Missouri’s defense didn’t thrill anybody with its performance against the offense last week in the second scrimmage of fall camp.
The Tigers’ D knuckled up for Thursday’s final tune-up at Memorial Stadium, and even though there wasn’t an official score kept, got back in the win column, so to speak.
After managing only one turnover and no interceptions through the first two scrimmages, Missouri’s defense picked off three passes and recorded seven sacks.
The first-string defense didn’t permit any points and created eight negative plays for the offense in perhaps its strongest showing of fall camp.
“Our defense, for the most part, we’re starting to really mesh,” sophomore defensive end Charles Harris said. “We’re starting to really come together and fuel off each other.”
Sophomore safety Anthony Sherrils set the tone on the third play of the scrimmage when he picked off a deep throw by sophomore Eddie Printz.
Redshirt freshman safety Tavon Ross and freshman linebacker Terez Hall also has had interceptions.
“Turnovers win games,” Sherrils said. “If you get a turnover, if you keep the offense on the field, then we’re all good. … We know our capabilities and we know that we can get interceptions and get turnovers. We knew they were going to come. They were going to come sooner or later, so we weren’t upset about not getting any (in the first two scrimmages).”
Still, it was nice to knock the floodgates open a bit.
“That’s really kudos to the secondary,” said Harris, who added a sack and finished fall-camp scrimmages with three sacks. “That’s something we preach on — without turnovers, we’re not going to win. For them to step up and actually make those turnovers, it speaks volumes to how great they can really be.”
Of course, the flip side is that the offense, for the first time in camp, struggled to protect the football.
“Turnovers are real important,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “Out here, though, when somebody’s getting turnovers, someone’s making mistakes. On the defensive side, that’s great. On the offensive side, you can’t do that.”
Quarterback Drew Lock, a true freshman from Lee’s Summit who’s been stellar during the scrimmages, continued his rapid ascendance.
Lock completed nine of 12 passes for 177 yards, including a 40-yard bomb to freshman Justin Smith against the first-team defense.
Lock, who played five series with the No. 2 offense compared to three series for Printz and two for redshirt freshman Marvin Zanders, did throw one of the three interceptions.
He was picked off by Ross on a deep lob down the left sideline.
“He can make that throw, but he’s just got to know down there in that situation to get rid of it,” said junior quarterback Maty Mauk, who took all of the first-string reps.
Mauk finished six of 12 for 51 yards and was the only MU quarterback not to throw an interception. (Senior Corbin Berkstresser didn’t attempt a pass during Thursday’s scrimmage.)
Mauk led a short field-goal drive in limited action. The first-team offense only played four series.
One play after his interception, Lock dropped a perfectly throw 56-yard bomb into redshirt freshman Ray Wingo’s arms against the second-team defense.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Mauk said. “That’s why he’s here, and he’s just going to keep getting better. It’s going to be a process, but how (far) he’s come from day one to now is unbelievable. He’s going to keep getting better. He’s going to take strides week by week and he’s going to be ready to play.”
Two plays later, Zanders, who threw the interception to Hall on a tipped pass over the middle, found sophomore running back Chase Abbington for a 4-yard touchdown.
Working with the third-team offense, Printz threw the day’s only other touchdown, a 30-yarder to freshman Richaud Floyd, who darted through the third-team defense across the field on a nifty play after the catch for the score.
Printz finished three of seven for 34 yards with a touchdown, while Zanders was five of seven for 38 yards with a touchdown.
The run game continued to struggle, managing only 34 yards in 31 carries.