Tigers Host Cornhuskers in Big 12 Opener

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MUTIGERS.COM

MUTIGERS.COM

Oct. 4, 2009

#21/22 Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1) at #24/18 Missouri Tigers (4-0)
Oct. 8, 2009 - Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium - Columbia, Mo.

KICKOFF: 8:01 p.m. (central time).
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (71,004 - FieldTurf surface). Opened in 1926. MU is 249-164-20 there alltime and has won 22 of its last 24 overall and is 32-7 there since 2003 (2-0 in 2009).
RADIO: Tiger Network. Mike Kelly (play-by-play), John Kadlec (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines), Snowball (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 126) and XM Radio (channel 102).
TV: ESPN. Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Craig James & Jessie Palmer (color), Erin Andrews (sidelines), Phil Dean (producer), Mike Schwab (director).
RANKINGS (AP/USA): MU - 24th / 18th; NU - 21st / 22nd.
SERIES: Nebraska leads, 63-36-3, but the Tigers have won 2 straight and 4 of the last 6, including 3 straight wins in Columbia by an average of 23.0 pts. per game.
COACHES:
Mizzou: Gary Pinkel (Kent, '75), 63-41 at MU (9th year) and 136-78-3 overall (19th year). Pinkel is 4-4 vs. Nebraska and is 1-0 vs. Bo Pelini.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, '90), 13-5 at NU and overall (2nd year). Pelini is 0-1 vs. Missouri and Gary Pinkel.

THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS SHINE ON MIZZOU AS LEAGUE PLAY STARTS UP

It's time for the real season to start, and the Missouri Tigers (4-0 overall) look to continue their winning ways with a rare Thursday night home game to get Big 12 Conference play off and running, as they play host to the Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-1) on Oct. 8th. Kickoff for the game, which is slated for a live national ESPN telecast, is set for 8 p.m. (central time).

This marks the first time since 1992 that Mizzou is hosting a Thursday night game. The date - exactly 17 years to the date of Thursday's game against Nebraska - was Oct. 8, 1992, and on that night, the 9th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes took a 6-0 win on Faurot Field, in a game that was windy, wet, cold and basically just plain nasty. Mizzou is coming off a bye week that followed a 31-21 Friday (Sept. 25th) win at Nevada as the Tigers closed a perfect non-conference pre-season for the fourth straight year. In Reno, Mizzou led 12-7 at halftime, and after falling behind 13-12 in the 3rd quarter, rallied for 19 straight points to put the game away to improve to 4-0.

Nebraska also enjoyed last weekend off, after they concluded non-league play with a 3-1 record. The Huskers improved to 3-1 in their last time out, thanks to a 55-0 whitewashing of Louisiana-Lafayette in Lincoln, Neb. Nebraska's only loss of the year was an agonizing last-second, 16-15 defeat at Virginia Tech on Sept. 19th. They began the season with home wins over Florida Atlantic (49-3) and Arkansas State (38-9).

TALE OF THE TAPE
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
MIZZOU NEBRASKA
453.00 [16th] Total Offense 440.00 [19th]
143.00 [60th] Rushing Offense 183.75 [39th]
4 TDs Rushing 10
310.00 [10th] Passing Offense 256.25 [33rd]
166.23 [6th] Passing Efficiency 152.90 [20th]
12 TDs Passing 8
36.75 [15th] Scoring Offense 39.25 [9th]
351.75 [59th] Total Defense 285.50 [21st]
133.75 [61st] Rushing Defense 115.75 [39th]
5 TDs Allowed Rushing 2
218.00 [68th] Passing Defense 169.75 [23rd]
113.27 [39th] Pass Efficiency Defense 97.65 [16th]
3 TDs Allowed Passing 1
15.50 [21st] Scoring Defense 7.00 [1st]
+0.75 [T-36th] Turnover Margin +1.00 [T-17th]
7 / 3 Fumbles/Lost 3 / 0
0 Interceptions Thrown 3
2 Interceptions Gained 3
21.82 [60th] Kickoff Return Avg. 23.22 [45th]
5.50 [91st] Punt Return Avg. 13.14 [25th]
42.82 [2nd] Net Punting Avg. 36.07 [63rd]
2.00 [T-51st] Sacks By 2.50 [T-30th]
1.25 [T-34th] Sacks Allowed 0.75 [12th]
27:32 [105th] Avg. Time of Poss. 29:46 [61st]
44.8% [31st] 3rd Down Conv. 47.1% [22nd]
75.0% [T-13th] 4th Down Conv. 100% [T-1st]

TIGERS ARE 32-7 AT 'THE ZOU' SINCE 2003 SEASON; HAVE WON 9 STRAIGHT THERE OVER BIG 12 NORTH FOES

Since nicknaming Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium "The Zou" prior to the 2003 season, Gary Pinkel's Tigers have done a nice job of defending their home turf (FieldTurf surface, which was also installed prior to the '03 season, by coincidence).

Since 2003, the Tigers are an impressive 32-7 at home, good for a winning percentage of 82.1%, including 17-6 during that time in Big 12 competition (73.9%). That breaks down to records of 6-0 in 2003, 3-3 in 2004, 4-2 in 2005, 6-1 in 2006, 6-0 in 2007, 5-1 in 2008 and 2-0 in 2009.

In fact, the record book shows that Mizzou has dominated at home against fellow Big 12 North foes. The Tigers have not lost at home to a Big 12 North opponent since 2004, when it dropped a 31-14 contest to rival Kansas. Since then, Mizzou has rolled to 9 straight wins at home over Big 12 North foes. Here's a rundown:

  • - 2005: vs. Iowa State (W, 27-24 in OT); vs. Nebraska (W, 41-24)
  • - 2006: vs. Colorado (W, 28-13); vs. Kansas State (W, 41-21); vs. Kansas (W, 42-17)
  • - 2007: vs. Nebraska (W, 41-6); vs. Iowa State (W, 42-28)
  • - 2008: vs. Colorado (W, 58-0); vs. Kansas State (W, 41-24)

The Tigers carry an active win streak of 4 games at The Zou, and have won 20 of their last 22 at home dating back to midway through the 2005 season. The only losses in that stretch were a 26-10 setback in 2006 to #19 Oklahoma and a 28-23 loss in 2008 to #17 Oklahoma State. Mizzou has won 11 straight home games against non-conference opponents, dating back to the last setback, a 45-35 loss to New Mexico in the 2005 home opener.

