Nov. 23, 2009
Missouri Tigers (7-4, 3-4) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (5-6, 1-6)
Nov. 28, 2009 - Arrowhead Stadium - Kansas City, Mo.
REGULAR SEASON DRAWS TO A CLOSE IN KANSAS CITY WITH RIVAL KANSAS
It's the game that most Mizzou fans circle on their calendar before the season starts, and it's finally here - Mizzou vs. Kansas, the nation's 2nd-most played rivalry and one of the most hotly-contested rivalries in all of sport.
This year's edition will take place Saturday afternoon in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. ABC Sports will be televising the game to a regional audience.
Mizzou enters the game winners of two straight, and three of its last four games, and is coming off a 34-24 home win over much-improved Iowa State. The Tigers were challenged all day long by the Cyclones, and trailed at halftime by a 17-10 margin. But Mizzou used an explosive second-half offense, and a stifling defensive effort in the fourth quarter to post the win. At 7-4 overall, the Tigers are looking to improve their bowl resume, and a win Saturday over the Jayhawks would give them an impressive eight wins in what most outsiders considered to be a rebuilding season. At 3-4 in Big 12 Conference play, Saturday's game is important for the Tigers in the league standings, as well, as a win would move the two-time defending Big 12 North Division champions into 2nd place for the season.
Kansas comes into Saturday's contest looking to break a six-game losing streak that has derailed what was a 5-0 start to the season. The Jayhawks are led by their talented trio of offensive talents in QB Todd Reesing (ranked 11th in the NCAA in total offense at 293.55 ypg), WR Dezmon Briscoe (5th in the NCAA in receiving yards at 109.50 ypg) and WR Kerry Meier (3rd in the NCAA in receptions at 8.36 rpg).
Mizzou and Kansas have played five common opponents, with the Tigers going 3-2 against the five foes, while Kansas has gone 1-4 against the same pool. Both teams had home wins over Iowa State (MU: 34-24; KU: 41-36), and both lost home games to Nebraska (MU: 27-12; KU: 31-17) and both lost to Texas (MU: 41-7 at home; KU: 51-20 on the road). The difference in the comparable opponent comparison comes down to different results the teams have posted against Colorado and Kansas State. Mizzou defeated both teams (winning 36-17 at CU and 38-12 at K-State) while KU dropped both games on the road (34-30 at CU and 17-10 at K-State).
KICKOFF: 2:36 p.m. CT.
STADIUM: Arrowhead Stadium (77,000 - natural grass surface). Opened in 1972. Mizzou is 2-2 there alltime, including 1-1 versus Kansas.
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 both Sirius (channel 125) and XM (channel 103) Satellite Radio.
TV: ABC Sports. Dave Lamont (play-by-play), Jayice Pearson (color).
MU - None.
KU - None.
SERIES: The nation's 2nd-oldest rivalry is dead even, tied at 54-54-9. The last two years have been played in Arrowhead Stadium, with MU claiming a 36-28 win in 2007, and KU taking a 40-37 victory in 2008.
MU: Gary Pinkel (Kent, `75), 66-45 at MU (9th year) and 139-82-3 overall (19th year). Pinkel is 4-4 vs. Kansas and is 3-4 vs. Mark Mangino.
KU: Mark Mangino (Youngstown State, `87), 50-47 at KU and overall (8th year). Mangino is 4-3 vs. Mizzou and Gary Pinkel.
TIGERS, JAYHAWKS RESUME NATION'S 2ND-MOST PLAYED RIVALRY
With roots dating back all the way to the Civil War period in American history, Missourians and Kansans have always had a fierce rivalry in everything from football, to a fierce game of Donkey Kong in the neighborhood pub.
Not only is the rivalry a spirited one, but it has several other things going for it that makes it one of the best (and most underrated) in the country...
- The MU-KU series is the 2nd-most played in the nation, with its 117 previous meetings. Only Minnesota and Wisconsin (119 meetings including their 2009 contest won by the Badgers) have played eachother more than MU and KU...
