D-line posts big night in Tiger victory

Ray said he’s always competing with his teammates
Tennessee Volunteers running back Jalen Hurd (1) is stopped by Missouri's defense Saturday, Nov. 20, 2014, at Neyland Stadium, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Missouri Tigers beat the Tennessee Volunteers 29-21.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Before they answered any questions, they had to see the paper.

As Missouri defensive linemen made their way into the media area following No. 20 Mizzou’s 29-21 win over Tennessee, they huddled around a Mizzou Athletics spokesperson. They wanted to see the final stats.

“What I got?” junior defensive end Shane Ray asked.

A moment later, senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent was advocating for a recount.

“They should have add .5 (more sacks) because I jumped on the player,” Vincent said.

Clad in their matching black jumpsuits, they acted like children as they leaned close together to look at the numbers. It was competitive — in the best sense of the word.

“Always,” Ray said of how often he competes with his teammates over stats. “I mean, you always want to be that player that had that kind of game. You want every stat that you feel like you earned.”

Saturday, the Missouri defensive line wasn’t want for big numbers. The Tiger defensive line tallied up 7.5 of Mizzou's 12 tackles for a loss, including five of Missouri's six sacks.

Mizzou sacked Volunteer quarterback Joshua Dobbs four times in the first half, disrupting Tennessee drives, three of which started in Missouri territory.

In five of their seven first half drives, the Volunteers ended up on Mizzou’s side of the field. Yet the sole touchdown of Tennessee's 13 first half points came on a fake field goal turned 31-yard pass by Tennessee placeholder Patrick Ashford.

In the first half Tennessee ran the ball for just 16 yards on 15 rushes.

There were the typical names who played well. Senior defensive end Markus Golden had his second consecutive two-sack game, along with a fumble recovery. Ray recorded 1.5 tackles for a loss, including half a sack to add to his record single-season total (13.5).

There was the man who has recently played well, sophomore defensive tackle Harold Brantley, who had a pass breakup and a half-sack — good for 4.5 combined sacks in Mizzou’s last seven games.

And there were the not-often-mentioned.

Senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent sacked Dobbs in the first half and stuffed two Volunteer runs, including a five-yard tackle for a loss, during a Tennessee drive midway through the third quarter. On two consecutive plays, sophomore defensive tackle Josh Augusta sacked Dobbs and a forced fumble.

“We look up to Shane and (Golden) to go out there and feed off of their energy to make plays,” Augusta said.

In his first two games as the Volunteers' starter that preceded this one, Dobbs recorded 812 total yards, and Tennessee scored 95 combined points.Tonight, he threw for 195 yards with one touchdown and one interception to go with 13 yards on the ground in 17 rushes.

"In my limited time I have only seen a couple of front sevens,” Dobbs said. “But they definitely were an aggressive front seven.”

Golden said the key to stopping Dobbs was just “playing like we do in practice. Playing like we do all winter and summer.”

For much of the season, Golden hadn’t played like he has the past two games. He sat out of the Tigers’ September loss to Indiana with a hamstring injury, and didn’t record a full sack in a game until last week against Texas A&M.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Golden had been playing cautiously, not wanting to aggravate the injury further.

“It takes time to recover from that,” Ray said. “He’s coming out, and just taking advantage of what offenses have tried to attack him with, and he’s been a force.”

The Tigers’ six sacks put Missouri at 40 sacks on the year. It is the second straight season Missouri has crossed that threshold.

And for the second straight season, Mizzou will advance to the SEC Championship Game with a win in its final regular season game, against Arkansas on Nov. 28 in Columbia.

“This isn’t the time to be talking about the year and your program,” Pinkel said. “And you know, we’ve got a big game next week and it’s game four in December, excuse me, November.”

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