Surprise, Missouri’s defense is as good, if not better, than Florida’s

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles gets sacked during the second half of the University of Kentucky vs. Missouri football game at Faurot Field in Columbia, MO., on Saturday, November 1, 2014. Photo by Jonathan Krueger

By Joshua Huff

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If the University of Kentucky found Florida’s defense tough, the reality that faces the Cats this Saturday will do nothing to boost the confidence of an offense that failed to find the endzone in a 14-9 loss to the Gators.

Missouri travels to Lexington in what will be its first SEC game of the season. The Tigers sit 3-0 in the standings – with victories against South Eastern Missouri, Arkansas State and Connecticut – and are ranked No. 25 nationally. As daunting as the Gator’s defense was, the Tiger’s defense is even better. It’s ranked No. 7 in the country, while Florida’s is ranked No. 18 nationally.

As with every outcome, however, there is always some good that goes along with the bad.

In this case, as poorly as UK’s offense performed it had numerous opportunities throughout the game to pull ahead: the long Boom Williams run that set up seemingly endless opportunities at the goaline, which resulted in an overthrown pass on 3rd and 5; the dropped pass by Dorian Baker in the endzone, and failed chances to ride brief waves of momentum.

The optimistic opinion taken from this game is that in what seems like years, UK was finally expected to win a game in the SEC. Though it still lost, it did so by the slimmest of margins. The change in culture may not be universally accepted by fans who still complain that this is the same mediocre football team, but anytime a team starts to become favored in games it typically loses, a shift in the culture of a program is in motion.

That culture shift continues when Missouri comes into town.

Last season the Tigers held on to beat UK 20-10 behind stellar defense and two Bud Sasser touchdowns. Patrick Towles struggled in that game. He went 19-for-36 for 158 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The Tigers stifled UK’s running game, holding it to just 102 yards on 36 carries.

Through three games this season, Missouri is only allowing 101.7 rushing yards a game and is No. 6 in the conference in sacks with six. Florida sacked Towles three times on Saturday.

The Tigers are coming off a 9-6 win on Saturday against Connecticut. A game in which the Huskies amounted for only 233 yards of total offense. The Huskies had 77 rushing yards, which is good for 2.3 yards per rush. In contrast, UK rushed 41 times against Florida for 115 yards, which is good for a slightly better 2.8 yards per rush.

It doesn’t need to be said again that UK’s offensive line needs to improve, and fast.

Time and again on Saturday, Towles found himself either running for his life or face down on the turf. A position he doesn’t want to be in again if UK believes it has any chance of defeating quality SEC opponents.

UK struggled to spread the offense against Florida. That was because of the Gators’ defensive line and secondary play. As a result, the Cats had to bunch the line of scrimmage nullifying their talent on the outside.

If UK fails to run the ball, look for the same offensive outcome against the Tigers. The burden has just gotten heavier for the offensive line.

Missouri Defense Key Player(s):

LB Kentrell Brothers – 42 tackles and 2 interceptions.