TIGERS LOOK FOR 4TH STRAIGHT 5-0 START TO A SEASON

Mizzou will look to continue its perfect start to the 2009 season and improve on their 4-0 record Thursday vs. Nebraska. A win over the Huskers would give Mizzou its fourth straight season of at least a 5-0 start - a feat which had never happened in consecutive seasons at MU prior to the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Mizzou has started 5-0 to a season only 9 times overall in its previous 118 years of fielding a football team. Here's a look at all of the previous seasons in which MU has started a season 5-0, with the 1st number in parentheses the start and the 2nd number the end record for the season...

  • - 1899 (7-0 / 9-2)
  • - 1905 (5-0 / 5-4)
  • - 1960 (11-0 / 11-0)#
  • - 1969 (5-0 / 9-2)#
  • - 1973 (6-0 / 8-4)
  • - 1981 (5-0 / 8-4)
  • - 2006 (6-0 / 8-5)
  • - 2007 (5-0 / 12-2)%
  • - 2008 (5-0 / 10-4)%
  • #-Won Big Eight Championship    %-Won Big 12 North Division Championship

    TIGERS HAVE BEEN CREAM OF THE BIG 12 NORTH CROP

    Thanks to the research skills of resident MU football historian Tom Orf, we proudly pass along the following tidbits about Mizzou and the Big 12 Conference North Division...

    - Mizzou has won the most games, both in Big 12 North play, as well as overall, in the last 7 seasons (2003-09). The charts look like this (thru games of Oct. 3rd):

    BIG 12 NORTH TEAM WINS
    LAST 7 YRS., ALL GAMES
    BIG 12 NORTH TEAM WINS
    LAST 7 YRS., BIG 12 GAMES ONLY
    School Record School Record
    Mizzou 54-27 Mizzou 27-21
    Nebraska 49-30 Nebraska 25-23
    Kansas 47-31 Kansas 22-26
    Kansas St. 40-39 Colorado 20-28
    Colorado 34-45 Kansas St. 20-29
    Iowa St. 28-49 Iowa St. 11-38

    MIZZOU BEGINS WORK ON THREE-PEAT IN NORTH

    Two-time defending champions of the Big 12 North Division, the Missouri Tigers entered the 2009 season without a bullseye squarely on their backs, as most prognosticators had 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.

    If they can pull the feat and represent the North Division in the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game, Missouri would be the first North school to make three straight appearances in the league title game.

    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):

    NORTH PTS. SOUTH PTS.
    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

    TIGERS HAVE 3RD-MOST WINS IN NATION OVER LAST THREE 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), plus a 4-0 start to the 2009 season, MU's three-year win total of 26 is tied for the 3rd-most in the nation during that time period. Here's a look at the leaders (thru games of Oct. 3rd)...

    MOST WINS, 2007-09 (Thru Oct. 3rd)
    Wins School 2007 2008 2009
    27 USC 11 12 4
    27 Boise State 10 12 5
    26 Mizzou 12 10 4
    26 Florida 9 13 4
    26 Texas 10 12 4
    26 Cincinnati 10 11 5
    25 BYU, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma
    25 Tulsa, Utah, Virginia Tech

    MIZZOU-NEBRASKA SERIES HISTORY

    Mizzou and Nebraska have played 102 times previously, in a series that dates back to 1892. The only school Mizzou has played more than Nebraska is arch-rival Kansas, which, at 117 games played, is the nation's 2nd-most played rivalry game.

    Nebraska holds a 63-36-3 lead in the series with Mizzou, with a lion's share of that overall advantage due to a stranglehold the Cornhuskers held over MU from 1979-2002 that saw Nebraska win 24 straight games.

    Prior to that NU winning streak, the Mizzou-Nebraska series was a very competitive and fiercely fought rivalry, as going into the 1979 season, Nebraska held just a 37-32-3 overall lead.

    Mizzou has won 4 of its last 6 games over Nebraska, with all 4 wins coming by no fewer than 17 points. Mizzou has won 3 straight in Columbia (41-24 in both 2003 and 2005, plus a 41-6 win in 2007), and that was capped last season with an historic 52-17 win in Lincoln, which marked Mizzou's first win in Nebraska since 1978. Missouri is looking to beat Nebraska for a third straight season - the last time that happened was during a stretch from 1967-69.

    Mizzou's 3 straight wins in Columbia over Nebraska is the longest such streak since the Tigers won 4 straight in Columbia over the Huskers from 1947-53. Tiger Coach Gary Pinkel stands 4-4 against Nebraska in his 8 years on the Mizzou sideline. The last Tiger coach to have more wins against Nebraska than Pinkel was the College Football Hall of Famer, Dan Devine, who went 8-5 against the Huskers from 1958-70.

    LAST YEAR REWIND: #4 MIZZOU 52, NEBRASKA 17

    LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Chase Daniel threw three touchdown passes, Derrick Washington ran for 139 yards and scored three times and the fourth-ranked Tigers beat overmatched Nebraska 52-17 for their first road win against the Cornhuskers in 30 years.

    The 35-point defeat was the Huskers' most lopsided home loss in 53 years and fifth-worst in Lincoln in the program's 119-year history.

    Missouri scored the first four times it had the ball, then went up 31-7 on Brock Christopher's 16-yard interception return late in the second quarter.

    This victory was a long time coming. The Tigers hadn't won in Lincoln since 1978, when they upset second-ranked Nebraska 35-31 to deny the Huskers a national title shot. The Tigers were as good as, or better than, they were in beating three non-BCS opponents before starting Big 12 play. Three of their scoring drives lasted less than 2 minutes - giving them 17 such drives for the season. And their No. 1 offense extended its streak of no three-and-out possessions to 48.

    Daniel found Jeremy Maclin on a short slant on the third play of the game, and Maclin turned it into a 58-yard touchdown to continue the Tigers' streak of scoring on their first possession in each game this season.

