Jared Perry returns to the Edward Jones Dome for the final time on Saturday.
Aug. 31, 2009
Missouri Tigers (0-0) vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (0-0)
ARCH RIVALRY RESUMES
It’s time for some football as the Missouri Tigers (10-4 overall in 2008) kick off the 2009 season in the battle ground of St. Louis, Mo., as they face the Illinois Fighting Illini (5-7 in 2008) on Sept. 5th in the Edward Jones Dome. Kickoff for the game is set for 2:40 p.m., with the game being televised live on ESPN.
Both teams are receiving votes in the pre-season Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches’ polls, but neither had enough votes to land inside the top-25.
This year is the fifth of six schedule meetings between the two schools in St. Louis, with the 2010 game marking the last one for the near future. Previous games in the Dome have all gone MU’s way, as the Tigers claimed a 33-20 win in 2002, a 22-15 win in 2003, a 40-34 win in 2007 and a 52-42 win in 2008.
KICKOFF: 2:40 p.m. CT.
STADIUM: Edward Jones Dome (66,965 – FieldTurf surface). Mizzou is 4-0 there, winning all four against Illinois (wins in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008).
RADIO:Tiger Network. Mike Kelly (play-by-play), John Kadlec (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines), Mark Mills (engineer). Carried on over 50 stations across the Midwest, and on the Internet at mutigers.com.
The MU broadcast will also be on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 122) and on XM Satellite Radio (channel 106).
TV: ESPN (HD). Ron Franklin (play-by-play), Ed Cunningham (color), Bob Goodrich (producer), John Delvecchio (director).
MU – RV [48th] / RV [34th].
ILL –RV [27th] / RV [35th]
SERIES: MU leads, 15-7, and has won 4 straight, and 14-of-19 dating back to 1966.
MU: Gary Pinkel (Kent, ‘75), 59-41 at MU (9th year) and 132-78-3 overall (19th year). Pinkel is 4-0 vs. Illinois and 2-0 vs. Ron Zook.
ILL: Ron Zook (Miami Univ. ‘76), 18-30 at ILL (5th year) and 41-44 overall (8th year). Zook is 0-2 vs. Mizzou and Gary Pinkel.
|Seniors||7 [3 off./4 def.]||8 [3 off./5 def.]|
|Juniors||6 [2 off./4 def.]||9 [ 2 off./7 def.]|
|Sophomores||9 [6 off./3 def.]||20 [14 off./6 def.]|
|Freshmen||None||14 [7 off./7 def.]|
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES
If the future belongs to youth, then things should be looking up for Tiger Football for a long while, because the 2009 Mizzou team takes the field as an extremely young squad.
While Head Coach Gary Pinkel would never offer up youth as an excuse for anything, the fact remains that this team is very young, with only 14 seniors on the roster. Of those, only seven are scheduled to start on offense/defense, with only eight total who are on the two-deep entering the season opener against Illinois. That’s a stark contrast to 2008, when the Tigers began the season with 12 senior starters (5 on offense and 7 on defense).
Here’s a breakdown of MU’s projected starters and the offense/defense two-deep for the Illinois game. You’ll notice that of MU’s 51 players listed on the 2-deep prior to the first game, more than half (34) are either freshmen or sophomores...
TIGERS 3RD IN MOST WINS IN NATION OVER LAST TWO SEASONS
With a school-record 12 wins in 2007, and 10 more wins in 2008, (the first time Mizzou has had double-digit win totals in consecutive years) MU’s two-year win total of 22 is tied for 3rd-most in the nation during that time period.
USC and Oklahoma each have 23 wins (both with 11 in 2007 and 12 last year), while the Tigers join Boise State, Florida, Texas and Utah among the schools averaging 11 wins each of the last two years.
Additionally, MU’s three-year win total of 30 wins (MU won 8 games in 2006) ranks as tied for 10th-best in the NCAA during the 2006-08 stretch. Florida and Boise State lead from 2006-08 with 35, with USC and Oklahoma next at 33.
BIG SEASON SET FOR ALL-AMERICA CANDIDATE WEATHERSPOON
The undisputed face, voice and leader of the 2009 Tigers is senior LB Sean Weatherspoon. “Spoon” came to Mizzou as a mostly-unheralded two-star recruit out of Jasper, Texas, and he’s looking to leave as an All-American. He’s been named a 1st-team pre-season All-American by ESPN.com, and is on the pre-season watch lists for the Walter Camp, Butkus, Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik and Lott awards in 2009.
And for good reason, as he led the Big 12 in 2008 with a career-best 155 tackles, which ranked him 5th in all of the NCAA last year. He closed his junior season in fine fashion as he tallied 17 tackles in helping lead MU to a comeback 30-23 overtime win against Northwestern in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, winning Defensive MVP honors in the process.