- Like all great fierce rivalries, it's complete with controversy. Many stories abound about the bad blood between the two programs throughout the years. While the two schools maintain diplomatic relationships, they don't even agree on the series results, as MU claims a series tie at 54-54-9, while KU claims that it leads by a two-game margin (55-53-9). The dispute goes back to the 1960 season, when unranked KU came to Columbia and upset undefeated and #1-ranked Mizzou, 23-7. The win was later forfeited by KU after the Big 8 Conference ruled that ineligible players took the field for the Jayhawks. Kansas counts the result on the field in their record books (and the NCAA also records it as 55-53-9 for KU), while MU counts the forfeit in its win column.
The loss remains as likely the most bitter in Tiger history, as it cost MU a chance at its only national championship, as the Tigers went on to finish 10-1 on the field (11-0 in the record books with the forfeit), and ranked 5th after defeating Navy in the 1961 Orange Bowl.
- It is one of the most even rivalries around. Amazingly, the series is dead even, at a 54-54-9 deadlock in the previous 117 meetings. That makes the series the most closely-contested of the nation's top-23 most-played rivalries - those with 103 or more games played alltime...
||Auburn by 1 (53-52-8)
||Navy by 4 (53-49-7)
||UNC by 4 (57-53-4)
||Minnesota by 7 (59-52-8)
||Oregon by 10 (56-46-10)
MIZZOU-KANSAS SERIES HISTORY
As previously stated, MU and KU have the 2nd-most played rivalry in college football history, and this Saturday will mark the 118th meeting between the two heated rivals, with MU claiming it is completely even steven at 54-54-9.
Kansas claimed a 40-37 win in Arrowhead Stadium in 2008 that was a definite gut-kick for the Tigers, who came into the game as favorites. It was a game played in cold and snowy conditions, and after Kansas surged to a 19-7 first-half lead, the Tigers worked some comeback magic and eventually would hold leads of 30-26 and 37-33 in the 4th quarter, only to see the Jayhawks post two TD drives in the final five minutes of play. The last one was capped with a play that will likely burn in the memories of Tiger fans forever, as on 4th-and-7 from the MU 26-yardline with just :27 seconds to play, Reesing avoided pressure and floated a perfect pass to a streaking Kerry Meier in the endzone for a back-breaking TD that accounted for the final score. Mizzou drove furiously downfield in short time, but had to settle for a long field goal attempt, but Jeff Wolfert's 54-yarder at the gun was partially blocked, sending Mizzou home with the defeat to drop them to 9-3 on the season.
The year before left a decidely different taste in the mouths of Tiger fans, as Mizzou won for the second straight year against Jayhawks in 2007, claiming a thrilling 36-28 win over KU at Arrowhead Stadium. Nicknamed "Armageddon at Arrowhead," the game featured 11-0 and 2nd-ranked Kansas against 10-1 and 3rd-ranked Mizzou, with #1 LSU having been upset the night before - meaning the winner would likely ascend to #1 in the polls and control the inside track to a spot in the BCS Title Game. Mizzou rode the arm of QB Chase Daniel to a 14-0 halftime lead, and that would eventually surge to a 21-0 Tiger lead in the 3rd quarter before Kansas could get untracked. Kansas would post an admirable comeback that pulled them to within 34-28 with 2:03 to play, but after Mizzou drove into KU territory on the ensuing possession before pinning the Jayhawks inside their own 5-yardline, the Tigers sealed the deal with a sack of Reesing in the endzone for a safety with just :12 seconds left to account for the final score of 36-28. The win gave MU its first-ever Big 12 North Division title, and two days later, when the polls came out, the Tigers were the #1 team in the land.
Tiger Coach Gary Pinkel stands 4-4 against Kansas in his eight years at Mizzou. He won his first two contests against the Jayhawks, and that made him only the 3rd coach in Tiger history to win his first 2 games over Kansas.
The series returned to Kansas City, Mo., in what was initially a two-year agreement, as both schools agreed to move home games in 2007 and 2008 to Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. It was announced the week of last year's contest that both schools had reached an agreement, in conjunction with the Chiefs and the Kansas City Sports Commission, to extend the series in Kansas City another four years, meaning the game will be played there through 2012.