    Nebraska came right back, with Joe Ganz rolling out and hitting Nate Swift with a 20-yard touchdown pass. Then it was game over.

    Daniel, who was 18-of-23 for 253 yards, led the Tigers on three impressive scoring drives.

    A personal foul and pass interference penalty helped fuel a quick 80-yard drive that Washington finished with a 3-yard run. Jeff Wolfert kicked a 48-yard field goal and Jimmy Jackson scored on a 1-yard run to end a 75-yard march.

    Down 24-7 and facing third-and-14 at his own 16, Ganz tried to force a pass to Menelik Holt. But Christopher stepped in front from his linebacker spot and went in for a score.

    Ganz finished 26-of-38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns, the last one a meaningless 20-yarder to Holt as time expired.

    NEAR-PERFECT GAME FUELS MISSOURI TO BIG WIN AT NEBRASKA

    Mizzou exorcized 30 years of frustration in Lincoln, Neb. in 2008, as the Tigers rolled to a 52-17 win over Nebraska - marking the Huskers' largest margin of defeat in Lincoln since 1955. While no coach in his right mind would ever purport to having played a perfect game, us PR hacks can make claims along those lines, and while MU's performance wasn't 100% pristine, it was darn close. Consider the following facts from the game...

    • - Mizzou punted exactly zero times on the night. Punter Jake Harry wasn't called on, and he punted just 2 times total in MU's 3-game stretch against Nevada, Buffalo and Nebraska..
    • .
    • - The Tigers were flagged for just one penalty on the night, a personal foul that cost 15 yards, while Nebraska was called for 14 penalties totaling 101 yards in all...
    • - Mizzou did not turn the ball over, nor did it allow a sack on offense...
    • - The #1 offense scored on 7-of-8 possessions with Chase Daniel at the helm, as he guided the way to 6 TDs and 1 FG in all. The sole non-score came at the first-half gun, as PK Jeff Wolfert tried a 59-yard attempt, only to see the kick fall just short and barely wide left...
    • - The Tiger defense forced 2 turnovers (scoring on one of them, a 17-yard INT return by LB Brock Christopher) and held Nebraska to just 79 yards rushing on 35 attempts (2.3 avg.)...
    • - The #1 defensive unit only allowed 10 points, as Nebraska got its last score with :00 on the clock that came against the reserve team...

    TIGERS, GABBERT TOPS IN BIG 12 IN PASS EFFICIENCY

    Four games into the 2009 season, a look at the statistical rankings shows something that not many people would have counted on prior to the year - Mizzou leads the Big 12 as a team, as does sophomore first-year starting QB Blaine Gabbert, in passing efficiency.

    Just four games into his collegiate starting career, Gabbert sports the top mark among the pass-crazy league's QBs, with a rating of 168.57, a figure which rates him 4th in the NCAA entering the Nebraska game. As a team, Mizzou also leads the Big 12 at 166.23, which is good for 6th nationally so far.

    A breakdown of national stats from the outstanding website cfbstats.com (we highly recommend it to any of you stat afficionados), shows that no collegiate QB has been better than Gabbert in the 2nd half of play so far. Gabbert's 2nd-half QB rating of 229.64 is tops anywhere, here's a quick look at the numbers, courtesy cfbstats.com:

    2nd-HALF NCAA QB RATING (Thru Games of Sept. 26th)

    Rating Player, Team Stats
    229.64 Blaine Gabbert, MIZZOU 33-of-43, 547 Yds., 6 TDs, 0 INTs
    216.90 Kellen Moore, Boise State 19-of-26, 288 Yds., 4 TDs, 0 INTs
    206.22 Greg McElroy, Alabama 24-of-32, 382 Yds., 3 TDs, 0 INTs
    201.26 Joe Kemp, Tulane 19-of-26, 342 Yds., 2 TDs, 1 INT
    200.17 Chris Jacquemain, Akron 10-of-14, 136 Yds., 2 TDs, 0 INTs

    • - A breakdown of his second-half outings include:
    • - vs. Illinois - 11-of-13, 172 yards, 2 TDs...
    • - vs. Bowling Green - 10-of-12, 128 yards, 2 TDs...
    • - vs. Furman - 3-of-4, 21 yards...
    • - at Nevada - 9-of-14, 226 yards, 2 TDs...

    SPOON KNIFES WAY INTO MU CAREER TOP-10 TACKLES LIST

    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.

    Through 4 games, he's on his way toward doing just that, as Spoon ranks 5th in the Big 12 with his 9.50 tackles per game average (38 total). He's coming off a 9-tackle game at Nevada where he registered 1 TFL and a 1/2 QB sack as the Tiger defense held the potent Wolf Pack attack in check for most of the night. His 9 tackles upped his career total to 340 tackles, which places him in 9th place alltime on the Mizzou top-10 career list. He is 94 tackles away from the MU career record of 434 tackles by former LB James Kinney (2001-04)...

    - Weatherspoon turned in a game-high 14 tackles in Mizzou's comeback win against Bowling Green. He made four stops in the decisive 4th quarter that saw Mizzou outscore the Falcons, 14-0. Perhaps his biggest play was on a 3rd-and-9 early in the 4th quarter, when he stopped a pass play for a loss of two yards to force a BGSU punt. On the ensuing possession, the Tiger offense drove for a game-tying score...

    He got his senior campaign off to a promising start as he registered a team-best 9 tackles in MU's 37-9 dismantling of favored Illinois. Spoon added a QB sack of the Illini's Juice Williams, and threw in 1 QB hurry too.

    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.

    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.

    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 15 seniors on the roster. Of those, only six are projected to start on offense/defense Thursday against Nebraska, with only eight total who are on the two-deep entering the game. 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 Nebraska game. You'll notice that of MU's 53 players listed on the 2-deep, more than half (36) are either freshmen or sophomores...

    PROJECTED STARTERS BY CLASS 2-DEEP BY CLASS
    Seniors 6 [3 off./3 def.] 8 [3 off./5 def.]
    Juniors 7 [2 off./5 def.] 9 [ 2 off./7 def.]
    Sophomores 8 [6 off./2 def.] 21 [15 off./6 def.]
    Freshmen 1 [0 off./1 def.] 15 [7 off./8 def.]

