2014 Arch Awards: Best St. Louis Team Nominees

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Missouri Tigers football: Despite the fact that they won the 2013 SEC East title, 2014 wasn’t supposed to be Mizzou’s year in football. The program had been forced to dismiss its best player, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, following spring practice, after he was connected to a domestic violence issue which followed several other less serious legal issues. In addition, they’d lost two other great wide receivers, L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas, plus their running back, Henry Josey, as well as two defensive ends who graduated to the NFL, Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, and cornerback E.J. Gaines, who had been the team’s top corner for the past several years.

While the Tigers didn’t operate offensively on all cylinders the way they probably could have if “DGB” had been in the fold, there wasn’t nearly as much drop-off as many people expected for the 2014 season. The team finished in the middle of the pack offensively in the SEC, which definitely could be attributed in part to the shutout loss they were dealt by Georgia on October 11.

However, wide receiver Bud Sasser, who had previously been a depth player who made minimal contributions as a slot receiver, really stepped up to the plate as a senior and ended up finishing third in the SEC in receiving yardage with 935 yards, as well as 10 touchdowns. Wideouts Jimmie Hunt and Darius White were consistent enough to complement Sasser and give the Tigers a truly viable passing game. In the running game, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy both rose to the challenge and had career seasons.

Mizzou showed the most of their talent on the defensive side, though, as the Tigers finished first in the nation in sacks with 42. Defensive ends Shane Ray (14 sacks, 21 tackles for loss) and Markus Golden (8.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss) were both major contributors, and defensive tackle Harold Brantley (five tackles, seven tackles for loss) emerged as a reliable interior pass rusher. Linebackers Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer also showed themselves to be some of the most reliable players at their position in the SEC.

Things weren’t always easy for Mizzou; they suffered an embarrassing 31-27 loss on their home turf to Indiana on September 20. That easily could have been crushing enough to completely ruin their season. Then, as previously mentioned, the Tigers got shut out at home against Georgia in their next home game, which certainly didn’t help things. The Tigers were really able to rally together and play some great football for the rest of 2014, though, starting with their 42-13 blowout of Florida on October 18 and going through the end of the season.

Though the Tigers lost 42-13 to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, it was quite an honor just for them to get there based on the expectations that many pundits had for them prior to the season. They’ll cap it off with one of their biggest bowl bids in recent memory, playing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl (formerly the Capital One Bowl) on New Year’s Day in Orlando, Florida.