COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri did exactly what it had to do.
New Mexico State came to Columbia as an underdog with more than four touchdowns and left the team with a 31-point loss as MU pulled off a competent 45-14 senior-day win at Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
Here are five plays that helped the Tigers on their way to their fifth win of the season:
Carnel to the house
Daylan Carnell’s breakout season reached even greater heights.
If senior Martez Manuel hadn’t been on the star safety position, Carnell might have been a near-mainstay in MU’s starting lineup. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker called Carnell the perfect player for the position, which has proven to be another in a long line of smart first-year play-caller decisions.
When Carnell got a read on Aggies quarterback Diego Pavia early in the fourth quarter, he shot forward to get ahead of wide receiver Bryce Childress and intercepted a bullet pass before following it up for the Tigers’ second pick-six of the season brought home – Carnell’s second break of the season – it’s been a long time coming.
“We’ve been seeing that in practice all week, drilling it,” Carnell said. “As soon as number three ran the incline, ran number two, the ball was waiting for me there. After that, everything was end zone, everything I saw.”
Carnell demonstrated the vision Baker wants from the star position — the ability to read the game, step forward as an extra linebacker, or duck back into cover when the game calls for it. He nailed it against New Mexico State and now has a touchdown to his credit for work.
All was not perfect for Carnell. Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to apply the brakes, the redshirt rookie fell on the concrete track circling Faurot Field during his celebration.
“I got into the end zone, they punched it out, so I wanted to make sure I was getting in,” said Carnell, “went into overdrive, spun, and slipped on the track.”
And his own pick wasn’t even his favorite interception of the evening…
Williams grabs first INT
That honor went to Jalani Williams, who recorded his first interception of his career.
On the Aggies’ next possession – two plays later, to be precise – backup quarterback Gavin Frakes climbed from left hash past the numbers on the right side of the field before hurling a pass over the sideline before firing a shot Mark Clarke.
The pass, perhaps aimed at a receiver well covered by Tyler Hibbler, never came close to its intended goal as Williams made a jumping hold to snatch the ball out of the air well above his head.
“I thought Jalani Williams did a great job after Joseph (Charleston) retired (injured),” said MU coach Eli Drinkwitz. Williams, a senior from St. Louis and Parkway North, ended up playing 51 snaps — a season high.
A rare fourth stop
The two late picks were a ceiling for a solid performance from the MU unit. After bloody yards, points and maybe pride against Tennessee a week earlier, the Missouri defense had a much-needed rebound play that choked the Aggies for most of the evening, starting with the very first drive.
After giving up yardage in the game’s opening five games, Manuel held third and second spots and put enough pressure on NMSU wide receiver Jonathan Brady to force an incomplete. The Tigers needed a bit of luck as the Aggies decided to go for fourth as Pavia tried to run back Jamoni Jones off the edge of MU’s line but the ball bounced out of the defender’s hands and Missouri took over.
Prior to this game, the opponents had converted 11 of 17 fourth downs against the Tigers.
But the unit, which managed to give the backfield enemy attacks a headache until the trip to Knoxville, still failed to hit its usual production.
“You played OK. I didn’t find it as clean as we wanted,” Drinkwitz said. “I don’t think we had a threesome all night. Just wearing the headphones, I know we weren’t happy with some of the things we released. Didn’t think our zone coverage was very good tonight. … Did a good job of keeping them out of the end zone and forcing turnovers, which is always good, but they were 2-2 in the red zone, they were 8-of-16 on third downs.
“There’s a lot of things that need to be cleaned up before Friday, I know that.”
More fourth down success
The Tigers avoided turning the ball twice in a row on their opening drive.
First, Cody Schrader fumbled in third place but crashed on his own drop to finish fourth and fifth. And then the player, who has become synonymous with drive-saving receptions, got back in the clutch.
Missouri has had its fair share of fourth-place troubles this season, moving the chains just 6 of 13 times before the NMSU game and taking penalties for delays in several more fourths and short looks.
But in fourth and fifth on the Tigers’ opening run, as Cook pumped toward a covered Dominic Lovett in center field, adjusted, reassessed, spun, crawled and threw into a left-touchline jam, Barrett Banister was there.
“It’s just chemistry,” Cook said. “The fourth down right there at the beginning, that’s backyard football.”
The sixth-year receiver had a career-high second straight game by gaining yards for the second straight game, this time with 91 yards on seven receptions, before being rocked in the fourth quarter by a game where he attempted one Pass from freshman to catch QB Sam Horn.
A premiere for Hörstkamp
Cook never imagined tight end Ryan Hoerstkamp could take off like he did.
However, he only needed one target to learn it.
“I was super excited … because I wasn’t expecting this game to score,” Cook said. “I mean, he turned on the jets. That was super impressive. I was really happy about that.”
Hoerstkamp, from Washington, Missouri, was surprised at how easy it was to score goals in college football. When the ball got to him midway through the second quarter — the first time that had happened to him in the redshirt rookie’s career — he turned and saw more open field than he expected.
Thirty-two yards later, more or less, and his first collegiate goal and reception ended in his first collegiate touchdown.
“It felt great, as a kid from Missouri I always dreamed of doing something like that,” said Hoerstkamp. “When I saw the play I thought the play was dead or something, there’s no way there’s that much space. But actually there was, and I heard someone say, ‘Go score,’ and I was like, ‘Say less, I’ll keep going.’”