Kansas City was the historical site of the MU-KU rivalry, as the city was the host of the 1st 16 games in the series, from 1891-1906, and has been now for 23 games overall. KU holds a 13-7-3 edge overall in games played in the series in Kansas City, and the 2007 game marked the first games played there since MU won in consecutive years in 1944 (28-0) and 1945 (33-12).
MU-KU BASS DRUM UP FOR GRABS SATURDAY
Most every school has goofy trophies that they play rivals for each year, and Mizzou is no exception. MU and KU play annually for a bass drum. Here are details of the significance behind the drum...
MU-KU BASS DRUM -- Issued to the winner of the Missouri-Kansas football game ... Originated in 1935 ... Trophy was originally conceived as an Indian War Drum in nature by a couple of Mizzou alumni, since Osage Indians roamed the plains of Kansas and Missouri long before the state universities were founded ... Original intent was to stimulate new interest in longtime series that had dwindled during the Depression of the '30s and MU's all-time low in football victories ... Supposedly authentic Indian drum was purchased in a Kansas City pawn shop, and new drum was acquired prior to 1986 game ... Autographed originally on both drum heads by KU and MU alumni ... Tradition was temporarily forgotten for a few years but resumed on an annual basis in 1947 ... The first game ended in a scoreless tie.
SATURDAY IS WORTH MORE THAN A WIN ON THE GRIDIRON
Saturday's winner will not only take home the traditional bass drum trophy given to the winner of the rivalry game, but the school will earn 3 points in the M&I Bank MU-KU Border Showdown Series.
This marks the 8th year of the Border Showdown, which records the head-to-head results between MU and KU in all sports each season. Each competition is assigned a certain amount of points during the year, and the school that wins the most at the end wins a traveling trophy and bragging rights.
Entering Saturday's football game, Mizzou holds a 5.5-to-4.5 lead thus far in the 2009-10 series.
In the previous seven years of the showdown, MU has won the series five times, claiming yearly wins in 2002-03 (32.0-to-8.5), in 2004-05 (22.5-to-17.5), in 2006-07 (25.0-to-14.0), in 2007-08 (24.0-to-15.0), and again last year in 2008-09 (23.0-to-17.0), with KU claiming wins in 2003-04 (21.5-to-18.5) and in 2005-06 (22.0-to-17.0).
DOMINANT 4TH QUARTER SEND TIGERS TO WIN OVER IOWA STATE
Mizzou faced the emotions of Senior Day at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium last Saturday, and it appeared for awhile that Iowa State might come in and spoil the festivities, as the Cyclones held a 17-10 halftime lead. But the Tigers dug in and responded with a strong second-half performance that saw them outscore the Cyclones 24-7 overall, including a dominant 10-0 fourth quarter, to post a 34-24 win.
After Mizzou's offense got untracked with a pair of long 3rd-quarter TD passes covering 70 and 63 yards respectively, from QB Blaine Gabbert to WRs Jerrell Jackson and Danario Alexander, Iowa State responded with a drive of its own to tie the game at 24-apiece with 5:18 to play in the third.
After the teams traded punts, the Tigers capitalized on a short field (starting at the 50) and converted that into a 38-yard Grant Ressel FG with 11:56 to play to regain the lead at 27-24. Another stout defensive stand forced a quick ISU three-and-out series, and again the Tiger offense responded, driving 59 yards on 11 plays to essentially ice the game on a 1-yard TD run by sophomore TB De'Vion Moore, who was getting a majority of the 2nd-half snaps after starting TB Derrick Washington left the game just prior to halftime with a concussion, after carrying 11 times for 62 yards and 1 TD in the opening half. The drive was kept alive on a gutsy call by Coach Gary Pinkel, as he called for MU to go for a 4th-and-1 from midfield, up just three points, with about 9 minutes to play. Gabbert kept on a QB sneak, and got 2 yards to move the chains.
The Cyclones tried to rally from 10 down, but they could only manage one first down before QB Austen Arnaud was intercepted by Tiger safety Jasper Simmons with 3:20 to play at the Mizzou 4-yardline. Operating now solely on the ground, Mizzou managed a pair of first downs and ran the clock out for the win.
Mizzou's defense held Iowa State to just 21 yards of offense in the final quarter, and the Tiger offense decided to play keep away with the ball, as it held onto the rock for 12:21 of the period's 15 minutes.