    ALEXANDER 1ST MU WIDEOUT IN 17 YEARS TO WIN LEAGUE OFFENSE AWARD

    Senior WR Danario Alexander has his final season as a Tiger off to a great start, as he's been involved heavily in the passing game, as he leads MU with 29 receptions and 404 receiving yards. He's also got 4 TDs, which is 2nd-best behind running mate and fellow senior Jared Perry.

    Thanks to another career night last time out at Nevada, Alexander won the Big 12 co-Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 28th for his 9-catch, 170-yard, 2-TD game in MU's 31-21 win in Reno. Alexander's scores came from 31 and 74 yards out, and he also had a huge 3rd-down conversion grab on 3rd-and-8 from the MU 5-yardline in the 4th quarter that helped spur what ended up a 97-yard TD drive that essentially iced the game for Mizzou.

    Alexander became the first Tiger receiver to win conference offensive POW honors since Victor Bailey won the award in 1992 for his performance against Nebraska - back in the days of the old Big Eight Conference.

    With another 14 receiving yards, Alexander will surpass his previous season high, which came back in 2007 when he had 417 yards on 37 catches in 10 games. Alexander has two straight games of multiple-TDs. Prior to Nevada, he caught 3 passes for 46 yards and he became the first Tiger to throw for a TD and catch a TD pass in the same game since the 2006 Brut Sun Bowl. On the TD pass, Alexander combined with fellow WR Jared Perry as Alexander took a lateral toss from QB Blaine Gabbert, and after selling a bubble screen, he pulled up and lofted a pass downfield to a wide-open Perry for a 40-yard TD that was MU's first score of the game. Later in the 2nd quarter, Alexander caught a pair of TD passes (13 yards and 17 yards), with the latter coming with just :11 seconds remaining in the half. He had a 7-catch, 56-yard outing against Bowling Green, and his 22-yard catch-and-run late in the 4th-quarter that went down to the 1-yardline set up the game-winning TD that Derrick Washington scored with 5:38 to play.

    Alexander opened his final season at MU in style, as he turned in career highs of 10 receptions for 132 yards against Illinois. Time and again he was QB Blaine Gabbert's go-to guy, as 6 of his 10 catches came on 3rd or 4th down, with 4 of them extending the chains. A fifth, which didn't gain a first down, was just as crucial as any of them, as he had a 16-yard catch on the sideline on a 3rd-and-27 from the Illinois 30-yardline on MU's opening drive of the game. That catch was essentially worth three points, as it put the Tigers within field goal range, and after Grant Ressel made the ensuing 32-yard field goal, the Tigers were off and running with a 3-0 lead.

    Alexander's performance vs. Illinois put him over the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards for his career. He enters Friday's game at Nevada with 107 career catches for 1,401 yards and 12 TDs.

    His performances have been good to see for such a great kid who has battled through various injuries over the past two seasons. It's easy to forget that Alexander beat out Jeremy Maclin for the starting job at one receiver spot prior to 2007 - a pretty good indicator of his talent. But Alexander broke his wrist in the 2007 season opener, and that kept him out of action for three games. He returned to catch a TD pass in game 5 against Nebraska, and closed the regular season with an 8-catch, 117-yard, 1-TD performance in 4th-ranked MU's historic 36-28 win over arch rival and 2nd-ranked Kansas that led to MU taking over the #1 ranking the next week in the A.P. and BCS polls.

    But Alexander saw his season come to an end the next week in the Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma as he tore knee ligaments while being tackled on an end around. He had surgery to repair the damage, and was making good progress until his ligament graft came undone during the spring of 2008, which forced him to undergo surgery again. He worked hard to return in 2008, and he did so admirably after missing only the first two games, but he clearly wasn't 100% for the season. His numbers dropped from 37 catches for 417 yards and 2 TDs in 2007 in 10 games to 26 catches for 329 yards in 12 games in 2008. He did up his TD total last year to 5, but he had a third surgery on his knee in the off-season to clean things up another time.

    Alexander's perserverance to overcome his challenges was recognized in the off-season by his teammates, as they voted him one of four team captains for the 2009 season.

    FINISHING THEM OFF

    Mizzou has gone into halftime of its 3 games against FBS competition (for the sake of this point, we're throwing out the Tigers' 52-12 win over Furman of the FCS division) with the outcome of each game still in the balance, only to come out in the second half and take control. Included in that mix was a come-from-behind win against Bowling Green that saw Mizzou turn a 14-point 3rd-quarter deficit into a 27-20 win - marking only the 3rd time ever in school history that MU had overcome a 14-point 2nd-half deficit to win a ballgame.

    Here's a look at the 2nd-half prowess displayed so far by Mizzou in 2009 against FBS competition:

    1st Half Scoring 2nd Half Scoring
    Opponent MU Opp. MU Opp.
    vs. Illinois 16 3 21 6
    vs. Bowling Green 6 13 21 7
    at Nevada 12 7 19 14
    Totals 34 23 61 27

    GREGORY NAMED TOP ACADEMIC HONORS CANDIDATE

    Veteran RG Kurtis Gregory is not only one of the top offensive linemen around, he's also an outstanding example of a student-athlete. Gregory, who was a 2nd-Team All-Big 12 performer a year ago on the gridiron, has also excelled in the classroom, as he earned his undergraduate degree in agriculture in May of 2008 - meaning he's in his 2nd season already of playing as a graduate student. The Blackburn, Mo. native (population of 270 in July, 2008) grew up on his family's farm and intends to make his living off the land when his playing days are done.

    He often takes teammates back to the farm during down time to show them what a day of farm life is like - and most of the time his teammates come back appreciating football practice more and more!

    This past week, Gregory was named one of 54 candidates for the William Campbell Trophy, which is nicknamed the "Academic Heisman", and was formerly known as the Draddy Trophy. The award is considered the top scholar-athlete award available to college football student-athletes. Semifinalists must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale, have outstanding football ability as a first team player or significant contributor, and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.