Spoon entered his name for consideration for the 2009 NFL Draft, but chose to come back for his senior year. In doing so, he has a chance to leave Mizzou as the school record-holder for career tackles. He has 302 career stops entering the 2009 season, which puts him 15th on the MU charts, 132 shy of record-holder James Kinney, who had 434 tackles at the LB position from 2001-04.
Spoon was a game-changer in the 4th quarter of MU’s 52-42 win over Illinois last season. In that game, he had 9 tackles, including 1 tackle for loss, but his biggest plays came in the 4th quarter, when he intercepted a pair of Juice Williams passes while the Illini were trying to stage a late rally. His first pick came at the Tiger 26-yardline to snuff out an Illini threat with 10:20 left in the game and MU holding onto a 45-35 lead at the time.
On Illinois’ next possession, Spoon made a pair of tackles, including a stop on 3rd down to force a punt, and on the Illini’s next drive, he took things into his own hands, literally, when he caught a pass over the middle simultaneously with an Illini player. He ripped the ball out of the opposing player’s hands, and went the other way, going 35 yards untouched into the endzone with 3:18 left in the game for a back-breaking TD that made it 52-35.
Weatherspoon’s 4th quarter vs. Illinois was amazing, as 7 of his tackles came in the final 15 minutes, in addition to grabbing his 2 interceptions. He was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Illinois.
After earning playing time as a true freshman mostly in a reserve role and on special teams, Weatherspoon emerged on the scene in 2007 as a sophomore. He took over the starting spot at the weakside linebacker position a year ago, and from the get-go was a leader on the defense. He ended the year with a team-best 130 tackles, and was named a 1st-Team All-Big 12 performer by the Associated Press.
WHAT RETURNS FOR MIZZOU
Most people, when talking about the 2009 Tigers, first talk about what’s gone from the 2008 Tiger team. Let’s get that over with here, with a quick recap of the surplus of talent that’s departed...
- The senior class of 2008 included 23 student-athletes, who left as the winningest class in school history, with 37 wins over the four-year period of 2005-08. Proudly, all 23 earned their degrees as well...
- Mizzou lost six players to the NFL Draft in 2009, which was the most of any Big 12 school, and more draft picks than all five Big 12 North competitors COMBINED. Two players (Jeremy Maclin and Ziggy Hood) went in the first round...
- Among those gone are Maclin (MU’s career record holder in all-purpose yards, punt returns and kick returns), Chase Daniel (MU’s career record holder in passing yards, passing TDs, total offense, among many other records), Chase Coffman (2008 Mackey Award winner and the NCAA record-holder for most passes caught by a tight end), and Jeff Wolfert (finished as the most accurate place-kicker in NCAA history for combined PATs/FGs)...
So just what does MU have back in 2009? Plenty on both sides of the ball...
- Senior LB Sean Weatherspoon is the leader of the pack, no doubt, as the defending tackles champion of the Big 12 Conference in 2008, with 155 stops in 14 games. Weatherspoon was selected as a pre-season 1st-Team All-American by ESPN.com this month...
- Back is 2008 2nd-Team All-Big 12 TB Derrick Washington, who rushed for 1,036 yards and 17 TDs a year ago. Other skill players back include senior wideouts Jared Perry and Danario Alexander, both of whom have proven themselves over the years. Perry has 91 career catches for 1,148 yards and 7 TDs, while Alexander has 78 career grabs for 997 yards and 8 TDs. Sophomore TE Andrew Jones is back after gaining valuable experience last year as an understudy to Coffman. Jones started once in place of Coffman when he was injured last year, and played significantly all throughout his true freshman season of 2008...
- Three starters on the offensive line return to help lead the way for a new quarterback, including senior RG Kurtis Gregory, who has started 28 consecutive games at the position. Joining him as returning starters are junior C Tim Barnes and sophomore LT Elvis Fisher. Projected starters on the line also include sophomore RT Dan Hoch and sophomore LG Austin Wuebbels – both of whom played significantly in 2008...
- On defense, other returning starters include NOSE Jaron Baston (Hon. Men. All-Big 12 in 2008), junior CB Carl Gettis (Hon. Men. All-Big 12 in 2008) and LB Luke Lambert (9 starts, 58 tackles in 2008). Additionally, there are five other veterans on defense who have starting experience, but who aren’t considered returning starters officially.
