‘Heart and soul’: Garrett leads Missouri’s nationally-ranked defense

The senior linebacker scored his third defensive touchdown in Saturday’s win over Troy.
Senior linebacker Cale Garrett muscles his way into the end zone following a second-quarter interception. The touchdown was his third this season. Photo by Staff Photographer Madeline Carter

Cale Garrett has more touchdowns than the Miami Dolphins.

Yes, that’s right — the Missouri senior linebacker has more touchdowns this season than an entire NFL team.

Garrett scored his third touchdown in as many games on Saturday against Troy after intercepting senior quarterback Kaleb Barker and returning it 33 yards. He could have had another one the drive before too when he picked off Barker the first time and was marked down at the 1 yard line.

“He read the quarterback’s eyes, caught the ball one handed,” sophomore linebacker Nick Bolton said of Garrett’s first interception. “I tried to escort him to the end zone, but I was a little too slow too.”

It might also be the last touchdown he scores this season, as it was announced via press release late Sunday night that Garrett suffered a pectoral tendon injury during Saturday’s game and will undergo surgery this week. He’s not expected to return this season.

Garrett’s effort this year — starting with a record-tying 16 tackles against Wyoming — has been at the center of what has been a dominant season all around for Missouri’s defense.

“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” coach Barry Odom said following Saturday’s game.

Prior to this season, Garrett had recorded just three interceptions and had never found the end zone. He picked up his first touchdown against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 14 on a first-quarter interception. His second was a heads-up fumble recovery that put Missouri on the board in its first Southeastern Conference game against South Carolina on Sept. 21.

Garrett now leads the Tigers in interceptions this season. He’s trailed closely by Bolton, who had two against West Virginia as well as Ronnell Perkins, who recorded one against West Virginia and one against South Carolina.

Missouri’s pass defense ranks No. 4 nationally. It’s also No. 1 in defensive touchdowns with its current five: three by Garrett, and one each by Perkins and redshirt senior Richaud Floyd, who scored on a 71-yard punt return against SEMO.

“That’s huge,” junior tight end Albert Okwuegbunam said. “You can be a good team with a mediocre defense, but you can’t be a great one. So it’s just been great to see, especially from the offensive side of the ball, just how well our defense has done.”

Bolton and Garrett have both received SEC Defensive Player of the Week, following their respective two-turnover games against West Virginia and South Carolina.

“That’s just a blessing seeing a man like [Garrett] come out there and play with all his heart,” junior defensive lineman Kobie Whiteside said.

Garrett’s success has spurred some competition among his teammates as well to catch up with him in turnovers.

“Me and Jordan Elliott were talking about it today,” Whiteside said. “We gotta get us one.”

“Right now Cale got the best hands,” Bolton said. “Right now he got more interceptions so I can’t argue with that. Can’t argue with stats.”

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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