Media Day Notes: Penton returns, Steward undergoes surgery

By Christian Clark, KBIA Sports 

Tigers two games away from SEC East crown: Repeating as champions of the Southeastern Conference’s East Division was unthinkable for Missouri midway through its regular season schedule.

Division rival Georgia had just rolled into town and smacked the Tigers 34-0 in their own stadium. Quarterback Maty Mauk committed five turnovers and the defense allowed a Bulldogs’ rushing attack for 210 yards, despite missing star running back Todd Gurley. The loss was Missouri’s second in three games — the other one coming against lowly Indiana — dropping it to 4-2 on the year and 1-1 in SEC play.

But flash forward a little more than five weeks and somehow, some way, the Tigers (8-2, 5-1) are in prime position to play in the SEC Championship game for the second straight year.

Since falling flat against Georgia, they’ve managed to rip off four straight victories. Along the way, Georgia lost to Florida, vaulting Missouri to the top of the division.

The scenario for how the East race shakes out is simple: Win its final two games against Tennessee and Arkansas, and Missouri takes the division; lose one or both, and Georgia — whose SEC schedule is complete — wins.

“There’s opportunities out there, but there’s not a margin for error,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

Penton back from suspension: Sophomore Aarion Penton will start at cornerback on Saturday against Tennessee after serving a one-game suspension.

Penton was arrested Nov. 7 for possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana — the second time he’s been apprehended for a marijuana-related incident since March.

Pinkel wouldn’t delve into the details of how he earned reinstatement, but only said Penton is no longer on suspension.

Steward undergoes surgery: Running back Morgan Steward underwent surgery late last week to repair a hip injury that’s sidelined him since August, according to Pinkel.

Pinkel described the injury as a “little bit of chip in the bone.”

Steward, a redshirt sophomore, will apply for a medical redshirt with the NCAA that would not cost him this season of eligibility if it’s granted.

“It came out very, very positive and we expect to get him back….for next year,” Pinkel said. “He’s a young player that has great ability.”

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