A New Era Begins, For Real

MUTIGERS.COM Mizzou opens the 2012 season under the lights Saturday vs. Southeastern Louisiana.
Mizzou opens the 2012 season under the lights Saturday vs. Southeastern Louisiana.

Aug. 27, 2012

Southeastern Louisiana Lions (0-0) at Missouri Tigers (0-0)

KICKOFF: 6:07 p.m. CDT.

STADIUM: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (71,004 - FieldTurf surface). Opened in 1926. MU is 261-168-20 there alltime and has won 34 of its last 40 overall and is 44-11 there since 2003 (5-1 in 2011).

RADIO: Tiger Network. Mike Kelly (play-by-play), Howard Richards (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines), Scotty Cox (producer), Matt Winegardner (director). Carried on over 50 stations across the Midwest, and on the Internet at mutigers.tv.
   The game will also be available on satellite radio (Sirius 139).

TV: PPV. Dave Armstrong (play-by-play), former Mizzou star QB Corby Jones (analyst), Todd Donoho (sidelines).

   MU - RV (38th) / RV (43rd).
   SELA - none.

SERIES: No previous meetings.

   MU: Gary Pinkel (Kent, '75), 85-54 at MU (12th year) and 158-91-3 overall (22nd year). Pinkel is 0-0 vs. Southeastern Louisiana and Ron Roberts.
   SELA: Ron Roberts (Tennessee-Martin, '90), 0-0 at SLU (1st year) and 47-16 overall (6th year). This will be Roberts' first game against an FBS school.

   Often times, the start of a new football season brings out requisite hyperbolic claims and over-the-top statements about "new eras" or "charting a new path" or something of that ilk.
   For the University of Missouri, however, that claim is absolutely grounded in reality, as Mizzou embarks on an historic new era in 2012 with its initial season of membership in the Southeastern Conference. MU's move to the powerful league officially began July 1, 2012, less than eight months after the historic announcement made on the MU campus on November 6, 2011.
   When Mizzou takes to the field Saturday evening for the 2012 season opener against Southeastern Louisiana, it will be as part of a league which has won the last six consecutive BCS national titles.
   For you history buffs, here's a look at Mizzou's conference affiliation history in football:

  • 1907-27 - Missouri Valley Conference
  • 1928-47 - Big Six
  • 1948-57 - Big Seven
  • 1958-95 - Big Eight
  • 1996-2011 - Big 12

A trio of Tigers find themselves on pre-season watch lists for various national awards. Here's a quick look at what Tigers are drawing attention:

Junior QB James Franklin is back under center to lead the Missouri spread offensive attack, and if his second year as a starter is even just a slight improvement on his first year, big things will be in store for the Tigers. In his first year as a starter, Franklin helped lead the Tigers to an 8-5 season in 2011, and he did it dynamically, establishing himself as one of the nation's top dual-threat QBs. Franklin finished his initial year as a starter ranked 15th in the NCAA in total offense with just under 4,000 yards (3,846 for an average of 295.85 per game). He accounted for 36 touchdowns (21 passing / 15 rushing), which ranked as the 3rd-best season in MU history. He just missed out on the rare 3,000/1,000 achievement in 2011, as he threw for 2,865 yards and ran for 981 more. Despite a shoulder injury in the spring (labrum tear) which required surgery, Franklin showed no ill effects once fall camp rolled around this August, as he was 18-of-22 passing for 228 yards in the first major fall scrimmage.

School Total
1. Northern Illinois 9
2. TCU 8
3. Baylor 6
Other schools w/4 straight: Boise State, USC, BYU,
South Carolina, Alabama, Toledo, West Virginia,
Michigan, Temple

   When we last saw the Missouri Tigers, they were applying the killswitch to a talented North Carolina team, in a 41-24 win in the 2011 Independence Bowl. That win capped a strong finish to Mizzou's season, as it was the 4th-straight win to close what ended up an 8-5 season.
   That was no insignificant streak, as it marked the first time since 1965 that Mizzou had won its last four games of the season (including bowl games).
What's more, the current 4-game win streak puts Mizzou tied for 4th nationally entering the 2012 season (among teams who played in BCS-AQ leagues in 2011, it ranks as tied for 2nd-best).
   At right is a look at the current active winning streaks entering the opening week of play.

