Missouri defense scores twice, beats South Carolina in conference opener

The Tiger defense has recorded touchdowns in three consecutive games.
Missouri players celebrate on the sideline following a review confirming Cale Garrett's fumble-recovery touchdown. The senior linebacker has scored in back-to-back games. Madeline Carter

Senior linebacker Cale Garrett had never scored a touchdown before taking a pick-six into the end zone against Southeast Missouri State last weekend.

He got his second on Saturday.

The captain recovered a loose football lying in the endzone on a wild play in the first quarter. South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski’s pass was batted back to him and he nonchalantly threw the ball behind him, resulting in a fumble. Garrett, the only one who seemed to know the ball was still live, scooped it up for the score giving Missouri an early 7-0 lead.

“Anytime there’s a ball on the ground, we go and pick it up,” Garrett said. “You never know when something is going to go in your favor like this.”

Garrett wasn’t the only Tiger defender to score on the day. With South Carolina driving in the red zone trailing 24-14, redshirt senior Ronnell Perkins intercepted Hilinski’s pass and returned it 100 yards for the score. The play sealed Missouri’s first SEC win of the year.

“I’m just always trying to come in and make plays for the team,” Perkins said. “We’ve emphasized turnovers every week. Coach [Barry] Odom emphasized that if we win the turnover margin, we win the game.”

Not only have they recorded a takeaway in each of the last three games, the Tiger defense has scored in three consecutive games. That is the longest streak for Missouri since 2008.

“Anytime, the defense can get a takeaway and put points on the board, that’s huge for momentum and confidence,” Garrett said.

Since returning home, the Tiger defense has been superb. The Tiger defense has only allowed 86 yards on the ground and is allowing seven points per game at Memorial Stadium.

Odom mentioned the improvement he has seen out of junior safeties Tyree Gillespie and Joshuah Bledsoe.

“They’ve worked really hard and [defensive coordinator Ryan Walters] has coached them really aggressively,” Odom said. “We count on them playing being the way they’ve played the last couple weeks and now we need more.”

The defense has started strong in every game this season. The Tigers have yet to allow a point in the first quarter of a game so far.

Missouri will look to continue its recent success against Troy on Oct. 5. after a bye week.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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