Key play: Missouri senior punter Christian Brinser only averaged 28 yards on two first-quarter punts, but he pinned Kentucky at its own 11- and 14-yard lines to help win the field-position battle.
Key stat: Quarterback Maty Mauk completed five of eight passes for 37 yards, an encouraging start against a tough pass defense. Missouri’s passing game also seemed highly productive compared Kentucky’s with Patrick Towles competing one of two passes for minus-2 yards.
Key play: Kentucky got on the board with a 47-yard field goal, but Missouri answered with an eight-play, 72-yard drive capped by a beautiful fade from Mauk to senior wide receiver Bud Sasser in the back right corner of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. It was the duo’s second TD hookup of the quarter.
Key stat: Missouri dominated time of possession (19:18-10:42) and ran 21 more plays than Kentucky as a result of its strong third-down performance. The Tigers converted seven of 10 third downs compared to zero of four for the Wildcats.
Key play: Midway through the quarter, Kentucky faced fourth-and-8 at the Missouri 32, trailing 14-3. The Wildcats opted to go for it, but Tigers defensive end Shane Ray blew up the play, sprinting right around left tackle Darrian Miller and swallowing up Towles from behind for his 11th sack.
Key stat: After struggling with penalties the last two weeks, Missouri, which had 25 penalties for 174 combined in wins against Florida and Vanderbilt, had committed only three penalties for 20 yards through three quarters. The Tigers finished with five penalties for 50 yards.
Key play: After pulling within 20-10 on a 1-yard touchdown from Patrick Towles to Javess Blue, Kentucky recovered an onside kick that prolonged the game’s intrigue. Four plays later, it also led to a targeting penalty against senior safety Braylon Webb, who must sit out the first half Nov. 15 at Texas A&M.
Key stat: On Kentucky’s final play, Missouri junior defensive end Shane Ray spun Towles to the ground for his second sack of the game. It was Ray’s fifth two-sack game of 2014 and gave him 12 on the season, breaking the Tigers’ single-season record of 11 1/2 by Aldon Smith (2009) and Michael Sam (2013).
Player of the game: Junior linebacker Kentrell Brothers. He finished with a career-high 13 tackles, including a game-best eight solo tackles, for a defense that allowed only 258 yards and 3.6 yards per play. Kentucky entered the game averaging 426.5 yards per game.
Reason to hope: That defense. Missouri allowed its fewest points in SEC play since a 31-3 victory last year against Tennessee. The Tigers haven’t given up more than 379 yards of total offense in any conference game and have limited three straight opponents to 283 yards or less.
Reason to mope: The offense still generated only 320 yards, including only 102 yards in the second half. Mauk started strong, but he went five of 15 for 38 yards in the second half.
Looking ahead: Missouri has a bye week before a finishing stretch that includes road games at Texas A&M and Tennessee and a home finale versus Arkansas on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Tigers would return to the SEC Championship Game by winning out.
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com
It was remarkably better than much of the last month and some of the second-half sluggishness was by design as Missouri tried to run out the clock. Still, even coach Gary Pinkel wants to see a lot more than 20 points.
Kentucky went two of 16 on third down and one of five on fourth down, gaining only 258 total yards. Missouri’s D seemed to have the Wildcats’ players and coaching staff a bit intimidated at times.
Punter Christian Brinser dropped three of eight punts inside the 20 and Andrew Baggett connected on two field goals, including a 41-yarder, but the botched onside kick recovery hurt.
The defense was terrific and the offense was good enough once again. Missouri hasn’t been as dominant as last season, but the Tigers keep finding ways to win, and the coaching staff deserves credit for that.