Tiger 1st Year 2nd Year
Brad Smith 5-7 8-5
Chase Daniel 8-5 12-2
Blaine Gabbert 8-5 10-3
James Franklin 8-5 ???

After winning 10 games 3 times in 4 seasons from 2007-10, expectations coming into the 2011 season were understandably very high for the Missouri Tigers, despite an offense which featured a 1st-year starting quarterback in true sophomore James Franklin.
   Franklin was responsible for 36 TDs, which was the most of the group. He's also the only one of the group to guide the Tigers to a win over a ranked team (winning each of his last 2 against ranked foes) in his first year as a starter. Were it not for a missed field goal at the end of regulation at Arizona State, Franklin would have been 3-3 against ranked opponents last year.
   Moving forward, Tiger coaches and fans are hoping that Franklin can emulate a career arc that his predecessors achieved - an improved win total in his 2nd year as a starter. At right is that look.

(BCS AQ Conferences Only)
Rank School 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 Total
1. Alabama 7 12 14 10 12 55
2. LSU 12 8 9 11 13 53

Oklahoma 11 12 8 12 10 53
  Oregon 9 10 10 12 12 53
  Virginia Tech 11 10 10 11 11 53
6. Florida 9 13 13 8 7 50
  Ohio State 11 10 11 12 6 50
  USC 11 12 9 8 10 50
9. MIZZOU 12 10 8 10 8 48
  Oklahoma St. 7 9 9 11 12 48
  Texas 10 12 13 5 8 48
  Wisconsin 9 7 10 11 11 48
  West Virginia 11 9 9 9 10 48
Non BCS-AQ League Schools:
  Boise St. 10 12 14 12 12 60
  TCU 8 11 12 13 11 55
  Utah 9 13 10 10 8 50
  BYU 11 10 11 7 10 49
NOTE - Utah & TCU are not listed among BCS Conferences, due to being in a
non-BCS AQ league prior to 2012.

There's no question that Head Coach Gary Pinkel and his Mizzou Football program has elevated itself to among the nation's elite. With its 10-win season in 2010, MU won its 40th game since 2007, good for an average of 10 per year during the four-year stretch.
   As it stands entering the 2012 season, MU's 48 wins since 2007 ranks as 9th-most in the nation (among BCS automatic qualifying conferences). At right is a look at the win totals among the nation's best during that time frame.

Mizzou's offensive line got a shot in the arm this fall when sixth-year senior LT Elvis Fisher hit the practice field, looking like himself again. After starting 40 straight games from 2008-10, Fisher saw his 2011 season end before it started, as he suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee that August. After being forced to sit out the entire season, Fisher received a medical hardship from the NCAA, giving him a 6th-year of eligibility, and giving the Tigers one of the most experienced blind side protectors in the nation.
Even without Fisher in 2011, Missouri was able to win the Big 12 Conference rushing title, averaging a league-best 244.00 yards per game. Three starters from that line have matriculated (RT Dan Hoch, RG Austin Wuebbels and LG Jayson Palmgren, but with Fisher's return the 2012 line was looking to have three returning starters, plus another who was a part-time starter a year ago.
   Joining Fisher as a returning bookend tackle is junior RT Justin Britt, who started all 13 games in 2011 at left tackle in place of Fisher. He's back and has moved over to the right side. Expected to join in the fun in the trenches were seniors Travis Ruth (who started 7 games at center in 2011) and Jack Meiners (who started 6 games at guard in 2011). Unfortunately the injury bug has hit the line in camp, as Ruth was lost for the season due to a ruptured tricep tendon in his left arm early in camp, while Meiners (who set the MU team bench press record in the summer with a mammoth lift of 505 pounds) sprained his left knee in Thursday's final scrimmage, and will likely miss a couple of weeks at the minimum.
   Sophomore Mitch Morse moved to center in the spring, and performed well enough to allow Ruth to move back to guard before his season-ending injury. Morse, who played in all 13 games a year ago, is coming off a very solid fall camp, and will make his first career start on Saturday.
   Two other Tiger linemen will also make their first career starts Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana. Junior Max Copeland walked onto the team prior to the 2009 season after growing up a Tiger fan (his father is an MU alum, and Max spent much of his childhood living in the Kansas City area before moving to Billings, Mont.). After seeing action in a total of 3 games the last two years, Copeland's hard work has paid off and he was awarded a scholarship this August, and is slated to make his first career start at right guard.
   Joining Copeland as a first-time starter will be true freshman Evan Boehm, who came to Mizzou as one of the nation's most highly-recruited offensive line prospects out of Lee's Summit, Mo. Boehm is scheduled to start Saturday at left guard, and when he does, he will become the first-ever true freshman offensive lineman to start for Head Coach Gary Pinkel. Only two other true freshmen linemen had ever played for Pinkel at Missouri - former Tiger Dan Hoch and current senior Jack Meiners.

