Missouri experienced painful attrition during a 51-45 loss against Middle Tennessee during its homecoming game Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers, 2-5, started the day without junior right guard Alec Abeln, who wore a boot on his right foot Monday at the team’s media day but said it was precautionary.
Apparently, so was sitting out against the Blue Raiders, because Abeln was replaced in the starting lineup by junior walk-on Adam Ploudre.
During the first quarter, two Mizzou defensive starters went to the locker room with knee injuries — and the in-game carnage was just getting started.
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On the first defensive snap, senior cornerback John Gibson suffered a sprained left knee on a cut block.
Later in the drive, one play after Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill burned the Tigers for a 63-yard run on a draw play, senior linebacker Michael Scherer left the game because of a sprained right knee.
Scherer — who leads Mizzou with 53 tackles, including one Saturday — walked off the field on his own power, flexing his knee then disappeared into the locker a few minutes later.
He reappeared late in the first quarter in street clothes and on crutches.
“We’ll have a full evaluation (Sunday) — an MRI to see where it’s at,” first-year coach Barry Odom said. “ … We had a number of guys (who) went down. John Gibson went out on play No. 1, Beckner went out and we had a couple more. The next guy’s got to stand up, he’s got to be ready to go play and we’ve got to be great coaches to put them in position to be ready to go play.”
Scherer has started 33 consecutive games, a streak that seems likely to be in jeopardy.
Missouri also lost junior tight end Jason Reese in the first quarter because of a rib injury.
During the second half, sophomore defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. left the game in the fourth quarter because of a sprained left knee and didn’t return. That is not the same knee in which he suffered a torn ACL and MCL last November.
Junior free safety Thomas Wilson remained on the sideline and still had his helmet, but Odom said he was hurt, too.
“He got banged up a little early on and I didn’t feel like he could come back in and play 100 percent,” Odom said.
Penalties mount for Mizzou
Missouri committed four third-down penalties when the defense appeared to have stopped Middle Tennessee and instead extended the drive, all during the second half.
They were perhaps the most painful penalties among the Tigers’ 13 that were enforced for 125 yards.
“We’ve got to look back and evaluate where they came from,” Odom said. “Is it technique? Is it habits in practice? That will never win. Our margin for error is so low. That 100 hidden yards right there. Inexcusable.”
Junior defensive end Marcell Frazier was flagged for a face-mask penalty as he sacked Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill early in the third quarter.
That led to a touchdown one play later.
During the next drive, junior cornerback Logan Cheadle, who returned for the first time in three games from a sprained ankle, was flagged for defensive holding on third down.
The Blue Raiders went on to miss a field goal, but capitalized after Frazier’s ejection for a late hit on Stockstill with targeting on the opening drive of the fourth quarter.
Cheadle was flagged again for holding in the closing minutes on a third down that allowed Middle Tennessee to bleed precious time from the clock, though it may have been another player who actually was guilty of the infraction.
“All of those calls (stunk) and didn’t help us out at all,” senior cornerback Aarion Penton said. “Some were uncalled for, but I guess they’re getting paid for a reason. I don’t really know what they train or what they do. If the call’s made, then the call’s made.”
Crockett cranks out records
He was the bright spot last week against Florida and, once again this Saturday, freshman running back Damarea Crockett glistened beneath the Memorial Stadium lights.
Against Middle Tennessee, a team that was allowing 150 yards per game on the ground prior to Saturday's contest, Crockett, a Little Rock, Ark., native, ran for 156 yards on 29 carries.
For Crockett, this makes his third 100-yard performance, a record for a Missouri true freshman.
Crockett also scored four touchdowns, the most by any Missouri running back since the 2008 Cotton Bowl when former Tiger Tony Temple scored four against Arkansas. Crockett's four touchdowns were also one shy of the school record set by former Missouri quarterback Brad Smith, who holds the rushing touchdown record for Missouri with five against Texas Tech in 2003.
Afterwards, Crockett said he's "starting to get more comfortable. … I’m just (finally) playing like myself on the field.”
Alec Lewis contributed to this report.