Mizzou Hosts Baylor, Looks For 2nd Straight Win

MUTIGERS.COM Derrick Washington rushed for 97 yards in Waco last year.
Derrick Washington rushed for 97 yards in Waco last year.

Nov. 2, 2009

Baylor Bears (3-5, 0-4) at Missouri Tigers (5-3, 1-3)

   The Missouri Tigers (5-3 overall, 1-3 in Big 12 Conference play) return home to take on the Baylor Bears (3-5, 0-4) Saturday at Faurot Field, with kickoff set for 1:07 p.m. (central time). The game will not be televised, marking the first MU game not to be shown on any kind of TV since game #9 of the 2008 season, when the Tigers played at Baylor (breaking a string of 13 straight televised games, either on network, cable or pay-per-view).
   Mizzou is looking to get some momentum going for the stretch run of conference play, and hopes to build on its first Big 12 win of the season. The Tigers are coming off a 36-17 win at Colorado last week, which broke a three-game losing streak. Mizzou jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead in Boulder, and extended it to a 33-0 edge before the Buffaloes mounted a rally to close to within 33-17 in the second half. But it wasn’t enough as the Tiger defense clamped down, thanks to 4 CU turnovers and 8 QB sacks of CU’s Tyler Hansen (including 3 alone by freshman DE Aldon Smith).
   Baylor is coming off a 20-10 Homecoming loss to Nebraska last week that saw the Bears fall behind by a 20-0 count at halftime. The Bears did not manage an offensive TD all game against Nebraska’s stingy defense, but a field goal and interception return for a score in the 3rd quarter, coupled with a second half defensive shutout, got the Bears back in the game. Three times in the 4th quarter, Baylor reached the Nebraska 20-yardline or closer, only to get turned away each time, once on a missed 29-yard field goal, followed by a pair of turnovers on downs.




KICKOFF: 1:07 p.m. CT.

STADIUM: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (71,004 – FieldTurf surface). Opened in 1926. MU is 249-166-20 there alltime and has won 22 of its last 26 overall and is 32-9 there since 2003 (2-2 in 2009). MU is 5-1 there alltime vs. Baylor.

RADIO: Tiger Network. Mike Kelly (play-by-play), John Kadlec (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines), Snowball (producer), Matt Winegardner (engineer). Carried on over 50 stations across the Midwest, and on the Internet at mutigers.com.
   The MU broadcast will also air on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 144).

TV: None.

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

SERIES: MU leads, 10-2, including 7-0 since the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1996. MU won 31-28 in Waco in 2008 on a late-game Jeff Wolfert field goal.

   MU: Gary Pinkel (Kent, ‘75), 64-44 at MU (9th year) and 137-81-3 overall (19th year). Pinkel is 4-0 vs. Colorado and is 1-0 vs. Art Briles.
   BU: Art Briles (Texas Tech, ‘79), 7-13 at Baylor (2nd year) and 41-41 overall (7th year). Briles is 0-1 vs. Mizzou and Gary Pinkel.


   There was a time, not that long ago, when simply meeting bowl eligibility would have been cause for a big celebration at Mizzou. While a win Saturday would improve the Tigers to 6-3 and make them bowl eligible, the two-time defending Big 12 North champs are certainly striving for much more than just six wins this season.
   Even so, a 6th win would be a watershed achievement for Mizzou, in that it would make MU eligible to play in a bowl for the 5th straight season, which would be a record streak for the school. MU’s current string of 4 consecutive bowl seasons (2005 Independence, 2006 Sun, 2008 Cotton, 2008 Alamo) is tied for the school mark, with Tiger teams from 1978-81, who played in 4 straight bowls under Warren Powers (1978 Liberty, 1979 Hall of Fame, 1980 Liberty and 1981 Tangerine).
   Of course, getting six wins is not a guarantee of reaching a bowl game, and with none of the Big 12 teams having yet been eliminated from bowl eligibility coming into this weekend, we would suggest that it would be wise to rack up more than six when it’s all said and done.

