to the right. When the ball is snapped, Harris stunts through the "A" gap and is picked up by the offensive guard, while on the edge, Marcell Frazier is providing pressure that forces the QB to step up in the pocket. Harris spins off the guard and brings down the QB for his first and only sack of the day.
Next up, "The Juggernaut" himself: Josh Augusta. The big fella in the middle finished with 2.0 tackles for loss Saturday, bullying his way through the line to get the stop.
Play 1 -- 6:52 in 1Q
Augusta is lined up to the left of the center with Mizzou in the 4-3. This play was just Augusta flexing his muscles and dominating the center to make the play. The ball is snapped, and Augusta bulldozes his way into the backfield, taking down the RB for a loss of one.
Play 2 -- 14:22 in 4Q
Another show of Augusta's raw strength at DT. UConn is set up inside its own 5 after an MU 4th-and-goal falls short.
Mizzou stacks the box on first-and-10 with UConn's back to the wall. Huskies are in the I. After the ball is snapped, Augusta bursts through the line again, getting a hand on the Huskies RB just before he can get to the line. A second sooner, and Augusta might have brought him down in the end zone for a safety.
The most pleasant surprise from Saturday's game was the emergence of Walter Brady, who picked up his first two career sacks.
Play 1 -- 7:38 in 2Q
Mizzou has four down linemen, with UConn in a single-back set. Brady is lined up directly in front of the tight end. Ball is snapped, Tigers rush four, UConn goes with play-action with the QB rolling out right. Brady releases from the tight end and shows great pursuit outside the pocket to bring down the QB foe a big loss on first down.
This play happened right after the Huskies successful fake punt, so a momentum killer that would lead UConn to punt the ball back to Mizzou. (Yes, they end up with the ball after a special teams snafu by MU, but still.)
Play 2 -- 1:19 in 2Q
This was probably my favorite play of the day from a defensive lineman, and coming from a freshman like Brady, it makes it a little sweeter.
Mizzou comes out on first down with four down lineman and three linebackers. UConn is in a single-back set. Brady is lined up on the edge. Ball is snapped, Brady comes off the edge, with the running back picking him up on a block. The QB's arm goes back a bit as if he's going to throw, causing Brady to jump to attempt to bat down any pass attempt. He goes over the RB and falls to the turf. The QB takes off, thinking about keeping it, while Brady hops off the ground and chases down the QB for a sack. A great way to end a career day for Brady.
The Missouri offense has not been very good this year. The absence of Russell Hansbrough, the inconsistency of Maty Mauk, and the inexperience of the wide receivers have set the Tigers back early this year.
As Anthony Sherrils said after the UConn game, "When the offense is not on their 'A' game, the defense is always there to pick them up and get them back on the field." So far, the defense is working overtime.
If the defensive line plays every week like they did against UConn, Missouri can afford some offensive inefficiency, but if the Tigers can't find some answers to their problems into SEC play, even Barry Odom's defense can't lead Mizzou to success.