Football Heads to the Mountains

MUTIGERS.COM Derrick Washington had a touchdown the last time the Tigers came to Boulder, in 2007.
Derrick Washington had a touchdown the last time the Tigers came to Boulder, in 2007.

Oct. 26, 2009

Missouri Tigers (4-3, 0-3) at Colorado Buffaloes (2-5, 1-2)

   It’s been rough sledding the past three weeks for the Missouri Tigers (4-3 overall, 0-3 in Big 12 Conference play), as they’ve dropped their first three league games of the season. They’ll look to get on track this Saturday in the Flatirons as they head to Boulder, Colo. to take on the Colorado Buffaloes (2-5, 1-2) in a rare day game, with kickoff set for 12:30 p.m. (central time), 11:30 a.m. Boulder time. The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Net, marking MU’s first appearance on FSN this season.
   The Tigers are coming off a 41-7 home defeat to 3rd-ranked Texas, in a game that saw the Longhorns jump out to a commanding 21-0 first-quarter lead. The Tigers managed an impressive TD drive early in the 2nd quarter to pull to within 21-7, but two more UT touchdowns before halftime essentially salted the game away. Texas held an edge in total offense of 400-to-173 on the night, as they ran 77 plays to Mizzou’s 53, and that led to a time of possession advantage in UT’s favor of 35:02-to-24:58.
   Colorado is coming off a 20-6 road loss at current Big 12 North leading Kansas State last Saturday. The Buffaloes held a 6-3 lead after one quarter, but the Wildcats scored 17 points in the 2nd quarter to take a 20-6 halftime lead, and that’s all the scoring that took place on the day. It was a defensive battle, as K-State held a slim margin in total offense (284-to-244), but it was turnovers that really hurt CU. The Buffaloes lost four turnovers (2 fumbles and 2 interceptions) that led to 10 Wildcat points.
   The Buffaloes have been tough at Folsom Field (2-1 at home in 2009), with their last game there a 34-30 upset win over 16th-ranked and undefeated Kansas on Oct. 17th. They also shutout Wyoming and former MU coach Dave Christensen by a 24-0 count on Sept. 19th in Boulder. Their only home loss was a season-opening 23-17 defeat to rival Colorado State.
   Mizzou will serve as Colorado’s Homecoming opponent on Saturday, marking the 14th time the Tigers have been CU’s guest for Homecoming. Mizzou is 4-9 in those encounters, with the last one coming in 1995 (21-0 CU win).




KICKOFF: 12:30 p.m. CT.

STADIUM: Folsom Field (53,613 – Natural grass surface). Opened in 1924. MU is 14-20-1 there alltime, but won 55-10 the last time playing there in 2007.

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
   The MU broadcast will also air on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 129) and XM Satellite Radio (channel 103).

TV: Fox Sports Net. Bill Land (play-by-play), Gary Reasons (color), Emily Jones (sideline reporter), Jeff Muckleroy (producer).

RANKINGS (AP/Coaches):
   MU – None.
   CU – None.

SERIES: MU leads, 40-31-3 overall, while CU holds a 7-6 edge since the Big 12 formed. MU has won 3 straight – its longest in the series since a 6-game string from 1979-84, and the combined score of the last 2 MU wins is 113-10.

   MU: Gary Pinkel (Kent, ‘75), 63-44 at MU (9th year) and 136-81-3 overall (19th year). Pinkel is 4-4 vs. Colorado and is 3-0 vs. Dan Hawkins.
   CU: Dan Hawkins (UC-Davis, ‘84), 68-40 overall (9th year) and 15-29 at CU (4th year). Hawkins is 0-3 vs. Mizzou and Gary Pinkel.


