This is roughing the punter — just 40 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

This is roughing the punter — just 40 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Photo: Getty Images

There has been an interesting aura around the Missouri football program for decades essentially boiling down to weird things will happen to this team. It’s just a matter of when chaos ensues. In today’s edition of batshit crazy Southeastern Conference football, we found out a tackle box for a punter extends from Mizzou’s home in Columbia to St. Louis, over 100 miles away. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit. And the officials calling a tackle box half the size of the Show-Me State screwed the Tigers out of their best chance to win.

Missouri’s defense played lights out for most of Saturday’s SEC East game against Kentucky, with crucial bowl eligibility implications. Wildcats quarterback Will Levis is a consensus top-10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft and is at worst the third-highest rated player at his position for draft scouts behind Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. He looked pedestrian against Missouri, a credit to how good the Tigers’ defense has been for most of the season. After the MU defense forced a Kentucky punt to give the ball back to its offense late in the game, the weirdest application of roughing the kicker I’ve ever seen took place.

Kentucky’s long snapper heaved the ball through his legs so far over the head of Wildcats’ punter Colin Goodfellow that he had to frantically sprint over 20 yards to pick up the fumble. Miraculously, he did beat any Missouri play to the ball. And had a split second to turn around and boot it away to not give the Tigers’ first-and-goal to start their next drive. As Goodfellow smartly does so, he’s blasted by Missouri’s Will Norris, and a penalty flag is almost immediately thrown for roughing the kicker.

Was the hit brutal? Sure. It’s also football and if Goodfellow is that fragile, Norris made the right move to take him out. The ball would’ve popped loose and an easy touchdown would’ve come the Tigers’ way. But somehow, the punter is a protected player 37 yards behind the line of scrimmage. I never knew tackle boxes were that big! Next time Josh Allen scrambles away from pressure and is about to be sacked, why doesn’t he kick it? It’ll be roughing the passer by this thinking.

Missouri’s offense only scored 17 points and didn’t by itself play well enough to win the game. You can’t win most SEC games going 2-13 on third down. But dammit, MU got screwed on this one. And full disclosure — I used to cover Missouri for three years as the hometown daily newspaper’s beat reporter. I called out Mizzou for anything they did wrong and still would today. This one’s indefensible, and Tigers’ fans have every reason to be pissed.

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