COLUMBIA, Mo. — Texas Tech’s beleaguered defense started strong enough Saturday to merit “Who are these guys?” questions.
With the game on the line, though, the Red Raiders’ stop troops reverted to season-long form in a 31-27 loss. Though Missouri defensive end Michael Sam made a game-saving interception in the final minute, Tigers quarterback James Franklin did what he wanted on a game-winning drive that started at the 6:06 mark of the fourth quarter.
Backed up to its 11-yard line after a punt and a penalty, Missouri marched 10 plays and faced only one third down before Franklin scored the go-ahead TD with 2:22 left.
“No, they didn’t wear us down or rattle us,” Tech strong safety Terrance Bullitt said. “They put together a good drive, they got momentum going, and we just didn’t get the stop. We stopped it a lot during the game, and during that drive we just didn’t get the stop.”
On the first five defensive series, Tech forced four punts and dodged a bullet when Missouri fumbled through the end zone. Linemen Scott Smith and Kerry Hyder and safety Cody Davis all had stops for negative yards on key downs, and cornerback Cornelius Douglas forced the fumble.
That was first time the Red Raiders had gotten five straight stops since their 24-17 win over Missouri last year.
But Missouri’s first score came after a 10-play, 90-yard drive and its last on a 10-play, 89-yard march that Franklin capped with a 9-yard run.
“I think they played well at times,” Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said of his defense. “We gave them two (long) drives. Both times, we punted down to the 10-yard line and they drove it and scored, and that was pretty much the game. We just don’t have the physical ability inside to stop the run when we need to, and that’s pretty much what got us tonight.”
Last week, Missouri lost Big 12 rushing leader Henry Josey to a major knee injury. Just as it didn’t matter two weeks ago when Texas did without Malcolm Brown against Tech, the Tigers didn’t miss Josey much either.
They wound up with 318 rushing yards, with 152 on 20 carries coming from Franklin and 94 on 15 carries from Kendial Lawrence, Josey’s backup. The 152 for Franklin was a career-high.
Senior De’Vion Moore added a career-long 54-yard run.
Tech lost second-team linebacker Zach Winbush, who suffered a broken foot Thursday in practice, and Tuberville said that thinned depth. Blake Dees, not on the original travel roster because of an injury of his own, suited up and wound up playing some snaps.
On Missouri’s game-winning drive, Franklin ran 19 yards through sloppy tackling to the Tech 21, converted a third-and-2 with a keeper and scored on the next play with a run around right end.
“This is probably a better defensive game than we’ve played, other than a couple of drives, all year long,” Tuberville said. “We competed. That’s what you’ve got to do on defense.
“We lost (Winbush) on the last play of Thursday’s scrimmage – broke his foot – so we didn’t have linebackers that we felt like could run with these guys. We had to play our starters a little bit longer than we wanted to, and they pretty much gave out in the fourth quarter.”