   Two weeks ago, Missouri fell behind at home to #3 Texas, 21-0 in the 1st quarter. One week later, the Tigers did a complete 180 and threw a 21-0 blankspot on Colorado in quarter one (after scoring 33 points total in the 1st quarter in its first 7 games), and that fast start propelled Mizzou to its 36-17 win in Boulder, Colo. The fast start was a welcomed sight, because the young Tigers have trended with success when they get up early.
   Including the CU result, Mizzou has now outscored its opponents by a 51-17 margin in the 1st quarter of its 5 wins, and the margin has been even wider in the 2nd quarter – 58-9. That’s a combined margin of 109-26 in the 1st half of its five wins thus far.
   By contrast, in its 3 losses, opponents have outscored MU 28-3 in the 1st quarter (although Texas’ 21-point 1st quarter severely skews that), and it’s been a slim 31-30 edge in the 2nd quarter to opponents in the 3 losses for a total 1st-half opponent edge of 59-33 in those games.

   Mizzou and Baylor have met just 12 times in their histories, with the Tigers holding a solid 10-2 edge coming into Saturday’s matchup in Columbia, Mo. Mizzou has won all 7 meetings since the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1996, with the first and last games of the Big 12 era being decided by fewer than 15 points, when the Tigers took a 49-42 triple-overtime thriller from the Bears in Waco in 1996, and then last year’s 31-28 squeaker the Tigers pulled out in Waco.
   The five games in between have been won by the Tigers by margins of 18 points (42-24 in 1997), 25 (47-22 in 2000), 17 (41-24 in 2001), 20 (30-10 in 2004) and 15 (31-16 in 2005).
   Mizzou is 5-1 alltime against Baylor at Memorial Stadium, with the sole Bear win coming in a 27-0 shutout in 1972.
   In Baylor’s last appearance in Columbia, the Tigers claimed a 31-16 win in 2005, as legendary MU quarterback Brad Smith closed out his home career with a customary 161-yard, 3-TD rushing day to lead the charge. Mizzou got a 32-yard interception return for a TD by Marcus King to open scoring, and it took a 21-0 halftime lead thanks to a pair of 2nd-quarter TD runs by Smith (2 yards, 56 yards). The Tiger lead would grow to 24-0 on an Adam Crossett 49-yard field goal midway through the 3rd quarter, but the Bears wouldn’t go away, as they tallied 16 straight points to make a game of it. After Baylor’s last TD, with 8:06 left in the game, Smith salted away the win in his last game on Faurot Field, with his second 56-yard TD run with 6:04 to play.
   Smith finished with just 72 yards passing on a 9-of-23 day, but his rushing performance was supplemented by TB Tony Temple, who gained 100 yards on 17 carries, as the Tigers ran for 298 yards in all. Baylor was held to 77 yards on the ground by MU’s defense, but countered with 270 yards in the air in the losing effort.

