By: Nate Smith
Columbia, MO
Twitter: @NateSmithNBA

The Missouri Tigers defeated the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday night to move to 2-0 in SEC play and 5-1 overall. A collection of players stepped up for the Missouri defense on what was a very chilly homecoming evening at Faurot Field. Playing in their first game without captain Cale Garrett, five different Tigers matched or exceeded their previous single-game career-high in tackles: LB Nick Bolton (10), S Tyree Gillespie (9), S Josh Bledsoe (7), LB Cameron Wilkins (6), and DT Jordan Elliot (5).

Several Missouri defensive players warm-up prior to the Ole Miss game. Among those pictured are DT Jordan Elliot (1), S Joshua Bledsoe (18), and DeMarkus Acy (2).

On the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers received contributions from nearly everyone that saw the field. Nine different players caught a pass from quarterback Kelly Bryant, who did not seem to be affected by a knee sprain that forced him to miss the second half of last week’s game. Missouri was also able to run the ball effectively, with all three running backs scoring and playing a key role. Tyler Badie scored on a 17-yard reception, while Larry Roundtree and Dawson Downing ran for touchdowns. 

Running backs Tyler Badie (left) and Larry Roundtree (right) answer questions following the win over Ole Miss.

Downing’s 54-yard run was a career-long that had his teammates fired up on the sideline. Speaking after the game, Roundtree said “for me, when (Downing scored the touchdown), I hit like a 45 (inch) vertical, I jumped up so high, (I was) so happy.” I mentioned Roundtree’s remarks to Badie, who doubled down on the notion, saying “when Dawson scored, I ran about a (4.2-second 40-yard dash) down the (sideline), I was gone.” Badie also joked that “if you (watch) the film, I was screaming down there, I almost got a penalty out there. I was so excited for him.” Downing’s teammates were clearly excited for their teammate who they affectionately refer to as ‘The Vanilla Gorilla’, according to Badie. 

Johnson Shakes Off Early Miscue, Stuffs The Stat Sheet

One of the oldest sayings in sports is that “it’s not how you start the game, but rather it’s how you finish it.” This couldn’t be any more true for Missouri senior wide receiver Johnathon Johnson, who muffed a 1st quarter punt. After Ole Miss failed to gain a first down on the opening drive of the game, the Rebels punted it away to the Tigers. Johnson—who was returning punts in place of the injured Richaud Floyd—was unable to field the ball cleanly, fumbling the ball to put Ole Miss in scoring position. 

Despite the mishap, Johnson still found a way to make an impact. “I knew I had muffed the ball, so I knew I probably wasn’t (going to be returning punts) the rest of the game. So I knew I had to step up in other ways and try to get our offense going.” Johnson’s play seemed to confirm his comments, as the dynamic slot receiver went on to finish the game with 8 catches for 110 yards. Johnson credited Floyd with helping him shake off the error while keeping his focus and confidence as a receiver following the miscue as a returner. “We were just out there executing plays, just doing the best that we could do as an offense, and making sure we just kept our foot on the gas.”

Wide receiver Johnathon Johnson fields questions from media members following the homecoming victory.

Missouri Now Ranked 22nd In The AP Poll

After defeating Ole Miss, Mizzou became one of four teams to vault into the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Missouri joined Washington State, Appalachian State, and Minnesota as the newest ranked teams. Because Florida and Georgia both lost over the weekend, Mizzou is now in the driver’s seat in the SEC East, as the division’s lone team without a conference loss. Johnson was asked how much attention the team pays to being in 1st place. The man who ranks 7th on Missouri’s all-time receiving list indicated that it wasn’t much of a focal point. “We’re just trying to stay focused and just understand what our goals (are) for this year,” Johnson said. 

Johnson’s response showcases the determined mindset that the team has maintained since being upset in Wyoming to start the season. ‘Jay Jay’ and the 22nd ranked Tigers will look to keep that same level of focus this week, as they get set to travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores of Vanderbilt.