It’s not as if Missouri senior defensive end Markus Golden has endured a bad season, but imagine if he’d been healthy.
Golden sat out the Sept. 20 loss against Indiana because of a strained hamstring.
He missed only one game, but Golden’s production took a hefty dip for more than a month.
During the first five SEC games, Golden managed more than four tackles only once. He also had more than one tackle for a loss once and managed only a half-sack.
“If you hurt yourself, it’s going to mess with you,” Golden said. “I’ve never been hurt, so it messed with me a little bit, but I came back. There’s no excuses. I’ve still got to get out there and ball.”
Finally, at Texas A&M last Saturday, Golden felt like his former self again — and it showed in a nine-tackle, two-sack performance.
“The trainers … can say, ‘Hey, you’re 100 percent; let loose,’” MU coach Gary Pinkel said. “We can tell him that all we want, but maybe he’s been so guarded against it because it probably didn’t want to get hurt again. … It sounds like, for him, and I didn’t know this, but he decided, ‘I’m going to let it go. We’ll just see what happens.’ Certainly, he had a huge impact on that game.”
Playing only about 40 percent of Missouri’s snaps last season, Golden led the Tigers’ defensive line with 55 tackles, including 13 for a loss, and had 6 1/2 sacks despite playing behind unanimous All-American Michael Sam.
Golden, a St. Louis native who played at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, could have opted to leave early for the NFL Draft, but he wanted to start for the Tigers so he never seriously considered it.
It’s hard to quantify how sky high expectations were for Golden entering the 2014 season.
Statistically, Golden has been as productive as last season with 53 tackles, which is tied for third most behind linebackers Michael Scherer and Kentrell Brothers. Golden also has 11 1/2 tackles for a loss and 6 1/2 sacks.
Now healthy again, Golden can set his sights on catching up with Tigers junior defensive end Shane Ray, who is setting the pace in the SEC with 13 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss.
“They all want to outdo each other, but that’s good,” Pinkel said. “They’re also the one jumping on each other’s backs, too, so it’s a very positive environment.”
No. 19 Missouri at Tennessee
▪ WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
▪ WHERE: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
▪ TV: ESPN
Other story lines
▪ ROAD WARRIORS: Missouri has won a program record-tying nine consecutive road games, including seven straight in SEC play. The Tigers also won nine straight road games during 1978-80.
▪ MAUK’S RESURGENCE: After three consecutive games with an efficiency rating below 68, sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk has posted better than a 113 rating in wins against Vanderbilt (128.02), Kentucky (116.29) and Texas A&M (113.67).
▪ MURPHY WATCH: Senior running back Marcus Murphy set career highs for rushing attempts (20) and receptions (five) at Texas A&M, totaling another 113 all-purpose yards. Murphy is second in Tigers history with 4,577 career all-purpose yards. He’s unlikely to catch Jeremy Maclin (5,609), but the 5,000-yard plateau is achievable.