The Mizzou defense has the luxury of returning three of four players who were starters by the end of the 2011 season. Leading the charge in 2012 is junior CB E.J. Gaines, who enjoyed a break-out year as a first-time starter a year ago. Playing in the pass-happy Big 12 Conference, Gaines and his running mates got plenty of opportunities to make plays, and the Independence, Mo. native did that early and often, as he finished the season ranked 3rd nationally with 18 passes defended, including an MU single-season record 16 passes broken up. He won 1st-Team All-Big 12 honors for his efforts, and is coming off a very strong fall camp.
   Senior CB Kip Edwards is also back to line up opposite Gaines. Edwards made 11 starts in 2011 and ended with 3 passes broken up, 2 forced fumbles and 1 interception to go with 55 tackles. He is not expected to play this Saturday in the season opener, due to a knee injury sustained in camp, but he hopes to be back for week 2.
   Starting in Edwards' place vs. Southeastern Louisiana is expected to be junior CB Randy Ponder. A former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship last season, Ponder made three starts a year ago when the Tigers used nickel/dime packages and he tied for 2nd on the squad with 4 break ups. Ponder also grabbed an interception at Texas A&M early in the 4th quarter and returned it 45 yards to set up a Tiger touchdown which kick-started them to a come-from-behind victory.
   Senior SS Kenronte Walker started the final four games of 2011, and he came on strong late in the year, as exactly half of his 44 tackles on the season came in those last four games, including a career-high 10 stops against Texas Tech, in another game in which Mizzou rallied late to win. Sophomore Braylon Webb, who earned Big 12 All-Freshman Team status a year ago, is expected to compete for the starting free safety spot, along with junior Matt White. Webb will sit out the SE Louisiana game after getting his knee scoped late in camp, and White, who made 5 starts a year ago, will look to follow up his sophomore season, which included 47 tackles and 4 pass break ups.

Senior WR T.J. Moe figures to be a major contributor in 2012 in a number of ways. Most people know him as one of the top returning wide receiver play makers in the nation. He's caught a combined 146 passes over the last 2 seasons for 1,694 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's also rushed for 142 career yards and a TD, and the former star high school quarterback has also a TD pass on his resume - a beauty of a 40-yarder that got Mizzou jump-started in last year's Independence Bowl win over North Carolina.
   As if that weren't enough, look for Moe to be Mizzou's primary kickoff return man in 2012. He handled those duties in 2011, and his average of 23.35 yards per return was good for 7th-best in the Big 12 and 63rd nationally. His 49-yarder in the 2nd half against UNC countered a Tar Heel score, and led to a Tiger scoring drive which essentially iced the game.
   Moe will add one more duty to his gameday checklist in 2012: holder for place kicks. The sure handed receiver, who enters the year ranked 8th on the Mizzou career receptions list (148), and who needs just 6 yards to crack the school career top-10 in receiving yards (1,702) will be MU's primary holder for the first time in his career.
   The Tiger receiving corp isn't just a one-hit wonder, however, as Moe will be joined by proven junior performers Marcus Lucas (23 catches, 414 yards, 5 TDs in 2011) and L'Damian Washington (20-364, 3 TDs). Senior Gahn McGaffie might have had the best fall camp of any Tiger receiver, and will undoubtedly play a major factor in the Tiger passing attack in 2011, while veterans Rolandis Woodland (career: 11 catches, 139 yards), Bud Sasser (2011: 3 catches, 16 yards) and Jimmie Hunt (had a 54-yard TD reception in 2011) also look to contribute.
   Junior TE Eric Waters (2011: 2 receptions, 46 yards, 1 TD) looks to man the spot vacated by former All-American Michael Egnew. There was also plenty of excitment this fall over the play in camp of true freshmen, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, and tight ends Sean Culkin and Brandon Holifield.
   In all, Mizzou returns players with a combined 264 career receptions, for 3,195 yards and 20 career TDs to its passing attack in 2012.

