A defense that had carried Missouri all season long had finally broken. To the tune of 123 rushing yards and 385 total yards, the Syracuse offense posted 31 points on Missouri without the benefit of a turnover.
Most noticeable, and most baffling, was Orange receiver Alec Lemon running uncovered inside the Missouri ten-yard line and diving into the south end zone for the last of his 244 yards receiving and his team's game-winning points.
The box score showed zero Missouri sacks. It showed just two tackles for loss and one quarterback hurry. And it had to be asked: How much did the Tigers miss Sheldon Richardson?
The all-world defensive tackle was suspended for this game. According to sources, he had skipped either study hall or class. When given punishment by the Missouri coaches, Richardson refused to complete it. PowerMizzou.com broke the news of his suspension on Thursday night.
The responses from his teammates were varied. Some admitted his absence left a large hole in the Tiger defense.
"He's a great player so we definitely missed him a lot," E.J. Gaines said. "He definitely would have had an impact on the game, but like we always say, if somebody goes down, someone else has to step up and we didn't get that done tonight."
"Sheldon's a great player," captain Zaviar Gooden said. "I feel like he's the best player on our defense. He's earned the right for us to say that, but I felt like we still should have won without him today."
Some were adamant Missouri hadn't missed the big man in the middle at all.
"Who cares if Sheldon plays?" Kip Edwards said. "We don't need Sheldon to win ballgames. It's a team in there. Sheldon is an individual. It takes a team to win ballgames, not one individual. Next question."
And some simply didn't want to talk about it.
"He don't play offense," T.J. Moe said. "You can ask the defensive guys. He didn't affect me."
Asked again, Moe said, "You're not going to get an answer out of me, dude."
At the end of the night, Richardson's lone contribution to what most expected to be his final game at Faurot Field was three letters long. Following Syracuse's game winning-touchdown pass, Richardson tweeted "Wtf!!!!!"
That is nearly as many letters as Richardson's head coach used in answering two questions about the all-American candidate. Asked if he felt Missouri's pass rush had missed Richardson, Pinkel said, "No." Asked if he had an update on Richardson's status with the team, again, the answer was simply "No."
Missouri will travel to College Station to play Texas A&M next Saturday night. At this point, it is unclear if Richardson will be with them.
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