TIGERS NET SEASON-HIGH RUSHING TOTAL IN IOWA STATE WIN
Mizzou's high-flying spread attack is most widely known for its aerial expertise, but the Tigers pride themselves on being able to take what the defense gives it, and that means running the ball when the opportunity presents itself. Even though Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert threw for 337 yards and 2 TDs in Saturday's 34-24 win against Iowa State, the game was equally won on the ground, as Mizzou ran 50 times for 202 yards (both season highs), netting a pair of TDs along the way.
The 50 rushes by MU equalled the most since adopting the current spread attack prior to the 2005 season (it also ran 50 times in 2007 in a 41-10 win over Texas Tech when MU gained 212 yards on the ground). You have to go back to the 2004 season to find the last time Mizzou ran the ball more than 50 times - in a 30-10 road win at Baylor, when the Tigers ran 52 times for 176 yards.
MORE SATURDAY FOLLOW-UP NOTES
More tidbits of news and notes to come out of Mizzou's 34-24 win over Iowa State last Saturday include...
- Senior WR Danario Alexander continued his amazing string of games with another All-America-type performance, as he caught 11 passes for 173 yards and 1 TD to lead the charge. He finished just 27 yards shy of becoming only the 3rd player in NCAA history to post three consecutive 200-yard receiving games (his last 2 outings included 214 yards vs. Baylor and an even 200 at Kansas State). We'll have much more on Alexander's considerable exploits elsewhere in this release...
- Senior LB Sean Weatherspoon closed out his home career in fine fashion, as he registered 8 tackles, including 2 huge tackles for loss and 1 QB sack, as the Tigers put a dominating 4th-quarter defensive showing together to help MU to its 34-24 win against Iowa State. Two plays stand out from his game against the Cyclones. The first was a tackle for no gain in the 2nd quarter on an attempted fake field goal from the MU 35-yardline. With the Tigers leading 10-3 at the time, the Cyclones faced a 4th-and-3, and tried the surprise play, but Weatherspoon was not fooled as he nailed holder Derek Schmidgall for no gain to give the ball back to the Tiger offense. Later, in the 3rd quarter, with the score tied at 24-apiece, Weatherspoon sacked ISU QB Austen Arnaud for a loss of 5 yards on a 3rd-and-8 play from the Cyclone 17-yardline. That forced a Cyclone punt, and the Tigers responded with a drive that ended in a field goal for a 27-24 lead...
- The Tiger defense pitched a 4th-quarter shutout as it held the Cyclones to just 21 yards of offense, including minus-7 yards rushing and 1 interception. Mizzou held the Cyclones to just 77 net yards rushing on the day (28 attempts, 2.8 avg. per rush), a full 109 fewer than their per-game average of 186.45 coming into the contest...
- Sophomore PK Grant Ressel continued to nail clutch kick after clutch kick, including what proved to be the game-winning field goal, as he was a perfect 6-of-6 on the day connecting on a pair of field goals and 4 extra points in Mizzou's win. He hit a 38-yarder in crunch time with just 11:56 to play in the 4th quarter that broke a 24-all tie after a promising Tiger drive stalled out. He also connected from 20 yards out in the first quarter to give Mizzou a 10-7 lead at the time...
- Sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert had another big day, as he completed 23-of-32 passes for 337 yards and 2 TDs (with the TDs covering 70 and 63 yards, respectively). He also showed that he's closer to being fully recovered from the ankle injury which hampered him so much during MU's three-game losing streak in October, as he rushed for a career-high 51 yards versus the Cyclones. In his last 4 games, Gabbert has a QB rating of 161.50, as he's completed 90-of-139 passes for 1,295 yards and 9 TDs (vs. 2 INTs) in that stretch as the Tigers have won 3-of-4 games...
- Mizzou's offensive line paved the way for a season-high 202 rushing yards, and a season-high total offense output of 539 yards. It did not allow a sack of QB Blaine Gabbert for the 2nd-straight game...
