COLUMBIA, Missouri (Ticker) -- Missouri recorded its first
shutout in over five years as cornerback Michael Harden forced a
fumble and intercepted a pass en route to a 37-0 victory over
Division I-AA Eastern Illinois.
Defensive end Brian Smith also caused a fumble and had one of
the four sacks for the Tigers (3-0), who had not blanked an
opponent since posting a season-opening 37-0 win over Bowling
green on September 5, 1998.
En route to its first 3-0 start since 1981, Missouri had 509
yards of total offense to only 221 for Eastern Illinois (1-1),
which fumbled away three of its seven first-half possessions.
Harden set the tone on the Panthers' first possession, popping
loose the ball from quarterback Andy Vincent on a 4th-and-4 from
Missouri's 19-yard line. Linebacker Brian Barnes recovered.
Vincent also fumbled later in a scoreless first quarter and
running back Andre Raymond lost the ball with 4:02 left in the
second, setting up the first score of the game.
Zack Abron scored the first of his two touchdowns with 1:41 left
in the half, making it 7-0 on a five-yard run.
Just 84 seconds later, the Tigers took advantage of a 13-yard
punt, going 27 yards on six plays and grabbing a 14-0 lead on
Brad Smith's four-yard TD pass to Sean Coffey.
The second half was more of the same. The Panthers gained only
43 yards on their first five possessions, each of which ended
with a punt. Harden picked off Vincent with 5:08 left to
punctuate the shutout.
Abron added a 25-yard TD run, Smith threw an 11-yard scoring
pass to Thomson Omboga and Josh Hibbets returned a blocked punt
14 yards for a score in the second half. Michael Matheny capped
the scoring with a 24-yard field goal.
Smith completed 26-of-33 passes for 236 yards and Abron rushed
16 times for 91 yards as Missouri completely dominated the
first-ever meeting between the schools.
Vincent was 23-of-36 for 154 yards for Eastern Illinois, which
forced five turnovers in a season-opening 27-0 win over I-AA
California of Pennsylvania two weeks ago.