    The NFF Awards Committee will select and announce up to 15 finalists on Oct. 29. Each finalist will be recognized as part of the 2009 NFF National Scholar- Athlete Class, receiving an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship. The Campbell Trophy winner, who will have his scholarship increased to $25,000, will be announced live at the NFF's Annual Awards Dinner on December 8 at the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. A total distribution of $277,000 in scholarships will be awarded that evening.

    Gregory is also one of 30 candidates for the 2009 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which honors the nation's top student-athletes in the categories of classroom, character, community and competition. The pre-season Outland Trophy candidate is slated to make his 33rd consecutive start at right guard this Thursday against Nebraska.

    GABBERT SHOWS HIS METTLE WITH 2ND-HALF COMEBACK

    After winning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week in his first career start for his stellar performance in Mizzou's season opener against Illinois, sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert had a tough act to follow. Things didn't go so smoothly for the St. Louis native against Bowling Green, but perhaps what he did in the 2nd half of the game was even more impressive than his performance against Illinois, because of the pressure involved.

    Gabbert keyed a 2nd-half comeback that saw the Tigers erase a 20-6 deficit late in the 3rd quarter, as they scored touchdowns on 3 consecutive possessions to grab a 27-20 win - we've already documented how that stands as only the 3rd time in MU history that the Tigers have won after trailing by as many as 14 points at any time in the 2nd half of a game.

    He's coming off an outstanding performance in notching a win in his first-ever road start, as the Tigers pulled away for 31-21 win at Nevada on Sept. 25th. Gabbert threw for a career-best 414 yards, on 25-of-40 passing, with 3 TDs to raise his season total to 11 TDs with no interceptions entering the Nebraska game. He had 5 passes of 30 yards or more against the Wolf Pack, including TD strikes of 31 and 74 yards to WR Danario Alexander - for the season, Gabbert already has 11 passes of 30 yards or more, with 6 of them going for scores.

    o - His first half against BGSU was tough, as he stood 10-of-21 passing for just 44 yards, as the Tigers trailed 13-6 at halftime. Things got worse in the 2nd half before they got better, as Bowling Green took the opening possession of the 3rd quarter and drove for a TD to make it 20-6. The Tigers followed with a 3-and-out possession, but after the Tiger defense stiffened and forced a punt, Gabbert and company dug in and went to work on the next 3 possessions, scoring 3 straight TDs. The drives covered 87, 72 and 61 yards, respectively, and Gabbert was a combined 9-of-10 passing in those three crucial drives for 121 yards and 2 TDs. The first drive started at MU's 13-yardline with just 4:50 left in the 3rd quarter and MU trailing, 20-6. It ended with his 27-yard TD pass to WR Jared Perry, while the 2nd drive ended with his 33-yard TD pass to WR Wes Kemp...

    Gabbert had Tiger nation - and much of the nation overall - abuzz with his first collegiate start, as he completed 25-of-33 passes for 319 yards and 3 TDs (49, 4 and 46 yards), and rushed for a 4th score in MU's 37-9 season-opening win over Illinois. He had 39 rushing yards in all, to give him 358 yards of total offense in his starting debut.

    His QB rating of 186.96 was the best of any Big 12 signal caller on the opening week, and it was the 2nd-highest rating ever for a Tiger making his starting debut - trailing only the mark of 207.4 set by Chase Daniel in 2006 against Murray State (23-of-32 for 320 yards and 5 TDs).

    Gabbert led the Tigers to a 52-12 win over Furman, thanks to a 17-of-25 passing performance that covered 256 yards and 3 more TDs, plus he added a 40-yard TD run to become the first Tiger since Brad Smith in 2002 (vs. Kansas) to throw and run for a TD of 40 yards or more in a game.

    For grins, we went back and looked up the numbers for former star QB Chase Daniel in his first 4 career starts, and Gabbert has put together better numbers than the

    2007 Heisman Finalist...
    Numbers For First Four Career Starts at Mizzou
    Daniel - 90-of-142, 1,020 yds., 9 TDs, 2 INTs, QB Rating of 141.82; 131 rush yds., 3 TDs
    Gabbert - 87-of-131, 1,161 yds., 11 TDs, 0 INTs, QB Rating of 168.57; 80 rush yds., 2 TDs

    WE'LL GRANT YOU THIS: RESSEL HAS BEEN GOOD

    Replacing the NCAA record holder for career accuracy could be seen as a daunting task for sophomore PK Grant Ressel, but the successor to former star Jeff Wolfert has shown that he's been more than up to the task, as he's a perfect 10-of-10 on field goals and 15-of-15 on extra points through 4 games. He's 4-of-4 from 40 yards or longer, including a career-best 46-yarder against Bowling Green.

    The Jackson, Mo. native, who didn't win the starting kicking job until late in training camp, ranks 1st in the Big 12 (3rd in the NCAA) in field goals per game (2.50) and is 2nd in the Big 12 and 4th in the nation in scoring (11.25 ppg)...

    Ressel, who walked on to the Tiger squad in 2007 was an unsung hero of Mizzou's 27-20 win over Bowling Green, as he accounted for the only points MU could muster through nearly 3 quarters of play. His 2nd-quarter field goals of 38 and 46 yards helped keep the Tigers afloat and within striking distance, until the offense could get untracked in the 2nd half. His 46-yarder (a career long) came with 51 seconds before halftime, and cut the score to 13-6 at the time.

    Last time out at Nevada, he again kept things moving forward as he nailed two 1st-quarter FGs (22 & 31 yards) to get points after stalled drives to help Mizzou post a 12-7 halftime lead. He also had 2 more boots in the 2nd half (27 and 26 yards) that helped seal the deal in Mizzou's 31-21 win.