- Sophomore WR Jerrell Jackson stepped in nicely for injured senior Jared Perry (broken tibia suffered vs. Kansas State last week), as he caught a career-best 8 passes for 142 yards and 1 TD. His score, just the 2nd of his career, was a huge momentum play which came early in the 3rd quarter to tie the score at 17-apiece, after the Tigers trailed 17-10 at halftime. He also threw a key block on a bubble screen that helped spring Danario Alexander free for a 63-yard TD that gave Mizzou a 24-17 lead on its next possession...
- Mizzou owned the ball Saturday against Iowa State for 35:55, and that improved MU to 14-0 since 2005 (when it installed its current spread offense set) when it has a time of possession number of 31:00 or more...
- Junior TB Derrick Washington ran for 62 yards and a touchdown (3 yards) in the first half, but had to sit out the entire second half due to a concussion sustained late in the 2nd quarter. His status for Saturday's game against Kansas was uncertain immediately after the game, but it is hoped he'll be cleared to play. In his absence, sophomore TB De'Vion Moore carried the bulk of the load in the 2nd half, as he rushed 12 times for 42 yards and 1 TD after intermission (he finished the game with 15 carries for 51 yards in all), and his TD was a big one, as it came from 1 yard out with just 4:43 to play to give MU a 34-24 edge...
SENIOR CLASS NEEDS ONE MORE WIN FOR SCHOOL WINS MARK
Mizzou's senior class isn't very big (just 15 in all, including only 5 senior starters) but they've already made a splash in the MU record books, as the win last Saturday against Iowa State gave them 37 wins in the last four years, and that has tied them with the 2008 senior class for the school record for most wins by a senior class in a four-year period. A win Saturday over Kansas would give them the record all to themselves.
This class has been a very key group of players and leaders who have helped push Mizzou to new heights. They have been part of two Big 12 North Division championship teams, they've helped lead Mizzou to bowl games in each of the past four seasons overall (2005 Independence, 2006 Sun, 2008 Cotton, 2008 Alamo), and they were also part of the 2007 team which ascended to #1 in the BCS polls on Nov. 25th, 2007.
Now that the 2009 team is bowl eligible, this senior class is on pace to join the 1981 senior class and the 2008 senior class as the only others in Tiger history to play in four bowl games in a four-year span (Mizzou played in bowls each year from 1978-81, and repeated that feat from 2005-08).
Here's a look at the most prolific senior classes at Mizzou, in terms of wins...
ALEXANDER JUST MISSES NCAA RECEIVING RECORD; GOES FOR 173, 1 TD
Senior WR Danario Alexander was under the radar entering the 2009 season, due largely to injuries which forced him to undergo four surgeries in the previous two seasons, including three surgeries on his left knee which he injured initially in the 2007 Big 12 Championship Game.
The past month has seen Alexander feeling better than ever, and he's making quite a push for national recognition. Alexander turned in 2-straight 200-yard receiving games with a 10-catch, 200-yard, 3-TD game in helping lead Mizzou to a huge 38-12 win at Kansas State. He had TD receptions of 54, 16 and 80 yards in the game, and that followed a 13-catch, 214-yard, 1-TD game the previous week against Baylor which featured an 84-yard TD reception.
Those curious about what he'd do for an encore just about got treated to some history, as he came just 27 yards shy of repeating that 200-yard feat this past Saturday, when he gashed Iowa State for 173 yards and 1 TD (63 yards) on 11 catches, in Mizzou's 34-24 win. Had he gotten 27 more yards, he would have tied the NCAA record for most consecutive 200-yard receiving games (3), which had been done only twice previously -- by Howard Twilley of Tulsa in 1965, and by Trevor Insley of Nevada in 1999...
We'll have much more detail about Alexander's All-American exploits, but here's a few tidbits for starters...
- He is the only player in FBS to post 2 games with 200 receiving yards or more in 2009...
- There have been only 4 200-yard receiving games posted in 2009 against BCS-league opponents, and 2 of them belong to Mizzou's Alexander (10 200-yard receiving games overall in 2009 against all opponents)...
- He is 1 of only 2 players in 2009 with 2 TD receptions of 80 yards or more. The only other player to achieve that feat is Duke Calhoun of Memphis, who had an 85-yard TD vs. Tennessee-Martin and an 80-yard TD versus Marshall this year...
