Sherrils’ big plays save Tigers in UConn win

Anthony Sherrils had his first career forced fumble and interception Saturday.
Missouri Tigers safety Anthony Sherrils (22) runs with the ball after an interception Sept. 19, 2015, during a game against the Connecticut Huskies at Faurot Field.

Anthony Sherrils heard the screams from the sideline, but he kept on trucking.

Following an interception that clinched a 9-6 win for No. 22 Missouri over Connecticut, Sherills sprinted down the sideline with the clock winding down. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel wanted him to fall down.

They’d knee the ball and escape with a win.

Thirty yards later, the sophomore safety finally listened, slowing down around midfield. Kentrell Brothers yelled that he had a block. Instead, they both got tackled.

“You want him to fall on the ground, not running down the sideline,” Pinkel said. “But he’ll learn that.”

The interception, which came off a fake field goal attempt with 53 seconds left, was just one of a handful of trick plays the Huskies ran against Missouri. The Tigers were anticipating a possible fake, which lead to the triple coverage as quarterback Tim Boyle tried to beat out on the game-clinching turnover.

Missouri cornerbacks coach Cornell Ford called for an inside rush on the final defensive play. They could get pressure on the kicker if he kicked and the quarterback if there was a fake while the perimeter defenders played man-to-man in case of any shenanigans.

As defensive lineman Rickey Hatley said, "They were pulling tricks out of the hat, man.”

Ford’s anticipation of this trick, however, worked. Interception. Game over.

Squeezing by supposedly inferior opponents is starting to become a trend for this Missouri team. Junior quarterback Maty Mauk and the Tigers offense scored just nine points Saturday, their lowest total since the 34-0 beating they took against Georgia last year at home.

With just 270 yards of total offense, paired with untimely turnovers and an underwhelming run game, it was the defense that once again had to stand tall for the win. The Tigers allowed only 95 total yards of offense in the first half, and the only score for UConn came off a turnover in good field position.

Sherills was a key part of that defensive effort, forcing both of UConn’s turnovers. His forced fumble and ensuing recovery in the second quarter stopped a drive as the Huskies had driven into Missouri territory.

That was Sherrils’s first career forced fumble. Saturday also marked his first career interception. Not a bad day.

“Every week is a week that I look to make plays,” Sherrils said. “Sometimes they come away, sometimes they don’t. This was my week I guess.”

Pinkel praised Sherrils' two-turnover, three-tackle performance Saturday, noting the sophomore’s athleticism and speed. That speed was on display as he ignored the shouting from his sideline to go down following his interception as he ran the ball 50 yards.

He’s grown up, too. His maturity, Pinkel said, was something that has been a difference maker this season. Sherrils says it’s the little things he does now to make sure he’s ready for game days. Cold tubs. Recovery pumps. More cold tubs.

Tonight, he said he’ll try to take it easy and enjoy the win.

Come on, two turnovers and you’re not going to celebrate?

“Yeah,” Sherills said with a smile. “We’ll be celebrating.”

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