Secondary shines in Mizzou's win over Kentucky

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At this point in the season, it's no surprise to people that follow Missouri that the defense is the main reason why the Tigers are 7-2 and in first place of the Southeastern Conference East Division. But while the Tigers' defense is mainly recognized for the defensive line featuring likely future NFL draft picks Shane Ray and Markus Golden, on Saturday it was the Tigers' secondary that stole the spotlight.

"I just love how these young guys are starting to step up," Ray said. "They're very aggressive and physical and that's what we like to see out of our secondary. They're playing exceptional."

Missouri's cornerbacks were headaches all game long for Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles, who threw an interception to Tigers sophomore Aarion Penton early in the game and had multiple passes tipped by junior college transfer Kenya Dennis.

"He's really getting a lot better," Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel said of Dennis after the game. "He's just getting better and better. Aarion Penton made a lot of good plays also. Kenya is doing a great job of playing better week by week."

Additionally, the Tigers received strong play from senior safety Braylon Webb, who is having a strong senior year with four interceptions this season. Webb was ejected late in the game for a controversial targeting penalty and will miss the first half of the team's Nov. 15 game against Texas A&M.

"It certainly wasn't malice on his part," Pinkel said. "He 's not trying to launch on someone to hurt them, he'd never do that. It was a great hit, it was a great stop but we'll look at it and go through the process."

Penton received playing time as a true freshman, filling in for former Missouri cornerback E.J Gaines who is now starting as a rookie for the St. Louis Rams. Dennis is playing his first season for the Tigers after transferring from Hinds C.C in Mississippi. Standing tall for a cornerback at an even 6-feet, Dennis credits the coaching staff for his ability to have an impact as a first-year player.

"I think I've gotten a lot better, mentally and physically," he said. "This is a great program and they've done a great job developing me since I've been here."

Penton credits Dennis for making his job easier on his side of the field, citing Dennis' aggression as his greatest asset.

"He brings a lot to the table," Penton said. "He's solid. I mean he came from JUCO but when he came to the program he came in and started making plays and he's very physical."

Penton said he likes to think the team's secondary doesn't get the credit they deserve, which is what the unit uses for motivation going into a game.

"I think we're getting better each game," Penton said. "And we're still not getting the respect from a lot of people but as long as we live by our values and do what Missouri defense does we'll be fine."

Alex Schiffer is a sophomore journalism student at the University of Missouri and hails from Westfield, New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter: @TheSchiffMan
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