- He's done everything he can to try and put the Tiger offense on his back of late. In MU's last 6 games, Alexander has averaged 160.7 yards per game, thanks to 57 receptions for 964 yards (a 16.9 avg. per catch) with 8 touchdowns...
- Entering Saturday's game against Kansas, Alexander currently leads all Big 12 receivers and ranks 3rd in the NCAA in both yardage (128.27), and receptions (8.36), while he ranks 1st in the Big 12 and 3rd in the NCAA with 12 receiving TDs. He's done it in virtually every way you can chop up the stats...
He's twice been named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week in 2009, for his production in games at Nevada (9 catches, 170 yards, 2 TDs) on Sept. 25th and at Kansas State on Nov. 14th (10 catches, 200 yards, 3 TDs), and that made him the first wide receiver in Big 12 Conference history to win the award twice in the same season! Not even former greats like Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree, Rashaun Woods or Roy Williams ever achieved that feat previously.
That begs the question, is Alexander playing his way into consideration for the league's offensive player of the year? He's got one more game to try and provide his answer.
ALEXANDER APPROACHING BIG 12 TOP-5 SINGLE-SEASON LIST
Danario Alexander's season receiving yardage total of 1,411 through 11 games is already 6th-best on the Big 12 Conference single-season chart, and he stands just 69 yards out of 4th place. Here's the breakdown...
|1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
|2. Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State
|3. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
|4. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
|5. Mark Clayton, Oklahoma
|6. Danario Alexander, Mizzou
|7. Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas
|8. Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State
|9. Joel Filani, Texas Tech
|10. Jeremy Maclin, Mizzou
|Danario Alexander, Missouri
|Golden Tate, Notre Dame
|Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
|Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green
|* Total yardage on those TD receptions
|** Average distance on TD receptions
CALL ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL WHEN DIALING LONG DISTANCE
Thanks to Wendell Barnhouse of the Big 12 Conference office for this dandy...
Missouri senior wide receiver Danario Alexander has 12 touchdown receptions, and he is one of only seven Division I-A players in double figures for TD catches (thru games of Nov. 21st). Alexander, though, is far and away the best big-play receiver of them all.
He's averaging 46.3 yards on his 12 TD grabs with 5 touchdown receptions covering 63 or more yards. None of the other six receivers with double figures in TD receptions have any TD catches that have covered 70 yards.
TIGER RUSH DEFENSE HAS BEEN STOUT, RANKS 15TH NATIONALLY
Mizzou enters Saturday's game against Kansas having won 3 of its last 4 games, and its ability to stop the run has no doubt played a key role in that stretch of success. In those 4 games, opponents are averaging only 53.2 yards per game, on just 1.7 yards per carry (123 rushes, 213 net yards).
Mizzou held Iowa State to just 77 net rushing yards last Saturday in the Tigers' 34-24 win, and that was some 111 yards fewer than the per-game average they held coming into the contest of 186.45, which was 2nd-best in the Big 12 entering the game. Alexander Robinson was held to 56 yards on 14 carries, well below his pre-game average of 100.2 yards coming in.
The Tigers held Kansas State the week prior to just 112 net rushing yards, which was 78 yards below their per-game average of 190 yards per game coming into the contest.
K-State worked the run hard all game long, but it took 43 attempts to get their 112 yards, and the 2.6 average per rush was a season low for the Wildcats.
For the season, Mizzou ranks 15th nationally in defending the run, as it allows 100.73 yards per game on the ground. Opponents average just 2.94 yards per rush against Mizzou's defense, and that 13th-best in the country.
The Tigers held K-State's Daniel Thomas to just 79 yards on 23 carries, for a per-rush average of 3.4 yards. Thomas had entered the game leading the Big 12 in rushing, with an average of 108.0 yards per game. Thomas had gained 185 yards the previous week in a K-State win over Kansas.
Last Saturday's result was the continuation of a season-long trend for the Tiger defense, which has been consistently good against the run in 2009.
In its last two games prior to K-State, MU held Colorado and Baylor to a combined net of 24 yards rushing, including a minus-14 yards on the ground for Colorado (the lowest single-game total for an MU opponent since 1972).
