Inside Missouri’s locker room at Memorial Stadium, there’s a football mounted to the wall on a giant, thick spring near the door leading to Faurot Field.
“We have to punch before we come out,” senior strong safety and starting nickelback Duron Singleton said. “Everybody punches it as a reminder that we’re always trying to get the ball out and always trying to get turnovers.”
Midway through the second quarter of Saturday’s 38-18 victory against South Dakota State, Singleton recorded his first interception as a Tiger.
The turnover extended Missouri’s streak of consecutive games with at least one turnover to 45, the best in the country by a wide margin. (Louisiana-Monroe is second with 27 straight games.)
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“We don’t preach about the streak too much, but we’re trying to get turnovers every game,” Singleton said. “Three a game, that’s our goal. When you’re on the field, you don’t think about the streak, but we preach trying to get the ball out and trying to make plays.”
Singleton, a junior-college transfer from Fresno, Calif., admitted that he thought about the streak later in the game, which also featured an interception by sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton and a forced fumble by junior free safety Ian Simon that senior strong safety Braylon Webb recovered.
Singleton also appreciated the plate of brownies he received from defensive coordinator Dave Steckel’s wife, Mary Beth. He shared them with the rest of the safeties during Sunday’s meeting.
The sweet treats are another Tigers tradition for every turnover achieved.
Senior defensive end Markus Golden said he’s had Mary Beth’s baked goods before and also earned several bags of cookies from defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski’s wife, Mary — “and they were big cookies, too,” Golden said — after his interception return for a touchdown against Toledo last season.
Sometimes, the food is more memorable than the play, even in the case of defensive end Shane Ray’s fumble-return touchdown rumble to seal a Cotton Bowl victory last season.
“(Mary Beth) makes excellent brownies,” Ray said. “That takeaway, it felt good to score, but it felt even better to get those brownies the next day.”
No. 24 Missouri at Toledo
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Glass Bowl, Toledo, Ohio
Other story lines
THE OTHER STREAK: The turnover streak is well-chronicled, but Missouri’s defense also has recorded at least one sack in 12 consecutive games. The last time the Tigers failed to sack the quarterback was at Indiana — a week after failing to record a sack at home against, you guessed, it Toledo. Getting to Rockets quarterback Phillip Ely won’t be easy behind a line that features five returning starters.
THIRD-DOWN EFFICIENCY: Missouri struggled on third down against South Dakota State, converting on only three of 11 tries. The Tigers’ passing game particularly struggled with Maty Mauk completing two of six passes, including a 3-yard loss on one third-down pass. The other was Mauk’s 29-yard rainbow touchdown to Bud Sasser.
REV UP THE RUN GAME: Missouri failed to top 200 yards rushing on only three occasions last season — at Georgia, in a loss versus South Carolina and, surprisingly, against Toledo. With the passing still trying to spread its wings, the Tigers need to get things going on the ground. Last week, Russell Hansbrough churned out a career-high 126 yards in 20 carries. A similar performance would be a good start.