   Last weekend marked Homecoming for the Missouri Tigers, but a sellout crowd of 71,004 (the 10th-largest crowd ever at Memorial Stadium, and the largest since 1983) wasn’t enough to overcome the 3rd-ranked Texas Longhorns, who posted a 41-7 victory to spoil the celebration. Any designs of a Tiger upset were quickly dismissed by the Longhorns, who bolted to a 21-0 first quarter lead as they controlled both sides of the ball early on – after one quarter, UT held a 170-to-19 edge in total offense, as they ran 24 plays to Mizzou’s 10 in the opening quarter.
   The Tigers mustered an impressive 81-yard, 12-play touchdown drive midway in the 2nd quarter to bring life to the sellout crowd and to pull to within 21-7 as QB Blaine Gabbert hit WR Jared Perry on an 11-yard TD pass with 5:53 left in the half. But the Longhorns, led by 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up QB Colt McCoy, promptly marched 87 yards the other way for a TD with 1:49 to play, and then got a kill shot as they blocked a Tiger punt and fell on the ball in the endzone with 0:45 seconds left for a 35-7 lead.
   Mizzou held its own in the second half, keeping the Longhorns out of the endzone and limiting them to just 115 yards of offense after intermission and a pair of field goals, but the Tiger offense couldn’t get untracked against the stout Texas defense, save for the one 1st-half scoring drive. Gabbert ended the night just 8-of-16 passing for 84 yards and the 1 TD before having to leave late in the 3rd quarter after reaggravating his injured right ankle that has hobbled his mobility since the Nebraska game.
   Senior LB Sean Weatherspoon had 11 tackles (3.0 TFL, 1 QB sack) and an interception of McCoy to lead the defensive charge, while freshman DE Aldon Smith also added a career-high 11 stops, including 4.0 TFLs and 2.0 sacks, while offensive highlights came from senior WR Danario Alexander (6 catches, 74 yds.) and freshman TB Kendial Lawrence (7 rushes, 37 yards, 5.3 avg.).

   Mizzou and Colorado will face off for the 75th time when they meet Saturday in Boulder. The Tigers hold a 40-31-3 advantage in the series, and have won three straight, and four of the last five meetings, after the Buffaloes won five straight from 1999-2003.
   The Tigers are hoping to rekindle some of the magic that’s seen them post dominant wins over Colorado each of the last two seasons. Mizzou has downed CU by a combined margin of 113-to-10 in the last two years, including a 58-0 shutout in Columbia last year that was its largest victory margin ever over Colorado (and it was MU’s first shutout of Colorado since a 57-0 win in 1962). In 2007, the Tigers got their first win in Boulder since 1997, with a 55-10 win that was the biggest margin of victory ever for MU in Boulder.
   Since the Big 12 Conference formed for the 1996 season, the series between the two old Big Eight Conference foes is as close as can be, with CU holding a slim 7-6 advantage, thanks largely to a five-game winning streak from 1999-2003. Two of CU’s wins in that 5-game streak came in overtime, as the Buffaloes took a 46-39 OT win in Boulder in 1999, and followed with a 42-35 OT win in Columbia in 2002.
   A win Saturday would give Mizzou four straight wins over Colorado for the first time since it won six straight from 1979-1984. That same stretch also marked the last time MU has won consecutive games in Boulder, as the Tigers claimed wins at Folsom Field in 1979 (13-7), 1981 (30-14) and 1983 (59-20).