WACO, TEXAS - A fast start and a strong fourth quarter propelled the 14th-ranked Missouri Tigers to a 31-28 win at upstart Baylor, as the Tigers got a 34-yard field goal from PK Jeff Wolfert with less than three minutes left to break a tie ballgame, and iced the game with the first interception of the season of Bear QB Robert Griffin on the next series.
   It looked early on as if the Tigers would continue their momentum from the previous week’s 58-0 shutout win over Colorado, as MU took the opening kickoff and promptly marched downfield for a quick 7-0 lead, as the Chase Daniel-to-Chase Coffman connection hooked up for the first of two beautiful TD passes on the day – this one from 3-yards out to close a 10-play, 65-yard drive. After the Tiger defense held, Daniel and company went 80 yards in just 6 plays consuming only 1:29 off the clock and after Tommy Saunders’ 19-yard TD grab, it was 14-0 Mizzou just like that.
   With the Tigers driving yet again for what looked like a knockout blow, on the 1st play of the 2nd quarter, Daniel was intercepted in the endzone on a 3rd-down pass from the Baylor 8-yardline. Instead of taking a 21-0 lead, or at worst, a 17-0 lead, the Tigers saw Baylor promptly go the other way, as Griffin engineered a 13-play drive and scored from 4 yards out to get the Bears back into the game, at 14-7. After the teams traded possessions, Daniel led a 93-yard, 13-play drive just before half that ended on a 1-yard TD plunge by TB Jimmy Jackson to give the Tigers back their two-score lead, 21-7.
   Baylor came out of the lockerroom determined to make their Homecoming game a memorable one. Instead of succumbing to the heavily-favored Tigers, Baylor dug in and made play after play over the next quarter-and-a-half to give the several thousand Tiger fans in attendance some consternation. The Bears showed early on that they were in it to win it, as they went for a risky 4th-and-2 from their own 39-yardline on their opening possession of the 2nd half, making it as Griffin kept for 4 yards. That propelled the Bears to a TD drive, and after MU went 3-and-out for just the 7th time in 2008, Baylor answered with another sustained drive for a TD to tie the game at 21-apiece late in the third.
   Staggered momentarily, the Tigers got their rhythm back on offense and drove 76 yards for a TD to regain the lead, overcoming a 2nd-and-22 situation after being called for an illegal block during the drive. Daniel hit Coffman for their 2nd score of the day, this one from 13 yards out, on the first play of the 4th quarter as Coffman made yet another circus catch and toe tap in the back corner of the endzone for a 28-21 lead.
   Once again, plucky Baylor wouldn’t go away, as the Bears got some help from a roughing the passer penalty on MU freshman DE Jacquies Smith on what was an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-14 from their own 16-yardline to extend their next drive. Floyd Casey Stadium erupted in loud cheers as Baylor tied the game with 9:54 left on a 36-yard catch-and-run by Jay Finley. Those cheers got even louder on MU’s ensuing possession, as a promising Tiger drive was snuffed out on an interception near midfield after a tipped Daniel pass. But the Tiger defense dug in and held their ground, forcing a Baylor punt that was fair caught by MU’s Jeremy Maclin at the MU 10-yardline with 6:27 left.
   A Daniel 19-yard pass to WR Jared Perry was followed by an option keeper for 15 yards to get some breathing room, and a crucial 9-yard pass to Maclin on 3rd-and-5 just shy of midfield extended the promising drive. After reaching the Baylor 15-yardline, the drive stalled. Trusty PK Jeff Wolfert was called on to get the lead back and he did just that, as he calmly booted a 34-yard field goal – despite icing tactics by Baylor coach Art Briles – to give MU a 31-28 lead with 2:31 left.
   Starting deep in their own territory and without any timeouts left, Baylor quickly faced a 3rd-and-8 from their 23-yardline. Griffin, who had amassed 316 yards of total offense to that point in the game, finally made a mistake, as he forced a pass over the middle that was picked off by wily MU veteran LB Brock Christopher at the Baylor 34-yardline with 1:40 left. Christopher’s pickoff sealed the deal, as the Tigers took a knee three times to end the game and give Mizzou a hardfought 31-28 win to move to 7-2 overall and 3-2 in Big 12 Conference play, while Baylor fell to 3-6 and 1-4 on the year.

   As noted previously, Mizzou displayed a fast-start offense that keyed the Tigers’ 36-17 win at Colorado last Saturday, as MU jumped to a 21-0 1st-quarter lead, and eventually led 33-0 before the Buffaloes got on the board with a long field goal just before halftime.
   It started on the initial drive, as the Tigers took the game-opening kick and promptly drove 80 yards on 11 plays (4:27 TOP) to take a 7-0 lead on a Derrick Washington 1-yard TD run. It marked the first time in 2009 that MU had gotten a TD on its game-opening possession (it had just 2 game-opening FGs in its previous 7 initial drives). After a defensive stop, QB Blaine Gabbert found WR Danario Alexander alone over the middle and hit him in stride for a catch-and-run that went 73 yards for a score and a quick 14-0 lead. Gabbert and Alexander hooked up shortly again on a 2-yard TD pass that made it 21-0 Mizzou with 2:40 left in the 1st quarter.
   Mizzou would extend the lead to 33-0 before CU scored, and that pushed MU’s consecutive points scored in the MU-CU series to a whopping 139 points (the final 48 points of a 55-10 win in Boulder in 2007, all 58 points in a 58-0 MU win in Columbia in 2008, and the first 33 points of 2009).

   Mizzou’s defense had a stellar day at Colorado last Saturday, as it played a huge role in MU’s 36-17 win. Here’s just a few of the major highlights...

