Story by Christian Clark, KBIA Sports
Photos by Brandon Kiley, KBIA Sports
Missouri defensive end Shane Ray finished the day with wo sacks and four tackles for loss.
By his own admission, Shane Ray was the chubby kid growing up. The grade school kid who was slow, clumsy — the last pick in schoolyard games.
Things were so bad that Ray quit football all together in fifth grade.
“I hadn’t really bloomed into being an athlete, so I didn’t really want to play,” Ray said during Monday’s media session.
After watching Ray repeatedly terrorize Central Florida quarterback Justin Holman and a number of Knights running backs to the tune of two sacks and four tackles for a loss Saturday at Faurot Field, it’s difficult to imagine a time when Ray wasn’t a dominant force. The Tigers junior defensive end spearheaded a Missouri defensive unit that harassed UCF into four second-half turnovers in No. 20 Missouri’s 38-10 win.
“Shane was everywhere,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said after the game. “I mean (defensive end Markus Golden) certainly did some good things — we had a lot of defensive linemen doing great things — but Shane’s a great player.”
Ray was consistent throughout the game, registering two tackles for a loss in the first half to go along with the two tackles for loss and two sacks he posted during the final 30 minutes of play. But for many of his fellow teammates,
Saturday’s game was a tale of two halves.
Missouri went into the halftime break up 14-10 despite being dominated in time of possession. Quarterback Maty Mauk threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Jimmie Hunt, but the redshirt sophomore also threw an interception. The Knights’ ground game helped the visitors hold the ball for more than 19 minutes through the first two periods.
Missouri emerged from halftime a team transformed. Defensive tackle Josh Augusta turned the tide of the game when he tipped a Holman pass and managed to pluck it out of the air with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter.
Less than two minutes later, Mauk connected with receiver Bud Sasser on a slant route for a 21-yard score. The touchdown gave Missouri a 21-10 advantage and opened the floodgates for what turned out to be a rout.
“What a great play he made,” Pinkel said of Augusta’s interception that pushed Missouri’s nation-best takeaway streak to 47 games. “We had the tallest guy on the field go up and get that and he did. I don’t even know how he caught it, but it changed the whole momentum of the game.”
Mauk would find Sasser again for a 22-yard strike early in the fourth quarter to make it 28-10. Mauk finished the day an efficient 14 of 24 for 144 yards and four passing touchdowns. Mauk now has 13 touchdowns on the season, a Missouri record for a quarterback through three games.
“I think we just made a couple changes in the locker room during halftime and we just started being able to read a little bit more what they were doing,” Sasser said. “After we made those changes we were kind of hitting on all cylinders.”
It wasn’t just the Missouri offense that fired on all cylinders in the second half; the Tiger defense came up huge as well. UCF made it into Missouri territory just two times during the second half. The unit racked up four of its six sacks after the break.
Senior defensive back Duron Singleton capped a dominant defensive half when he scooped up a fumble and ran 60 yards for the final score of the game.
Defensive lineman Rickey Hatley made the play possible by sacking Holman and forcing the fumble.
“Overall, the defensive line played really, really well,” Ray said. “I know our defensive tackles have been hungry and wanted to make plays and they did that today. Me and Markus did what we were supposed to do. As a unit I think we did a really good job.”
With the win, the Tigers moved to 3-0. They will host Indiana at home next Saturday at 3 p.m. to conclude non-conference play.