Game Wrap: Vanderbilt
NASHVILLE -- Missouri ran away with a 51-28 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday. PowerMizzou.com breaks down a few of the story lines following the game.
RESULTS IN THE PASS RUSH: After the first three games of the season, Missouri's defense had three sacks. All three came in the first game against Murray State.
Despite that lack of results, Missouri's defense maintained all along that there was nothing wrong with its rush. The last two games prove that talk wasn't bluster.
A five-sack performance against Arkansas State was immediately backed-up with a seven-sack night against Vanderbilt. Four defensive linemen combined for that total, with Michael Sam registering three sacks for the second week in a row.
Last year, Sam led Missouri in sacks with 4.5. He has six this season. Pending the results of Saturday's games, Sam should rank in the top-three in the SEC. At the most, he'll be tied for the league lead with Arkansas' Charles Smith.
"He's had high energy," Gary Pinkel said about Sam. "He's a very good athlete. He can run, he's quick. He goes, man. His motor goes. And it's exciting to see. It gets contagious for those guys."
"Me, Michael Sam, Kony and Shane (Ray)? C'mon now." Markus Golden said. "If we're going 100-percent, we're gonna get sacks."
In 2012, Missouri had 21 sacks. Through five games in 2013, Missouri now has 15 sacks.
CONTAINING MATTHEWS: Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews is one of the nation's best, and his final stat line (7 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD) is indicative of that.
It doesn't tell the whole story, though.
In the first half, Missouri limited Matthews to two catches for eight yards. Austyn Carta-Samuels targeted Matthews six times in that half. By the time Matthews caught his first pass, Missouri led 17-0.
Vanderbilt found holes in Missouri's defense in the second half, and Carta-Samuels finished with 338 yards on 29-of-41 passing, two touchdowns and one interception. Because of Vanderbilt's second-half production, Missouri only out-gained the Commodores by 55 yards.
"They threw the ball an awful lot, and at the end there, we lost our focus a little bit," Pinkel said. "We need to work on those things."
Despite that second-half production, Vanderbilt never cut Missouri's lead to under 16 points.
A TIGHT END SIGHTING: Missouri's offense is no longer the haven for tight end production it was when Martin Rucker, Chase Coffman and Michael Egnew played the position, but Eric Waters provided a reminder that the position can still be a threat.
Waters had three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. Entering Saturday, Missouri's tight ends combined for two catches for 17 yards.
"It was nice to get that out there a little bit," Pinkel said. "We ran some play-action passes with him. He got the touchdown pass over the middle, a real nice play by James Franklin. It was nice to get him in there."
BAGGETT SHINES: Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett had an inconsistent start to the season, making three of his six field goals. All three misses came within 40-yards.
On Saturday, Baggett made three field goals, from 44, 29 and 41-yards.
"I thought Andrew did a real good job, didn't he?," Pinkel said. "But he practiced better this week, too. That's a position, it's like golf, where you can't go out there and be inconsistent all the time in practice and go out and all of a sudden be consistent in games.
"That's huge. Boy."
Because of the success of Missouri's offense and Baggett's leg, Missouri punter Christian Brinser wasn't needed often. He punted the ball once, with under ten minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
"He said he was bored," Baggett said. "He was sitting there in the first quarter, then the second quarter, then the third quarter rolled around. He said he had a tough time warming up at halftime. It's always a great thing that he's not punting, but for him, I mean, that's his job."
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