  • MU allowed just 176 yards of total offense for Colorado, which was the lowest total by a Tiger opponent since 2006, when Mizzou held Mississippi to 162 yards in a 34-7 Tiger win in Columbia. Mizzou’s previous opponent low output in 2009 was 263 yards by Nebraska (a 27-12 MU loss on Oct. 8th in Columbia). Mizzou held CU to 135 yards below their total offense average of 301.9 yards per game coming in...
  • Thanks in large part to 8 QB sacks (including 3 alone by redshirt freshman DE Aldon Smith), Mizzou held Colorado to negative-14 yards net rushing on the day. That’s right, 24 official attempts for minus-14 yards, or minus 0.6 yards per every attempt. The 8 QB sacks resulted in 73 yards of losses, so even if you backed that out, CU ran 16 times for 59 yards, or just 3.7 yards per carry, with 30 of those coming on one QB scramble, and 15 more coming on a WR reverse. If you back those 2 runs out, then CU carried 14 times for 14 yards...
  • The minus-14 yards allowed rushing was the lowest by a Tiger opponent since 1972, when MU limited California to minus-77 yards rushing in a 34-27 win. Colorado’s previous low rushing total for 2009 was 29 yards versus Colorado State, and it was 103 yards below their average of 89.1 rushing yards per game coming in...
  • In addition to the 8 QB sacks, the Tigers forced 4 Colorado turnovers (3 fumbles, 1 interception), and that was nearly half of what MU had forced for the entire season coming in. Prior to the game, while MU’s defense had played pretty well all year long, they had struggled in the turnover category, gaining only 9 turnovers in its first 7 games...

   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. He was the ringleader once again this past Saturday for Mizzou’s improved defense, as he notched a game-high 12 tackles, including 1 TFL in Mizzou’s 33-17 win at Colorado, where the Tiger defense allowed just 176 yards of offense, including minus-14 yards rushing overall.
   Through 8 games, Spoon ranks 3rd in the Big 12 with his 9.12 tackles per game average (73 total). He also had a big night against #3 Texas the game before, 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.
   He now has 375 tackles for his career (he’s only in his 3rd year as a starter on defense), which ranks him 5th in Mizzou history. He needs 12 more tackles to crack the top five, and he’s 59 tackles away from the MU career record of 434 tackles, set by James Kinney from 2001-04. With 4 games guaranteed remaining, he’d have to average 14.8 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.
   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.
   Weatherspoon 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.
   Here’s a quick game-by-game rundown of his production in 2009...

   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, and he should be in prime contention for All-Big 12 honors, as well as potential All-American honors, as well.
   The Marlin, Texas native enters Saturday’s game against Baylor with a team-best 58 receptions for 824 yards and 7 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.
   He’s coming off another All-American type day at Colorado, as he caught 8 passes for 123 yards and 2 TDs, including a scintillating 73-yard score that was a beautifully-executed catch-and-run number that he took the distance.
   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 Baylor game ranked 2nd in the Big 12 and 7th in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (103.00 avg.), and he’s also 4th in the Big 12 and 12th nationally in receptions per game (7.25 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 Baylor with 136 career catches for 1,821 yards and 15 TDs. He currently ranks 8th on the MU career receptions and is 7th on the receiving yardage chart, and his 15 career TDs puts him 5th 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.

   Mizzou claimed a 36-17 win at Colorado last Saturday, and one stat that stood out was the time of possession category, as the Tigers held the ball for an impressive 36:24 in the win, to just 23:36 for CU. It was the most clock time MU has held the ball since 2007 in a 36-28 win against #2 Kansas (37:25 for MU in that game).
   Since going to the spread offense in 2005, with its quick-strike, fast-paced tempo, the Tigers haven’t won the battle of the clock all that often. In the 61 games of the spread era at MU, Mizzou has owned a TOP edge 19 times.
   In those 19 games, MU is 15-4 (all 4 losses came with negligible advantages in the category), but the numbers are even more impressive when broken down this way:
The Tigers are a perfect 13-0 since 2005 when they own the ball for 31:00 minutes or longer.

   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 Baylor contest, Smith ranks 9th in the NCAA in both QB sacks and tackles for loss. In the Big 12, he ranks 3rd in tackles for loss (1.63 avg.) and is 5th in the Big 12 in QB sacks (1.00 avg.). He’s got season totals of 13.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 QB sacks, and he’s coming off a monster game on Halloween day at Colorado, where he racked up 3.0 QB sacks (27 yards) and 4.0 tackles for loss (35 yards), on his 5-tackle day that included a pass break up.

  • Smith is the top freshman in the NCAA in QB sacks, with his per-game average of 1.00 (he’s actually tied with USC freshman DL Nick Perry who also has 8 sacks in 8 games so far). There’s not another freshman in the top-60 nationally other than those two...
  • Smith is by far the top freshman in the NCAA in TFLs, with his per-game average of 1.63 (13.0 TFLs in 8 games). USC’s Perry is the only other freshman currently among the top-100 (he ranks 57th in TFLs per game, at 1.13, with 9.0 in 8 games)...