    His first 5 field goal tries this year came in the first half, and all were kicked when the outcome of the game was still up in the air - none came in mop-up time when there's no pressure riding on the kick. Against Furman, he did have his only FG try come in mop-up time, but it was a 44-yarder in the 4th quarter, which he nailed to give the Tigers a 52-6 lead. Against Illinois, he was 3-for-3 on FG tries, connecting from 32, 44 and 41 yards in MU's 37-9 season-opening win. It didn't take long for Ressel to get his first test vs. Illinois, as he was called on for a 32-yard attempt that he nailed to cap MU's season-opening possession to give MU a 3-0 lead at the 7:23 mark of the 1st quarter. After MU took a 10-0 lead and Illinois closed to 10-3, the Tiger defense got an interception in Illini territory. The drive stalled out, however, and Ressel was called on to try a 44-yard attempt, which again was true with 8:36 left in the half for a 13-3 lead. He tacked on a 41-yarder for good measure with just :06 seconds left in the half to give Mizzou a huge boost of momentum, as well as a 16-3 lead, into the lockerroom for halftime.

    Ressel won the kicking job in fall training camp in a fierce competition with senior PK Tanner Mills. Ressel had no previous collegiate place kicks on his resume prior to this season, but he did punt once in 2008 in mop-up time, as he booted a 43-yard punt against Southeast Missouri State.

    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 136-78-3 (63.4%). 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 41-16 (71.9%) over the past 4+ seasons, and to bowl games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, has a 9-year record in Columbia of 63-41 (60.6%). Dating back to the 2005 Independence Bowl win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, Pinkel has won 35 of his last 46 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 63.

    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. Here's a quick look at the top winning coaches in MU history...

    MIZZOU COACHING WINS LEADERS

    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 63 9 (2001-Present) 63-41 .606 5
    Warren Powers 46 7 (1978-84) 46-33-3 .580 5

    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, meaning he'll patrol the Tiger sidelines through the 2015 season.

    HARRY GIVING 'EM THE BOOT WITH BIG 12-BEST PUNTING AVERAGE

    Being the punter for an offense as prolific as Missouri's has been the past few years is kind of like being the Maytag repairman - you're not called on too much, and when you are, people aren't too happy about it. But senior P Jake Harry IV is doing well enough in his appearances through 4 games that maybe Tiger fans won't be so hesitant to see the left-footer trot out on the field.

    • - Harry is averaging 45.12 yards per punt, which is currently 3rd in the Big 12 Conference, and 7th-best nationally...
    • - Through 4 games and 16 punts, Harry has 5 boots of 50 yards or more, and has 6 punts which have landed inside the opponent's 20-yardline. Against Illinois, he punted 3 times and averaged 49.3 yards on the day, with a long of 60 yards...
    • - Mizzou's net punting average of 42.82 ranks 2nd-best in the NCAA through 4 games. Opponents have managed just 12 punt return yards on 4 attempts against the Tigers thus far...
    • - Against Bowling Green, Harry had a big night in helping keep Mizzou on top of the field position battle, as he averaged 45.4 yards on a career-high 7 punts. He had a 69-yard punt in the 2nd quarter, and also had a 58-yarder in the 1st quarter of play...
    • - Two of his punts ended inside the BGSU 20-yardline, and only 1 was returned on the night, with the return going for negative one yard...
    • Harry took over punting duties in 2008 for the first time, and he averaged a solid 40.7 yards per punt, while Mizzou's net punting average of 37.71 ranked them 16th in the NCAA. That was a huge jump in improvement from 2007, when the Tigers ranked 113th in the NCAA in net punting with a mark of 31.46.

    DEFENSE PITCHING IN, LIMITING BIG PLAYS

    To the casual observer, Mizzou's defensive numbers through 4 games might not appear eye-popping, as the Tigers rank anywhere from 21st to 68th nationally in the major stat categories of defense. But make no mistake about it, the Tiger defense has shown nice improvement from a year ago, and appears to be a unit that is ready to help decide the outcome of ballgames.

    They're doing a great job of limiting big plays by opposing offenses so far, with only 8 plays going for 20 yards or more against them in 2009 (7 passing, 1 rushing). Only one of those (a 21-yard pass from Furman) have gone for a TD.

    In 2008, Illinois burned the Tiger defense with the big play, as they had a whopping 9 plays that went for 20 yards or more, including 4 that went for 30 yards or more. In 2009, it was a different story. Illinois had just one pass play in the game that went for 20 yards or more (a 24-yarder), and the longest rush was just 15 yards (only 3 rushes in all went for 10 yards or more). In all, Illinois managed 325 yards of total offense - more than 200 fewer than they amassed against MU in 2008.

    The defense pitched a first-half shutout of Furman, and forced 2 turnovers, including an interception that sophomore DE Jacquies Smith returned 43 yards for a touchdown.

    Last time out at Nevada, the Tiger defense held the potent Wolf Pack Pistol attack to 364 total yards, and a season-low 4.9 yards per snap. Nevada got 57 yards on a 4th-quarter drive in the game's final 3 minutes after the outcome had already been decided.

    The defense was key to MU's 27-20 comeback win over Bowling Green, as it pitched a shutout for the final 24:44 of the game, allowing their offensive teammates time to get the kinks worked out, as MU rallied from a 20-6 3rd-quarter deficit to post the comeback win.

    While the Falcon offense did manage TD drives of 80 yards (1st quarter) and 73 yards (3rd quarter), the Tiger defense was really good the rest of the night, as it held BGSU to a combined 167 yards of offense on its other 13 possessions. First-year Defensive Coordinator Dave Steckel's unit bowed its backs in two crucial situations in the 1st half, when MU turned the ball over twice inside its own 20-yardline. Both times, the defense held BGSU without a first down and forced field goals, which helped keep the Falcons within reach.

    In all, Bowling Green had 320 yards of offense, as the Tigers allowed the Falcons to convert on just 6-of-18 3rd-down conversions, while denying their only 4th-down attempt, as well, which ended the game.

    Bowling Green had just 3 plays that went for 20 yards or more, including one rush of 20 yards, and passes of 21 and 20 yards.

    Aldon Smith THE LATEST SMITH TO WREAK HAVOC FOR TIGER D-LINE

    Perhaps Tiger coaches should just look for defensive linemen with the last name of Smith when they're out on the recruiting trails. After all, the top two QB sack masters in Mizzou history are Brian Smith (31.5 sacks from 2003-06) and Justin Smith (22.5 sacks from 1998-2000).

