Takeaways: Crockett thrives, kicking woes continue in Missouri win

Freshman Damarea Crockett rushed for 154 yards.
Damarea Crockett celebrates after scoring a touchdown in Missouri's win over Vanderbilt on Nov. 12 in Columbia.

Missouri (3-7, 1-5) picked up its first Southeastern Conference win under coach Barry Odom on Saturday, knocking off Vanderbilt 26-17.

Here are a few takeaways from the Missouri victory:

Crockett runs over Vanderbilt defense

Perhaps the most interesting matchup coming into Saturday’s game was the one between Vanderbilt’s star linebacker, Zach Cunningham, and breakout Missouri running back Damarea Crockett.

Cunningham, a projected first-rounder in the 2017 NFL Draft, eclipsed 100 tackles on the season during Saturday’s game. However, despite his 10 tackles, Crockett came away victorious in the matchup.

The Missouri freshman ran all over the Vanderbilt defense, rushing for 154 yards and a score on 20 attempts. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry.

“He’s continuing to get better,” Odom said after the game. “He practices the right way, and he’s got the skill set to make him a good back in this league.”

The Tigers also had success using the up-tempo offense that coordinator Josh Heupel implemented at the beginning of the year.

“That’s just on us,” Vanderbilt defensive lineman Nifae Lealao said. “You’ve got to get lined up, get in a certain spot and just play.”

McCann kicking himself

Tucker McCann has had a rough freshman year, to put it lightly.

Coming into Saturday’s game, the kicker had only made five out of his nine field-goal attempts on the season. He had missed two extra points on the year.

Those numbers only got worse against Vanderbilt.

First, McCann missed an extra point, which was met by groans from the Missouri crowd. Next, he came up short on a 55-yard attempt and was met by a few boos from the Memorial Stadium stands.

Then, from Missouri’s 4-yard line, McCann pushed another field goal wide right while fans screamed their dismay from the stands. Finally, to end his bad day, McCann kicked an extra-point attempt off the left upright, sealing his spot on the bench for the rest of the game.

McCann, once one of the top-rated kickers in the class of 2020, was taken out Saturday and replaced by freshman Ben Tesson, a transfer from Drake. Tesson came in after Missouri’s last touchdown and made his extra point.

Penton scores long-awaited touchdown

Before the Missouri season started, cornerback Aarion Penton has said that the defense should be able to score points off takeaways. The senior finally got an opportunity on Saturday.

Penton intercepted Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur’s pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown.

“I threw it to the guy he was covering, and [Penton] caught it; and he made a play for a touchdown,” Shurmur said. “That’s it.”

For Penton, the interception led to a memorable moment.

“I was just amazed, very excited,” he said. “Didn’t want to leave the end zone.”

Defense contains Vanderbilt running game

One of Missouri’s biggest challenges on Saturday was stopping the Commodore running attack.

Vanderbilt boasts redshirt junior Ralph Webb, one of the SEC’s top running backs. When Webb walked onto Faurot Field, he was just 99 yards short of 1,000 rushing yards on the season.

Despite the challenges Webb raised, the Missouri defense stood tall against the Commodores’ run game. Webb was held to just 34 yards on 11 attempts, while Vanderbilt managed only 159 yards on the ground.

Missouri stopped Vanderbilt by applying many different formations to confuse the Vanderbilt offense. One formation placed four defensive ends on the line, adding speed by taking out the bigger defensive tackles.

“Whenever you have a whole bunch of talent on D-line, you’ve got to find a way to get everybody out there,” defensive end Charles Harris said. “That speed package is ruthless.”

Edited by Theo DeRosa | tderosa@themaneater.com

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