Mizzou expects big things from a talented and experienced front line of linebackers in 2012. The trio of senior Zaviar Gooden, senior Will Ebner and junior Andrew Wilson combine to give the Tigers what has to be one of the most seasoned trios in the nation. Oddly enough, these three might be the three quietest people on the football team, but they are likely the three hardest hitters.
   Take a look at the combined career stats for the Gooden/Ebner/Wilson trio:

  • Games/Starts: 102-54
  • Tackles: 484
  • Tackles for Loss: 39.5
  • Sacks: 8.5

   Gooden is arguably pound-for-pound the best pure athlete on the team, and he's coming off an 80-tackle season in 2011 (2nd-best on the team), a year after he registered a team-high 85 tackles in 2010. Gooden, who earned his undergraduate degree in business administration this past May, has started 26 consecutive games coming into the season, and he's got 195 career tackles (the most of any returning Tiger) with 4 career interceptions - including one each in his last two games of 2011.
   Wilson, who has the unofficial title of hardest hitter on the team, is coming off an outstanding sophomore season that saw him lead Mizzou with 98 tackles - more than double from his freshman total of 42 in 2010. Wilson, the son of former Tiger linebacker standout Jay Wilson (1980-83, he left holding MU's career tackles record at the time, with 323), was 2nd on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss a year ago, despite making just 9 starts in all.
   Ebner is getting a second chance at a senior season, thanks to being awarded a 5th year by the NCAA, after he missed all but the first game of 2011 due to injuries (concussion, hamstring). In 2009, Ebner won honorable-mention All-Big 12 status when he racked up 78 tackles (3rd on the team) as a sophomore, before fighting through an injury-plagued 2010 season that saw him limited to just 9 games. He's made 16 career starts and has 37 games of experience under his belt, to go with 149 career tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Senior TB Kendial Lawrence finished up the 2011 season in strong fashion, and he's looking to continue that momentum into the new year. Lawrence, who won the starting job last season after an outstanding fall camp, had a rough 2011 opener against Miami (Ohio), when he rushed for just 10 yards on 9 carries, and then to make matters worse, he cracked a bone in his leg in practice the next week, forcing him out of the next 3 games.
   During that stretch, teammate Henry Josey stepped in and emerged into one of the top tailbacks in the country, rushing for over 1,100 yards in the next 8 weeks. Undaunted, Lawrence rehabbed and came back to provide the Tiger attack multiple ground options, and he resumed the feature back role when Josey was lost for the year in game #10 against Texas with his knee injury.
   Lawrence gained 371 yards and had 3 TDs on the ground in the final four games, including a career-high 108 yards and a score in MU's bowl win over North Carolina. His emergence as a potent option kept opposing defenses from keying on QB James Franklin, and Lawrence looks to keep that 1-2 punch lethal in 2012.
   Joining Lawrence in the backfield will be sophomore TB Marcus Murphy, who missed the 2011 season with a shoulder injury sustained in summer workouts prior to the year. Murphy is back, and by his play in camp, he's ready to show his form that saw him average a healthy 8.2 yards per carry as a true freshman in 2010, when he ran for 181 yards on 22 carries that year.
   True freshman TB Russell Hansbrough enters the season opener primed to see playing time, as he's listed 3rd on the depth chart going into Saturday. Hansbrough was very impressive in fall camp, showing good elusiveness and burst, despite missing the first couple weeks of camp due to an ankle injury which he's since recovered from. Additionally, senior TB Jared McGriff-Culver is a bigger-bodied back (5-11, 250 pounds) who gives the offense versatile options. McGriff-Culver ran for 111 yards total in 2011 on 16 carries, with 1 touchdown.

For the last half of the 2011 season, senior specialist Trey Barrow was a very busy man. If a foot touched a ball on purpose, it was Barrow who did it, regardless of whether it was a punt, field goal, extra point or kickoff. Barrow won the starting punting job coming out of fall camp a year ago, and was outstanding all year long, as his average of 44.82 yards per kick ranked 2nd in the Big 12, and 9th in the nation.
   Barrow also handled kickoffs, and then was thrust into yet another role midway through the year, when incumbent starter and former All-American Grant Ressel was unable to kick in the final six games of the year due to a hip injury. Barrow performed admirably as the fill-in, converting on 7-of-9 field goal tries, with a long of 39 yards, while he was perfect on all 23 extra point tries.
   Barrow is going into the 2012 season as the top punter, and he also might be asked to handle all kicking duties once again. He had a very competitive battle in fall camp with redshirt freshman PK Andrew Baggett for the kicking job, and the starting job might very well go down to the last day of practice this week.

