Like Mizzou’s first scrimmage a week ago, the final tune-up before the Black and Gold game came down to the last series.
Sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton (St. Louis, Mo.) continued his good spring with two interceptions, including the game-winner, and sophomore linebacker Eric Beisel, from Fenton, Mo., collected a game-high nine tackles. The defense topped the offense 18-16 despite nice days from quarterbacks Maty Mauk (Kenton, Ohio) and Corbin Berkstresser (Lee’s Summit, Mo.).
Penton’s interception at the goal line broke a tie and gave the defense the win.
“It seems like every practice we have and every scrimmage we have, it goes down to one play at the end,” Head Coach Gary Pinkel said. “I think that was really good. It’s very, very competitive. The defense has won more. But there are a lot of good things. There are things we need to improve on obviously, in all areas. Some of the younger players are getting more experience. You see them growing a little bit. That’s what you want to see. You want to see them get better.”
One of the young players that is improving this spring is sophomore wide receiver Levi Copelin (Broken Arrow, Okla.). Copelin caught two passes for 29 yards Saturday, including a 24-yard catch on a beautifully thrown ball from Mauk over his right shoulder.
The catch was highlight-reel worthy, but Copelin turned even more heads during a late red zone drill, when he threw a huge block into safety Chaston Ward (Cleburne, Texas) that allowed Mauk to scamper towards the goal line for a gain.
Copelin selflessly threw his body in front of the play and leaped into the air until his body was horizontal to the ground.
“I saw Levi coming, and obviously if he nixed me, I’m down,” Mauk said. “Levi did a great job. That was a football play. He did a tremendous job. If we don’t have that block I’m heading down and the clocks running out. He did a really great job.”
Also impressive was the play of redshirt freshman J’Mon Moore (Missouri City, Texas), who led the receiving core with seven catches for 58 yards. Eric Laurent (Ballwin, Mo.) caught six passes for 66 yards. Senior receiver Bud Sasser (Denton, Texas) had 55 yards on five catches. Coach Pinkel was also impressed with senior Jimmie Hunt (Cahokia, Ill.), who totaled 54 yards on just four catches.
“They all can play,” Mauk said. “Everyone can do something different. Bud looked good. And obviously it was good to have Murph back.”
All those completions set up senior running back Marcus Murphy (DeSoto, Texas), who scored three touchdowns. Murphy totaled 58 yards on nine plays, scoring twice from 9 yards out and another time from 3 yards out.
“I think we did good today as an offense,” Murphy said. “We have a lot of things to work on. It’s springtime. We’re trying to get back into the groove of playing. We have to work on the small details, the fundamentals, and then we’ll be ready.”
Mauk was 16 for 26 for 153 yards playing with the first team offense, which he led to a pair of touchdowns during two-minute drill work. Mauk connected with Hunt for 31 yards and Copelin for 24 yards on one of the drives.
Berkstresser went 13 for 22 with the second offense. Both quarterbacks were sacked just once combined—by junior defensive end Shane Ray (Kansas City, Mo.)—which is a testament to the play of the offensive line.
“Main thing was the offensive line,” said Mauk, who has improved the quickness of his release this spring. “You didn’t see me scrambling. I might have rolled out once or twice. They did a great job.”
Both sides played hard, but in the end, the day belonged to the defense.
Four defensive players totaled five tackles or more. Penton’s interception at the goal line with less than 20 seconds left sealed the win. This was the second week in a row Penton made an impact play. He had a sack in last Saturday’s first spring scrimmage.
Overall, the number one defense was stout. They stopped the number two offense on two straight four-and-outs during two-minute drill work. Junior safety Ian Simon (Mansfield, Texas) and senior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent (Olathe, Kan.) both broke up passes during these drives.
Pinkel was pleased that his team stayed healthy and that all the players competed. Saturday the final scrimmage before the annual Black and Gold Spring game, which will be played at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 19 at The ZOU. Each fan can bring 3 cans of food or $3 to enter the game.