Oklahoma State currently leads the Big 12 in rushing (203.55 avg.), and earlier this year the Tigers held the Cowboys to 124 yards on the ground, or 79 below their current Big 12-leading average.
SPOON CONTINUING ALL-AMERICAN PLAY FOR TIGER DEFENSE
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.
Last week, he was one of 5 standouts named as a finalist for the 2009 Butkus Award. He's coming off an 8-tackle performance in last Saturday's win vs. Iowa State, and that gives him a total of 51 stops in his last 5 games overall.
He was the central figure in Mizzou's standout defensive showing at K-State, as the Tigers held the Wildcats out of the endzone for the first time this season, making them settle for four field goals in MU's 38-12 win.
Spoon was the ringleader at Colorado, 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. He was named the Lott Trophy national player of the week for his efforts at CU.
Through 11 games, Spoon ranks 2nd in the Big 12 (32nd nationally) with his 9.18 tackles per game average (101 total). He's also 5th in the Big 12 (19th nationally) in tackles for loss, at 1.32 per game.
He also had 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 INT of McCoy to mark his first of 2009.
He now has 403 tackles for his career (he's only in his 3rd year as a starter on defense), which ranks him 3rd in Mizzou history. He needs 12 more tackles to reach #2 on the list (DeMontie Cross, 420), and he's 31 tackles away from the MU career record of 434 tackles, set by James Kinney from 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...
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...
- vs. Illinois - 9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB sack, 1 QBH
- vs. BGSU - 14 tackles, 1 TFL
- vs. Furman - 6 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 PBU
- at Nevada - 9 tackles, 1 TFL, 0.5 QB sacks
- vs. Nebraska - 5 tackles, 1 TFL
- at OSU - 7 tackles, 1 TFL
- vs. Texas - 11 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 QB sack, 1 INT
- at Colorado - 12 tackles, 1 TFL
- vs. Baylor - 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 QB sack
- at Kansas State - 9 tackles, 1 TFL
- vs. Iowa State - 8 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 QB sack
YOUNG TIGERS HAVE BEEN ROAD WARRIORS IN 2009
From the "this-really-doesn't-make-a-ton-of-sense" category, Mizzou - one of the youngest overall teams in the nation in 2009 (see following note about the depth chart) - has played consistently better away from home this season. Conventional wisdom says teams generally play better, and enjoy more success, at home, but in 2009, Mizzou enters the Kansas game at 4-1 away from home (including neutral-site games) and they went just 3-3 at home.
Head Coach Gary Pinkel's teams have been strong away from of late, as Mizzou has won a combined 15 games away from Faurot Field the past three seasons (2007-09), after winning 13 combined in his first six years on the Tiger sideline (2001-06). The 2007 squad won 6 games away from home, including 5 during regular-season play, and the 2008 team followed with 4 regular-season wins, adding a 5th with its Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern.
The Mizzou record for most wins away from home (including neutral-site games) during regular-season play is 5, meaning that if the Tigers can win Saturday, they'll be able to match that record, set by the 1960, 1963, 1965, 1979, and 2007 teams.
TIGERS ARE EXTREMELY YOUNG
While there's still a lot out there for the 2009 Missouri Tigers the future is definitely bright in Columbia, as Missouri is 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 recent three-game losing streak).
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 Kansas State, 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). In all, more than two-thirds of MU's 51 players (35, or 69 percent) listed on the 2-deep are either freshmen or sophomores.
TIME OF POSSESSION A TELLING STAT
Mizzou claimed a 36-17 win at Colorado four weeks ago, 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 64 games of the spread era at MU, Mizzou has owned a TOP edge 20 times.
In those 20 games, MU is 16-4 (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 14-0 since 2005 when they own the ball for 31:00 minutes or longer.
||Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green
||Greg Salas, Hawaii
||Danario Alexander, Mizzou
||Golden Tate, Notre Dame
||Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas
||Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green
||Greg Salas, Hawaii
||Danario Alexander, Mizzou
||Kerry Meier, Kansas
||Jordan Shipley, Texas
ALEXANDER THE GREAT LEADS BIG 12 IN RECEIVING, 3RD IN NCAA
One of the great stories happening in Big 12 football in 2009 has been the outstanding play of senior WR Danario Alexander, who has overcome four surgeries during his last two years 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 All-American honors, as well. Perhaps, he's also working his way into the conversation for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year?