It's not a formula that is easy on the stomach, but it certainly is a key to winning close ballgames - winning the 4th quarter. The Missouri Tigers were very good down the stretch in 2011, and parlayed those late-game heroics into several big rallies which led to wins.
   The 4th quarter was decidedly a huge advantage for the Tigers in 2011. Mizzou outscored opponents by a whopping 143-to-59 margin in the 4th quarter, and twice rallied from double-digit 4th-quarter deficits to post wins. The first instance came at Texas A&M, as the Tigers trailed on the road by 11 points in the 4th quarter before coming back to force overtime, and eventually claimed a 38-31 overtime win. That stands as the 2nd-largest 4th-quarter comeback win in school history (13 is the largest, in 1949 against Nebraska).
   Just four games later, Mizzou saw itself trailing at home on Senior Day to Texas Tech, by a 27-17 count early in the 4th quarter, but the Tigers dug in and rallied for a 31-27 win to attain bowl eligibility.
   The 143 4th-quarter points was the 3rd-most in the FBS, trailing only Houston (168 in 14 games) and Toledo (156 in 13 games). Conversely, the Tigers scored only 54 points in the 3rd quarter in 2011, a figure which ranked 89th out of 120 teams comprising the FBS ranks.

Mizzou is 11-0 alltime against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) - formerly known to most of us as Division I-AA.
   MU Head Coach Gary Pinkel is 8-0 against FCS foes in his time at Mizzou, with the average score being 48.1-to-6.4 (385-to-51 overall) in favor of the Tigers. The closest margin of victory came in 2007, when the Tigers (who went on to a 12-win season and a final #4 national ranking) were given a competitive run by Illinois State before claiming a 38-17 win at Faurot Field.

Coach Wins # Seasons (Years) Record Pct. # Bowls
Don Faurot 101 19 (1935-42, 46-56) 101-79-10 .558 4
Dan Devine 93 13 (1958-70) 93-37-7 .704 6
Gary Pinkel 85 11 (2001-Present) 85-54 .612 8
Warren Powers 46 7 (1978-84) 46-33-3 .580 5

   Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel is in his 12th season at MU (22nd overall as a head coach) and touts a career record of 158-91-3 (63.3%).
   Pinkel, who has led MU to a combined record of 63-29 (68.5%) over the past 7 seasons, and to bowl games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, has an 11-year record in Columbia of 85-54 (61.2%). Dating back to the 2005 Independence Bowl win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, Pinkel has gone 57-24 in his last 81 games overall (70.4%). MU's win in the 2008 opener against Illinois gave Pinkel his 50th MU win, and he now ranks 3rd on the coaching wins list at MU, with 85. The win over Kansas in 2010 was the 150th of his career.
   Pinkel is in a select group of Mizzou coaches that includes College Football Hall of Famers Don Faurot and Dan Devine, as well as Warren Powers, to be the only coaches to have an MU record of above .500 (with at least one full season coached) dating all the way back to 1935.
   In 2007, Pinkel guided the Tigers from unranked in the pre-season to a team which won a school-record 12 games and a final ranking of #4 in the Associated Press Top-25. Mizzou ascended to #1 in the BCS rankings following the regular season, and stood just one half away from playing in the BCS National Championship Game (before Oklahoma pulled away from a halftime tie to win the Big 12 title game). For his efforts in 2007, Pinkel was a finalist for several national coach of the year awards, including the Robinson, Bryant and Munger awards. He was also named the National Coach of the Year by FieldTurf in 2007, and his 7 bowl games is an MU record.
   Pinkel has directed Mizzou to 8 winning seasons (8-5 in 2003, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 12-2 in 2007, 10-4 in 2008, 8-5 in 2009, 10-3 in 2010 and 8-5 in 2011), with those representing 8 of MU's 10 winning campaigns dating back to the 1983 season.
   The Big 12 North Division titles won by Mizzou in 2007, 2008 and 2010 represent the only football conference titles of any kind Mizzou has won since 1969 - the last time it claimed a share of the old Big Eight Conference crown. In April of 2011, Pinkel agreed to a two-year contract extension, meaning he'll patrol the Tiger sidelines through the 2017 season.



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