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Coming off of consecutive losses and hungry to redeem itself, the 16th-ranked Missouri Tigers took out their frustrations, and then some, against the Colorado Buffaloes in Columbia, to the tune of 58-0. The shutout marked the first time they held a Big 12 opponent scoreless and was the first shutout win against a conference foe for MU since blanking Kansas in 1986 (W, 48-0).
   The Tigers scored on 9-of-11 possessions with the #1 offense on the field, and tacked on a late TD by the reserves on a long run in the final 5 minutes to mark the largest win ever for Missouri in Conference play. Heisman hopeful QB Chase Daniel was on fire from the start, as he completed his first 13 passes of the night and ended 31-of-37 passing for 302 yards and a school-record tying 5 TDs.
   Daniel’s main accomplices were the usual suspects, in WR Jeremy Maclin (11 receptions, 134 yards, 2 TDs) and TE Chase Coffman (7 catches, 50 yards, 1 TD), while TB Derrick Washington got untracked after being held in check in the ground game the previous two weeks, as he contributed 83 rushing yards and 1 TD on 17 tries (4.9 avg.).
   Coffman broke an NCAA record for career receptions by a TE in the game, as he entered with an MU-record 213 catches. His 7-catch night moved him past Louisville’s Ibn Green, who held the record with 217 grabs from 1996-99. One of Coffman’s catches was one of his countless highlight-reel catches that capped MU’s 2nd possession, when he made a leaping, one-handed grab while falling out of the back of the endzone on a 3rd-and-1 play to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
   The Tigers took the opening kickoff and promptly marched 56 yards in just 4 plays, taking just 1:09 off the clock as Washington capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run, his 13th of the year. After CU went 3-and-out on its ensuing drive, disaster struck for the Buffs as punter Tom Suazo mishandled the snap and was tackled while trying to scramble on his own 5-yardline, setting up Coffman’s heroics as the Tigers grew the lead. After the Tiger defense forced a second successive 3-and-out, Daniel led a 13-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard TD pass to Maclin, and with 3:20 left in the 1st quarter, it was 21-0 Tigers.
   As impressive as the Tiger offense was, the story of the night was Mizzou’s defense, which was coming off a tough game at #1 Texas, where they allowed 56 points - the most ever allowed by a Gary Pinkel Tiger team. They made up for that in a hurry as they constantly harrassed a pair of CU quarterbacks and never allowed the Buffaloes to get any traction offensively. The Buffs ended the night with just 199 yards of total offense, and didn’t have positive yards until midway through the 2nd quarter.
   A pair of Jeff Wolfert field goals (23 and 44 yards) followed a Tommy Saunders 10-yard TD catch-and-run in the 2nd quarter, as Mizzou took a 34-0 lead into halftime. The Buffaloes sustained their first drive of the game to open the 3rd quarter, only to have it snuffed out on an incomplete 4th-down pass attempt on the Tiger 17-yardline. Mizzou would answer by getting TD passes of 4-yards and 30-yards in the 3rd quarter from Daniel to Danario Alexander and Maclin, respectively, as the bulge grew to 48-0.
   The defense kept its shutout alive as the Tigers added a 46-yard field goal early in the 4th by Wolfert. Even when the offense was not in scoring mode, it still did so, as reserve TB De’Vion Moore took a handoff and burst untouched 55 yards for his first career TD with 4:45 left to account for the final score.
   Mizzou’s defense then permitted the Buffaloes to drive in the waning seconds to its 9-yardline before time ran out. The Buffaloes admirably eschewed a cheap field goal attempt just to avoid the shutout, which broke a string of 242 consecutive games in which CU had scored, dating back to their last shutout loss (1988 against Nebraska).

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.]

   Obviously, Mizzou has had a rough go of it the past three weeks, but the fact remains that the future is bright in Columbia, as the Tigers are a very young team. Picked to finish third this season in the Big 12 North Division, the Tigers began the season hoping to successfully defend its 2007 and 2008 North Division titles.
   We don’t have a way to scientifically prove this, but odds are that Missouri is one of the youngest teams in the country in 2009. While youth can sometimes step up and provide nice surprises (i.e. – MU’s 4-0 start to 2009), it can also prove to be challenging (i.e. – the last three games).
   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 Saturday against Colorado, 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 CU game. You’ll notice that of MU’s 53 players listed on the 2-deep, more than half (36) are either freshmen or sophomores...

   As one can imagine, the list of highlights on the offensive side of the ball in a 41-7 defeat isn’t a staggering one, but the Tigers did manage a very impressive TD drive in the 2nd quarter that gave life to the sellout crowd of 71,004 and momentarily got MU back into the game.
   Trailing 21-0, Mizzou had managed just 25 net yards on its first three possessions of the night against Texas’ stout defense that came into the game ranked 6th nationally in total defense.
   But the Tigers responded with an impressive 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive to close them to within 21-7 with 5:53 left in the 2nd quarter, with the drive capped on an 11-yard TD pass from QB Blaine Gabbert to WR Jared Perry.
   The drive consumed 5:46 off the clock, which marked a season-long for a scoring drive time-wise (previous long was a 4:35 FG drive against Illinois). The Tigers showed an effective run-pass balance on the drive, as it ran 7 times for 53 yards against the nation’s top-ranked rush defense (UT came in allowing just 35.86 yards per game on the ground to opponents), while Gabbert was 4-of-4 passing for 30 yards and the TD.