    Now, it's turn for the next Smith to take his turn, and redshirt freshman Aldon Smith (no relation to Brian or Justin) is turning some heads with his play through 4 games. Heading into the Nebraska contest, Smith ranks 5th in the Big 12 in QB sacks and 8th in tackles for loss.

    Smith had a big QB sack at Nevada last time out that went for a loss of 13 yards on 3rd down that forced a Wolf Pack punt. He also was credited with forcing a fumble inside the MU 5-yardline early in the 4th quarter that was recovered by the Tigers, and that preceded a game-clinching 97-yard TD drive by the offense. Smith ended the night with 7 tackles in Reno.

    Smith had a 5-tackle performance against Bowling Green that included one huge 4th-quarter sack of 18 yards that came with around 9 minutes left in the game, with MU trailing 20-13 at the time. His sack was on 3rd down, and forced a BGSU punt that MU took and drove for the game-tying TD.

    Smith started against Bowling Green, after he was very impressive in his collegiate debut against Illinois, when he registered 6 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss and 1 QB sack of the Illini's Juice Williams.

    If that seems like a lot of Smiths to keep track of, well wait, there's more. Aldon's running mate at the other defensive end is sophomore Jacquies Smith (again, no relation to any other MU Smiths). Jacquies (pronounced jah-QWEE-s) has started each of MU's first 4 games, and has been very productive as well, as he's got 13 tackles and has added 1.5 QB sacks of his own, to go with an interception against Furman that he returned 43 yards for a TD.

    WASHINGTON LEADS GROUND CHARGE

    When Mizzou found itself trailing Bowling Green 20-6 midway through the 3rd quarter, the Tigers turned to their ground game to establish some rhythm, and it was junior TB Derrick Washington who led the charge.

    • - Washington helped lead Mizzou's comeback win over Bowling Green with a 120-yard rushing night, on a career-high 23 carries, good for an average of 5.2 yards per rush. Included on his night was a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 5:38 left in the game that served as the winning score in MU's 27-20 victory...
    • - Washington was a workhorse in the second half, as he carried 12 times, including 9 attempts in the 4th quarter alone, when he had 42 yards on the ground. He had three critical gains in the second half that were key to MU's comeback from a 20-6 third-quarter deficit, in addition to his game-winning score...
    • - The biggest was an 18-yard run on what was a 3rd-and-10 situation from the BGSU 45-yardline with less than 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Mizzou trailed 20-6 at the time, and on the next play following his first down, QB Blaine Gabbert hit WR Jared Perry on a 27-yard touchdown pass to get the Tigers in the endzone for the first time on the evening, and back in the game...
    • - The 100-yard outing was Washington's 4th of his career. His 23 rushing attempts eclipsed his previous career-high of 19, and it was the most rushes by a Tiger tailback in a regular-season game since the late Damien Nash carried 25 times (102 yards) against Colorado in 2005. Tony Temple carried 24 times (281 yards) in the 2008 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas...

    "D-Wash" was kept under wraps most of the night last time out at Nevada, as the Wolf Pack chose to clog the running lanes and make the Tigers beat them in the air. He did manage to break off a 42-yard run in the 4th quarter that set up a game-clinching TD which made it 28-13 with 10 minutes to play. He ended the night with 75 rushing yards on 16 carries.

    Washington enters the Nebraska game with 301 net rushing yards and 2 TDs.

    TIGER BYTES

    • - Sophomore WR Wes Kemp has been a big-play receiver for the Tigers so far in 2009. His average of 21.9 yards per reception (10 catches, 219 yards, 2 TDs) is best on the team, and it is also best in the Big 12 Conference among players with at least 10 receptions...
    • - Sophomore LB Will Ebner has been all over the field recently, as he turned in a game-high 9 tackles coming off the bench in both of MU's last two outings. He started with a career-high 9 stops against Furman, and matched that last time out with 9 more stops in his first career start at Nevada. The Friendswood, Texas native made his first career start in Reno, filling in for the injured Luke Lambert, who did not play due to an ankle injury. Lambert is listed as the starter at MLB for Thursday's game against Nebraska, but look for Ebner to be on the field quite a bit. Despite not being a full-time starter in 2009, Ebner currently ranks 2nd on the Tiger defense with 29 tackles...
    • - The Tigers faced a big deficit in time of possession against Furman as the Paladins led in that category by a 35:31-to-24:29 margin. Mizzou's quick-strike offense was to be thanked for that disparity though, as the Tigers had 3 TD drives that lasted less than one minute (:05 seconds, :55 seconds and :59 seconds)...
    • - Senior PK Tanner Mills (Columbia, Mo.) was awarded with a scholarship by the Tiger coaching staff the day before MU's game with Furman, and the former walk-on responded in fine fashion, when the kickoff specialist had 5 touchbacks in 9 kickoffs. They were the first 5 touchbacks of the year, as each of the previous kickoffs in the first 2 games (14 in all) had been returned by opponents. After adding 2 more touchbacks at Nevada, the 7 touchbacks for the season now rank as 9th-most in the nation, thru games of Sept. 26th...
    • - Soapbox alert here, but isn't it time that Offensive Coordinator/QB/PK Coach David Yost start getting some love as one of the top young assistant coaches in the nation? Consider the work he's done at Mizzou in coaching and developing Brad Smith into the top run-pass threat in NCAA history at the time (first player to ever reach 8,000 yds. passing and 4,000 yards rushing); developing Chase Daniel into one of the top passing QBs of all time (finished in NCAA top-10 for passing and total offense in just 3 years as a starter, and was a Heisman finalist in 2007); helping PK Jeff Wolfert with his amazing transformation from a scholarship diver at Mizzou into the most accurate kicker in NCAA history (for combined FGs and PATs); now for the work he's currently doing with first-year starters Blaine Gabbert at QB and Grant Ressel at PK; plus, to boot, he serves as Mizzou's recruiting coordinator, so he's the mastermind behind the recent recruiting success that saw Mizzou have a Big 12-best 6 players selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, including 2 first rounders, in WR Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) and DT Ziggy Hood (Steelers)...