   Prior to Colorado, Smith had a big game against #3 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.
   The Raytown, Mo. native enters the Baylor game 3rd on the team with 43 tackles, and he leads the Tigers with his TFL (13.0) and QB sack (8.0) totals, as well as having a team-best 5 pass break ups.
He is now approaching the single-season QB sack record for Mizzou of 11.0, set by All-American DE Justin Smith in 2000.
   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.

   Mizzou began the 2009 season expected to lean heavily on its ground game, thanks to a veteran offensive line which returned 3 starters from a year ago, as well as junior TB Derrick Washington, who was coming off a 1,000-yard season in 2008. The Tigers had reasonable success early on, going for 117 yards on the ground against Illinois, and following with 181 yards against Bowling Green and a season-high 196 against Furman.
   But then things got a little gummed up on the ground, as MU went 4 straight games without cracking the century mark on the ground, going for 78 yards at Nevada, 91 against Nebraska, 68 at Oklahoma State and 74 against Texas.
   Mizzou was dialed in on the run game last Saturday, however, as it gashed Colorado for 184 net yards on 45 attempts in all. Washington led the charge with 99 yards and 1 TD on 22 attempts (4.5 avg.), while sophomore TB De’Vion Moore added 58 yards on 8 carries (7.2 avg).
   Against Texas, 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 8 games, Washington leads all Mizzou rushers with 550 yards (4.2 avg.) and 4 TDs, while his per-game average of 68.8 yards currently ranks 6th-best in the Big 12 Conference...
  • Moore owns the best per-carry average among the three regulars, with a 4.5 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 221 consecutive extra point attempts entering Saturday’s game against Baylor.
   The last time Mizzou missed an extra point (not including 2-point attempts), was back in 2005 at Colorado. 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 way 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.

(As of Nov. 2nd, 12:45 pm)
1. Kurtis Gregory, MIZZOU 25.2%
2. Eric Decker, Minnesota 20.4%
3. Richie Brockel, Boise St. 11.6%
4. Tim Tebow, Florida 11.4%
5. Darrell Stuckey, Kansas 6.3%

   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!
   Three weeks ago, 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, as well as through text messaging. Fans can text F4 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, November 2nd, 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. Here’s a look at the top-five in the voting, as of Monday...
   The pre-season Outland Trophy candidate is slated to make his 37th consecutive start at right guard this Saturday against Baylor.

School Record School Record
Mizzou 55-30 Mizzou 28-24
Nebraska 51-32 Nebraska 27-25
Kansas 48-34 Kansas 23-29
Kansas St. 42-41 Kansas St. 22-31
Colorado 35-48 Colorado 21-31
Iowa St. 30-51 Iowa St. 13-40

   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. 31st):

   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 stellar 14-of-15 on field goals and 23-of-23 on extra points through 8 games. He’s 4-of-5 from 40 yards or longer, including a career-best 46-yarder against Bowling Green. His only miss came on a 43-yard attempt on Oct. 8th against Nebraska, in monsoon-like conditions, when the snap appeared to be a little high, which threw off the timing of the kick. The miss broke his string of 10 consecutive FGs.
   The Jackson, Mo. native, who didn’t win the starting kicking job until late in training camp, ranks 3rd in the Big 12 (10th in the NCAA) in field goals per game (1.75) and is 4th in the Big 12 and 32nd in the nation in scoring (8.12 ppg)…
   He’s coming off a 6-of-6 day at Colorado that featured FGs of 29 yards and 33 yards, with the latter coming with 3:57 to play that iced the game by making it a three-score game, and accounting for the final 36-17 margin.
   Entering the Baylor game this weekend, Ressel is tied for the NCAA lead in FG accuracy, among those with 10 or more attempts.
   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. His 2nd-quarter FGs 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.
   On Sept. 25th 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.

   Since Gary Pinkel took over as Tiger head coach in 2001, Mizzou has amassed the best record of any Big 12 North school against its Big 12 South brethren, at 12-14 over the past 8+ seasons (2001-09). Saturday’s game against Baylor will be the third of three games against South Division foes this year for Mizzou, after the Tigers dropped earlier games at #16 Oklahoma State (33-17) and at home to 3rd-ranked Texas (41-7).
   Here’s a look at the how the Big 12 North schools have fared against the South in the Pinkel era:

Big 12 North Records vs. Big 12 South (2001-09) - (Thru games of Oct. 31st)

  1. Missouri (12-14)
  2. Nebraska (11-15)
  3. Colorado (10-15)
  4. Kansas State (9-18)
  5. Iowa State (7-19)
  6. Kansas (5-21)
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