BLAINE GABBERT'S PRESEASON NUMBERS
BEGIN THE BEGIN
A new era begins on Sept. 5th when the Tigers take the field without former star QB Chase Daniel, who graduated after re-writing the Mizzou record books. Daniel left holding MU career records for passing yards (12,515), passing TDs (101), passing efficiency (149.0), total offense (13,485) and most TDs responsible for (111), among many other game, season and career records. Daniel was a 3-year starter, from 2006-08, and left with a record of 30-11, two Big 12 North Division titles and two bowl game victories in three bowl appearances.
Prior to Daniel, it was Brad Smith who re-wrote the record books both at Mizzou and the NCAA with his deadly combination of run-pass abilities. Smith was MU’s starter for four years (2002-05), and he left holding 69 different MU, Big 12 and NCAA records over his illustrious career. His school records included 8,799 passing yards, 13,088 yards of total offense and 4,289 rushing yards (which is still the MU standard, and stood as the NCAA QB rushing record until Pat White at West Virginia broke it in 2008). He also became the first player in Div. I-A history to throw for 8,000 yards and rush for 4,000 yards.
With all of that serving as a backdrop to MU’s 2009 season opener against Illinois, it’s time for sophomore Blaine Gabbert to take the field for his first career start, in his hometown of St. Louis, Mo., nonetheless.
Gabbert is coming off a very strong fall camp where he locked down the starting job that most everyone expected him to secure. In three major fall scrimmages, Gabbert put up the numbers at right.
We thought it would be interesting to go back and take a look at how first-time starting QBs have fared under Head Coach Gary Pinkel. Here’s a look at the first career start for the last two Tiger quarterbacks to precede Gabbert:
|Tiger, Opponent (Year)||Passing||Yds.||TDs||Rushing||TDs||Tot. Off.||Result|
|Brad Smith vs. Illinois (2002)||15-26-0||152||0||18-138||1||290||W, 33-20|
|Chase Daniel vs. Murray St. (2006)||23-32-0||320||5||9-27||0||347||W, 42-7|
WASHINGTON SAYS LEAN ON ME
With a veteran offensive line returning, coupled with a first-year starter at quarterback, conventional wisdom would have it that Mizzou will likely lean on its running game to help ease the transition to the post-Chase Daniel era.
While Mizzou’s spread offense isn’t exactly conventional, look for the Tigers to lean heavily on its ground game in 2009, and that’s thanks in large part to the return of junior TB Derrick Washington, who emerged in 2008 as one of the top backs in the Big 12 Conference. D-Wash ran for 1,036 yards and 17 TDs a year ago, despite not being 100% for the final 12 games (he tweaked a knee in game #2 but played the rest of the way, and had off-season surgery to clean it up). He also added 29 receptions for 277 yards and 2 more TDs as part of the passing attack, and was named a 2nd-Team All-Big 12 performer for his impact.
Washington got his first career start in 2008 against Illinois, and he responded by bursting for 130 yards and 2 TDs on 19 carries to help spur MU to its 52-42 win. He capped MU’s season-opening drive with a 7-yard TD run, and later scored on a 40-yard gallop in the 2nd quarter as part of Mizzou’s 24-point 2nd-quarter explosion that gave the Tigers a 31-13 halftime lead.
Additionally, don’t go to sleep on the run game when Washington is getting a breather, as the Tigers have high expectations for his backup, sophomore TB De’Vion (pronounced DEVIN) Moore, who is a St. Louis, Mo. native. Moore saw limited carries last year as a redshirt freshman, but was still effective, as he averaged a healthy 5.6 yards per carry, and he’s been impressive enough this fall to prompt Head Coach Gary Pinkel to label Washington and Moore as the best 1-2 running punch he’s had at Mizzou.
Since going to the spread offense prior to the 2005 season (Brad Smith’s senior year), the Tigers have been known as a pass-first operation, but that wasn’t exactly the case, as Smith’s forte was his run-pass dual threat. Then, in 2006, with first-year starter Chase Daniel at the helm, the Tigers were very balanced. Only as Daniel got more experience did the balance start to shift toward the passing attack. Here’s a breakdown of MU’s run-pass balance since 2005:
- 2005 - 981 total plays, 512 rushes (52.2%), 469 passes (47.8%)
- 2006 - 922 total plays, 457 rushes (49.6%), 465 passes (50.4%)
- 2007 - 1,112 total plays, 530 rushes (47.7%), 582 passes (52.3%)
- 2008 - 982 total plays, 417 rushes (42.5%), 565 passes (57.5%)
ILLINOIS SERIES HISTORY
Missouri and Illinois will meet for the 23rd time when they tussle in Saturday’s State Farm Arch Rivalry contest in St. Louis. MU holds a 15-7 edge in the series, based largely on the strength of taking 9-of-11 games between the rivals in a stretch spanning 1949 to 1983.
