Don’t be misled by Missouri’s pass defense numbers

If you think Kentucky’s depleted receiving corps might have catch a break Saturday thanks to a Missouri defense ranked 115th out of 125 FBS schools in passing yards allowed, think again.

Passing yards allowed is a misleading statistic when it comes to judging defensive effectiveness. As Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Monday, the Mizzou offense is so explosive that the Tigers have amassed sizable early leads, forcing foes to throw in an all-out effort to play catch-up.

The more reliable pass defense statistic is efficiency rating, and there Missouri ranks 40th in the nation. Plus there are these two sparkling stats: Missouri leads the SEC in both interceptions and sacks per game.

Michael Sam is the ringleader behind the sacks. The fifth-year senior from Texas, a two-star recruit, is making a strong case to be the SEC’s player of the year on defense, even over the more-publicized Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina. Sam has caused more havoc.

And on the back end, Missouri senior cornerback E.J. Gaines is tied for fourth nationally in interceptions with four, or 0.68 per game. And Gaines missed the Florida and South Carolina games after straining his quad muscle in the second quarter of the Tigers’ win at Georgia.

Meanwhile, UK will be without one receiver (Alex Montgomery) and probably another (Ryan Timmons) on Saturday. In what some fans might see as another example of freak UK football luck, Montgomery tore his ACL while celebrating a six-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter. The speedy Timmons sprained an ankle and is doubtful for Saturday, Stoops said.

By the way, we will be at Kentucky’s post-practice interviews today, where the defense meets the media.

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