   Much like their teammates on offense, the Tiger defense didn’t win the battles with Texas’ offense, as 41 points allowed would reflect. There were some positives that took place overall on defense, however, so here’s a few:

  • Mizzou had its second-straight game where it held the opposing offense out of the end zone in the second half. Texas held a 35-7 halftime lead (including one TD that came on a blocked punt), but the Tigers adjusted nicely after halftime and limited UT to just a pair of 2nd-half field goals. Texas had just 115 yards of offense in the 2nd half against the Tiger defense...
  • That followed another solid 2nd-half showing at Oklahoma State on Oct. 17th, when the Tigers held OSU’s high-powered offense to three second-half field goals, despite the fact that it faced short fields the entire second half of its 33-17 loss...
  • The Tigers held Texas to an average of 3.0 yards per rush on the night (43 carries for 131 yards), which was the 2nd-lowest total of the year for the Longhorns (46 yards vs. Colorado). Mizzou did manage to get to QB Colt McCoy 3 times (2 by DE Aldon Smith, 1 by LB Sean Weatherspoon), while Spoon also intercepted McCoy in the 3rd quarter, which was the Tigers’ first interception since game #3 against Furman (3rd team INT of the year).

   A net total of 74 rushing yards for a game might not be cause for celebration, but when it is twice the average of what the nation’s top-ranked run defense is allowing, it’s a good starting point:...

  • Mizzou’s rushing total of 74 net yards was more than twice of what Texas was allowing coming into the game. The Longhorns entered the game ranked #1 in rush defense, allowing just 35.83 yards per game...
  • Texas had allowed its three previous Big 12 opponents a COMBINED net of 20 yards rushing, including totals of negative 6 yards against Texas Tech, 42 yards by Colorado and negative 16 yards by Oklahoma...
  • The Tigers actually gained 99 yards rushing vs. the Longhorns, but a pair of sacks totalling 25 yards in losses counted against the net total. Backing the sack yardage out of the equation, Mizzou gained 99 yards on 27 carries, for a per-rush average of 3.7 yards, which was much better than the 1.3 average opponents were averaging against the Longhorns prior to the game...
  • Mizzou’s tailbacks were effective against the UT defense, as the trio of Derrick Washington, De’Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence combined for 24 carries for 101 yards (4.2 average). Lawrence, a true freshman, gave a nice spark as he averaged 5.3 yards on 7 carries (37 yards net), including a nifty 22-yarder that he almost broke the distance. Washington carried 11 times for 35 yards (3.2 avg.) while Moore averaged a healthy 4.8 yards per tote (6 rushes, 29 yards)...
  • Through 7 games, Washington leads all Mizzou rushers with 451 yards (4.1 avg.) and 3 TDs, while his per-game average of 64.4 yards currently ranks 8th-best in the Big 12 Conference...
  • Lawrence owns the best per-carry average among the three regulars, with a 4.8 average...

   What’s the surest way to break up a no-hitter in baseball? Talk about a no-hitter in the middle of it, of course. With that in mind, it’s with a healthy respect for sports superstitions that we reluctantly bring up this impressive streak for Missouri – the Tigers have converted on 217 consecutive extra point attempts entering Saturday’s game at Colorado.
   The last time Mizzou missed an extra point (not including 2-point attempts), was back in 2005 – and it just so happens that the miss was in the same location as this week’s game, Colorado’s Folsom Field. Mizzou missed a PAT on its only kick attempt in a 41-12 loss that year to Colorado, and hasn’t missed since. After that, the streak has included:

   Missouri is quite a ways still from the NCAA record for consecutive PATs made by a school. The record is 262 by Syracuse, from 1978 to 1989 by 7 different kickers.

   When the Tiger offense has faced 3rd down or 4th down and 2 yards or less, they’ve had a good deal of success so far in 2009. Coming into Saturday’s game with Colorado, Mizzou is a combined 22-of-28 (78.6%) on 3rd and 4th down tries of 2 yards or fewer. Here’s a quick breakdown...

  • 3rd-&-1: 11-of-14 (78.6%)...
  • 3rd-&-2: 6-of-8 (75.0%)...
  • 4th-&-1: 3-of-4 (75.0%)...
  • 4th-&-2: 2-of-2 (100.0%)

   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 certainly off to a good start in that regard, and recently, he was one of 10 standouts named as a semifinalist for the 2009 Lombardi Award.
   Through 7 games, Spoon ranks 4th in the Big 12 with his 8.71 tackles per game average (61 total). He’s coming off a big night against #3 Texas, when he led the Tigers with 11 tackles, including 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 QB sack of UT’s Colt McCoy. Spoon also grabbed a 3rd-quarter interception of McCoy to mark his first INT of 2009.
   His 11 stops gave him 363 for his career (he’s only in his 3rd year as a starter on defense), which ranks him 6th in Mizzou history. He needs 12 more tackles to crack the top five, and he’s 71 tackles away from the MU career record of 434 tackles, set by James Kinney from 2001-04. With 5 games guaranteed remaining, he’d have to average 14.2 tackles per game to reach that mark. If the Tigers reach a bowl game this season, that goes down to 11.8 per game for him to become MU’s alltime leading tackler.
   Previously, Spoon turned in a 7-tackle outing at Oklahoma State where the Tiger defense performed admirably despite facing a severe disadvantage in field position most of the night. Spoon and company held OSU’s high-powered offense out of the endzone in the second half.
   At Nevada, Weatherspoon had a 9-tackle game 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.
   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, 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.