From 1984-1994, the border rivals alternated wins in five meetings, but since resuming the series in 2002, the Tigers have won the last 4 outings, however, and lead the Fighting Illini 5-1 alltime in games played in St. Louis.
Illinois is the 2nd-most commonly-played non-conference opponent in MU history. The previous 22 games played vs. Illinois ranks behind only the 23 played alltime vs. SMU.
SEASON OPENER HISTORY
In its previous 118 seasons of play, Mizzou stands 74-39-5 alltime (64.8%) in season openers. The Tigers have won 7 straight season openers, and 11-of-12 overall, dating back to 1997. Included in the current 7-game streak were season-opening wins over Illinois in 2002 (33-20), 2003 (22-15), 2007 (40-34) and 2008 (52-42).
This will mark the 10th time that Mizzou has faced Illinois to open a season, and the Tigers have managed a solid 7-2 record against the Illini in the previous 9 such meetings. Here’s a quick look at the previous MU-UI season-opening matchups:
- 1983 – Mizzou 28, Illinois 18 (Columbia)
- 1984 – Illinois 30, Mizzou 24 (Champaign)
- 1991 – Mizzou 23, Illinois 19 (Columbia)
- 1992 – Illinois 24, Mizzou 17 (Champaign)
- 1993 – Mizzou 31, Illinois 3 (Columbia)
- 2002 – Mizzou 33, Illinois 20 (St. Louis)
- 2003 – Mizzou 22, Illinois 15 (St. Louis)
- 2007 – Mizzou 40, Illinois 34 (St. Louis)
- 2008 – Mizzou 52, Illinois 42 (St. Louis)
2009 BIG 12 MEDIA POLL
|1. Nebraska (17)||172||1. Texas (17)||174|
|2. Kansas (12)||164||1. Oklahoma (15)||174|
|3. Missouri (3)||124||3. Oklahoma State||130|
|4. Colorado||100||4. Texas Tech||89|
|5. Kansas State||81||5. Baylor||75|
|6. Iowa State||33||6. Texas A&M||33|
CAN TIGERS WORK A THREE-PEAT?
Two-time defending champions of the Big 12 North Division, the Missouri Tigers enter the 2009 season without a bullseye squarely on their backs, as most prognosticators have either rivals Kansas or Nebraska winning the North Division. Obviously, the Tigers are dead set on proving the skeptics wrong, after going 7-1 in league play in 2007 (with an average margin of victory in those seven league wins of an impressive 23.4 points per game), followed by a 5-3 league mark in 2008 after beginning that year as the unanimous pre-season favorite by league media.
After being picked to win the Big 12 North each of the last two years, the Tigers were slotted 3rd in 2009 by league scribes. Here’s a quick look at the preseason media poll (first place votes in parentheses):
MIZZOU COACHING WINS LEADERS
|Coach||Wins||# Seasons (Years)||Record||Pct.||# Bowls|
|Don Faurot||101||19 (1935-42, 46-56)||101-79-10||0.558||4|
|Dan Devine||93||13 (1958-70)||93-37-7||0.704||6|
|Gary Pinkel||59||8 (2001-Present)||59-41||0.590||5|
|Warren Powers||46||7 (1978-84)||46-33-3||0.580||5|
PINKEL STANDS 3RD ON ALLTIME MU COACHING WINS LIST
Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel is in his 9th season at MU and touts a career record of 132-78-3 (62.7%). The Illinois game to open the 2008 season was the 200th in Pinkel’s head coaching career.
Pinkel, who has led MU to a combined record of 37-16 (69.8%) over the past 4 seasons, and to bowl games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, has an 8-year record in Columbia of 59-41 (59.0%). Dating back to the 2005 Independence Bowl win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, Pinkel has won 31 of his last 42 games overall.
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 59.
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.
At right is a quick look at the top winning coaches in MU history.
For the 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.
Pinkel has led MU to 5 bowl games, and if his Tigers reach a 6th in 2009, he will join Devine as the only other coach to guide MU to 6 bowl games.
Pinkel has directed Mizzou to 5 winning seasons (8-5 in 2003, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 12-2 in 2007, 10-4 in 2008), with those representing 5 of MU’s 7 winning campaigns dating back to the 1983 season.
The Big 12 North Division titles won by Mizzou in 2007 and 2008 represent the first football conference title of any kind Mizzou has won since 1969 – the last time it claimed a share of the old Big Eight Conference crown.
In November of 2008, Pinkel agreed to a new seven-year contract worth $2.3 million guaranteed per year, meaning he’ll patrol the Tiger sidelines through the 2015 season.
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