    PERRY HAS BEEN VERY SCARY FOR OPPOSING DEFENSES

    Senior WR Jared Perry turned in a career day in just two quarters of play recently in Mizzou's 52-12 win over Furman. The LaMarque, Texas native had 7 catches for 161 yards and 2 TDs, with all of those figures representing career bests. With the Tigers holding a 42-0 halftime lead, Perry was given the rest of the day off, as he didn't play in the 3rd or 4th quarters.

    • - The two touchdowns (40 and 48 yards) marked the first multi-touchdown receiving day of Perry's career, as he came into the game with 9 career TDs, with all coming in nine separate games. After catching another TD pass last time out at Nevada, he now has 12 career TD receptions, and that ties him for 8th-most on the MU career chart. He's approaching the top-10 as well in receptions and receiving yards, as he enters Thursday's game vs. Nebraska with career numbers of 116 catches for 1,529 yards, which puts him just 3 catches and 67 yards outside of the MU career top-10 list in both categories...
    • - For the season, Perry has 25 catches for 381 yards and a team-best 5 TDs, numbers which ranks 6th, 6th and 2nd-best in the Big 12 so far. Perry has been very productive with the big play so far in 2009, as he's got a team-best 6 receptions of 20 yards or more. Four of his 5 TDs so far have come from 27 yards or more, including 3 which have been 40 yards or longer (40, 46, 48)...

    TIGERS POST COMEBACK FOR THE AGES TO DOWN BOWLING GREEN

    One week after breezing through a smooth-looking 37-9 season-opening win over favored Illinois, the Missouri Tigers were expected by most to do the same in their home opener against Bowling Green. Not much went right for the young Tigers, however, and through a combination of mistakes by MU and solid play from the Falcons, Mizzou trailed 20-6 late in the 3rd quarter before scoring the last 21 points of the game to pull out a 27-20 win and improve to 2-0 on the season.

    • - Mizzou's win tied for the 2nd-largest deficit overcome in school history to post a win. The alltime largest deficit overcome for MU was 21 points (vs. South Carolina in the 2005 Independence Bowl), and it marked the 7th time MU has rallied to post a win after trailing by 14 points in a game (the last was in 2001 at Kansas, when MU trailed 14-0 in the 2nd quarter to rally for a 38-34 win)...
    • - The comeback was also historic in another way, as it marked only the 3rd time in school history that the Tigers have rallied from a 14-point 2nd-half deficit to get a win. The first occasion was in 1976, when Mizzou trailed at #2 Ohio State, 21-7 in the 3rd quarter. The Tigers rallied for a 22-21 win, getting a TD and 2-point conversion in the final minute of play for the win. The last occurrence of overcoming a 14-point (or bigger) 2nd-half deficit to notch a win was the aforementioned 2005 Independence Bowl, when MU trailed 28-14 to start the 2nd half of play...

    MORE ON THE RUSHING ATTACK

    Mizzou had a season-best 196-yard rushing day against Furman, as the Tigers averaged 5.4 yards a carry on 36 attempts. True freshman Kendial Lawrence had the biggest day, as he netted 77 yards on just 10 carries. They'll look to return to that form against Nebraska, after being held to 78 net yards on 34 attempts at Nevada. In all against Bowling Green, Mizzou ran the ball 44 times and netted 181 yards, good for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Not record-setting numbers by any means, but it was a nice step up from the opening-game performance of 117 yards on 37 carries vs. Illinois (3.2 avg.). Plus, if you take out the 23 yards lost on 2 sacks of against BGSU, the Tigers gained 204 yards when attempting a run, on 42 tries. That's a solid per-carry mark of 4.9 per carry.

    The 44 rushing attempts was the most by Mizzou since Nov. 10, 2007, when the Tigers ran 49 times (203 yards) in a 40-26 win over Texas A&M.

    First-year Offensive Coordinator David Yost has shown through four games a willingness to lean on the ground game if needed. Mizzou is averaging 37.9 rushing attempts in its first 4 games in 2009, and that's up significantly from from an average of 29.8 rushes per game in 2008.

    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%)...
    • - 2009 - 294 total plays, 151 rushes (51.4%), 143 passes (48.6%)...

    SCORING EXPLOSION LEADS TIGERS TO ROUT OF FURMAN

    In Mizzou's first two games (37-9 win over Illinois & 27-20 win over Bowling Green), Mizzou scored 7 touchdowns in 120 minutes of play. In a span of 19 minutes and 36 seconds last Saturday versus Furman, Mizzou scored 6 TDs, as it turned a scoreless game into a 42-0 halftime lead over the Paladins last Saturday, on the way to a 52-12 win.

    After MU's first two possessions stalled out, the Tigers got untracked, and did so in a hurry, as they scored 3 TDs in a span of five offensive snaps to make it 21-0. The first came on some trickery, as WR Danario Alexander took a lateral from QB Blaine Gabbert and sold a screen, before pulling up to hit a wide-open Jared Perry streaking down the right sideline for a 40-yard TD pass with 4:47 left in the 1st quarter.

    The Tiger defense got a stop, and on the ensuing play from scrimmage, Gabbert hit Perry on a 48-yard TD pass for a 14-0 lead. After another defensive stand, Gabbert and company struck paydirt again, as the QB took matters into his own hand, as he kept the ball on an option run around left end on the third play of the drive. After getting around the edge, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Gabbert lowered his head, broke a tackle and scooted 40 yards for a score to become the first Tiger since the legendary Brad Smith (2002 vs. Kansas) to throw and run for a touchdown of 40 yards or more in the same game.

    But the onslaught wasn't over, as Gabbert had two more TD passes, with both going to Alexander (13 yards, 17 yards), sandwiched around DE Jacquies Smith's 1st career interception that he returned 43 yards for a score to make it a 42-0 halftime Tiger lead.

    The first three Tiger TDs all came from 40 yards or more, with the final two coming on solid, sustained drives. The final TD was also part of an outstanding two minute drill that saw Gabbert and company march from its own 23-yardline with 1:10 left in the half, to a touchdown on Gabbert's 17-yard pass to Alexander with just :11 seconds left. That efficient 2-minute drill covered 77 yards in 5 plays and took just :59 seconds.

     

     

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