Every Sunday, the Missouri Tigers watch film to see who had the biggest hit in the previous day’s game. The winner gets a hammer with the opponent and the date printed on the handle, and at the end of the season, the player with the most hammers is awarded a sledgehammer.
Mizzou coaches had a tough time picking a winner this week, as there were multiple players who put the hammer down in Saturday’s victory over Vanderbilt.
Freshman running back Morgan Steward got the party started. Playing on special teams, Steward sprinted forty-five yards and laid out a Vanderbilt player in pursuit of the ball, giving Marcus Murphy some running room on the punt return.
Linebacker Andrew Wilson and defensive back Randy Ponder collaborated on the next big hit. With the pocket collapsing around him, Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels escaped and scrambled to his left. Ponder was waiting for him at the 50-yard line, took out his legs, and Wilson finished the play and drove the air-borne quarterback into the turf.
Defensive end Shane Ray exploded off the edge to provide the third punishing blow. On a quarterback sneak, Ray knocked his blocker back on his heals and took down the fullback before he could make it to the line of scrimmage to give the ball-carrier a much needed push. As a result, the quarterback was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
Braylon Webb’s monster hit forced an incompletion on a perfectly thrown ball. The safety converged perfectly on an out route and lowered his shoulder into the receiver right as his hands came in contact with the ball, forcing him to drop it as he was smashed into the ground.
Defensive tackle Matt Hoch, in only his second season on defense after being converted from tight end, got in on the action as well. After forcing the Vanderbilt quarterback out of the pocket, Hoch chased him to the sideline and forced him to dump the ball off to his running back. Hoch didn’t stop there, though. He ran down the running back from behind and brought him to his knees before he could gain two yards.
Lastly, offensive lineman Justin Britt reminded us that big hits don’t just happen on defense and special teams. Britt pancaked a Vanderbilt linebacker, putting him on his back and taking him out of the play completely.