   One of the great stories happening in Big 12 football right now is the outstanding play of senior WR Danario Alexander, who has overcome four surgeries during his time as a Tiger, only to emerge this season as one of the most productive receivers in the nation.
   The Marlin, Texas native enters Saturday’s game against Colorado with a team-best 50 receptions for 701 yards and 5 TDs. He’s already surpassed his previous season highs, which came back in 2007 when he had 417 yards on 37 catches in 10 games. Alexander was a bright spot on the Tiger offense in an otherwise tough night last Saturday vs. #3 Texas, as he caught 6 passes for 74 yards (the rest of the team combined for 6 catches for 25 yards).
   Three times this year, he’s already established a new career best for receiving yardage. The latest effort was at Oklahoma State, where he caught 9 passes for 180 yards and 1 TD. The TD was a beautiful catch-and-run where he broke a couple of tackles and fought off a facemask penalty to will his way into the endzone from 48 yards out. He also had a 50-yard catch against the Cowboys, to go with another one for 34 yards.
   Alexander enters the Colorado game ranked 3rd in the Big 12 and 9th in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (100.14 avg.), and he’s also 4th in the Big 12 and 15th nationally in receptions per game (7.14 avg.).
   On Sept. 25th at Nevada, Alexander won the Big 12 co-Offensive Player of the Week 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.
   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 Saturday’s game against Colorado with 128 career catches for 1,698 yards and 13 TDs. He currently ranks 8th on the MU career receptions and is 9th on the receiving yardage chart, and his 13 career TDs puts him 6th alltime at MU.
   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.

(As of Oct. 25th)
1. Eric Decker, Minnesota 23.3%
2. Kurtis Gregory, MIZZOU 22.7%
3. Richie Brockel, Boise St. 10.4%
4. Tim Tebow, Florida 8.4%
5. Darrell Stuckey, Kansas 7.8%

   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!
   Last week, Gregory was named one of 10 finalists 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.
   Nationwide balloting begins immediately to determine the winner. Lowe’s, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the Senior CLASS Award™ winner in early January.
   The 2009 finalists are: Zane Beadles, University of Utah; Richie Brockel, Boise State University; Eric Decker, University of Minnesota; Kurtis Gregory, University of Missouri; Jerry Hughes, TCU; Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan University; Colt McCoy, University of Texas; Zoltan Mesko, University of Michigan; Darrell Stuckey, University of Kansas; and Tim Tebow, University of Florida.
   These 10 names will be placed on the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award football ballot for a nationwide vote which concludes December 6. Fan balloting is available on the award’s official Web site, <a href=""></a>, as well as through text messaging. Fans can text FOOTBALL to 74567 to vote for the finalists. These votes will be combined with votes from coaches and media to determine the recipient of the award.
   As of Monday, October 25th, Gregory stood 2nd in the fan voting, which comprises 1/3rd of the voting total, with the remainder coming from Division I coaches and national media voters. At right is a look at the top-five in the voting, as of Monday:
   Additionally, Gregory was recently 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.
   The pre-season Outland Trophy candidate is slated to make his 36th consecutive start at right guard this Saturday at Colorado.

   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 in his first season of play. Heading into the Colorado contest, Smith ranks 4th in the Big 12 in tackles for loss (1.29 avg.) and is 8th in the Big 12 in QB sacks (0.71 avg.). He’s got season totals of 9.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 QB sacks, and he’s coming off a big game last time out against Texas, where he amassed a career-best 11 tackles (all of the solo variety).
   Included in that 11-tackle night were a pair of QB sacks against Texas’ 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up Colt McCoy. Smith turned in 4.0 tackles for loss in all on the night for 11 yards in total losses.
   Smith had a big QB sack at Nevada 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 4 games, and has been very productive as well, as he’s got 17 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.

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