The Marlin, Texas native enters Saturday's game against Kansas with a Big 12-best 92 receptions for 1,411 yards and 12 TDs. His previous season highs were back in 2007 when he had 417 yards on 37 catches in 10 games.
Alexander is coming off yet another All-American type day against Iowa State, when he grabbed 11 passes for 173 yards and 1 TD. He finished just 27 yards shy of recording his 3rd-straight 200-yard receiving day, which would have made him only the 3rd player in NCAA history to achieve such a feat.
At Kansas State, he grabbed 10 receptions for 200 yards an MU record-tying 3 TDs in helping lead Mizzou to its 38-12 win. His TDs came from 54 yards, 16 yards and 80 yards, with the latter one coming with less than a minute remaining in the 3rd quarter that broke the game open. MU led 17-12 at the time, and K-State had all the momentum at the time, but Alexander took a 12-yard dig route around the 30-yardline, made a closing safety miss, and he burst to the left sideline to paydirt, outracing the entire KSU secondary to the endzone.
After the K-State game, he was awarded with the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award, marking the 2nd time this season he's won that award (making him the first WR in Big 12 history to win the award twice in a season).
As noted previously, he is the only receiver in the NCAA in 2009 to have a pair of 200-yard receiving games, and they came in back-to-back fashion, as he lit up Baylor the week before, when he set career highs with 13 receptions and 214 yards (including a TD that he took a career-long 84 yards for a score). His yardage total was the 4th-highest in MU single-game history, and only 22 yards off the record of 236 set twice by Justin Gage.
Alexander now has 7 100-yard outings on the year. Alexander enters the Kansas game ranked 1st in the Big 12 and 3rd in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (128.27 avg.), and he's also 1st in the Big 12 and 3rd nationally in receptions per game (8.36 avg.).
Alexander's performance vs. Iowa State upped his totals to 170 career catches for 2,408 yards and 20 TDs. He currently ranks 3rd on the MU career receiving yardage chart, 5th on the MU career receptions top-10, and his 20 career TDs stand as 3rd-most alltime at MU. His current season total of 1,411 yards has already shattered the previous record of 1,260 yards set just last year by All-American Jeremy Maclin.
His monster game against Baylor marked his 2nd-consecutive 100-yard outing. Previously at Colorado, 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.
Four times this year, he's already established a new career best for receiving yardage. One of those 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.
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.
Against Furman, 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.
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.
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 that 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.
Aldon Smith MAKING CASE FOR ALL-BIG 12, FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICAN
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 Kansas contest, Smith ranks 9th in the NCAA in tackles for loss (1.55 avg.) and 11th in QB sacks (0.91 avg.). In the Big 12, he ranks 2nd in tackles for loss and is 4th in the Big 12 in QB sacks. He's got season totals of 17.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 QB sacks.
Smith sits just one QB sack shy of MU's single-season QB sack record for Mizzou of 11.0, set by All-American DE Justin Smith in 2000.
Smith had 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 0.91. The next-best freshman currently on the national sacks list is USC's Nick Perry who ranks 32nd in the NCAA overall, with a per-game average of 0.70. There's not another freshman in the top-90 nationally other than those two...
- Smith is by far the top freshman in the NCAA in TFLs, with his per-game average of 1.55 (17.0 TFLs in 11 games). The ONLY other freshman in the nation who ranks among the top-100 in this category, currently, is Luke Kuechly of Boston College, who ranks 45th at 1.14 per game (12.5 TFLs in 11 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 Kansas game 4th on the team with 57 tackles, and he leads the Tigers with his TFL (17.0) and QB sack (10.0) totals, as well as having a team-best 5 pass break ups.
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 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.
||Grant Ressel (So.)
||Blair Walsh (So.)
||Craig Ratanamorn (Sr.)
||Wes Byrum (Jr.)
||Kevin Goessling (So.)
RESSEL IS GROZA SEMI-FINALIST; RANKS #1 IN NCAA IN FG ACCURACY
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 20-of-21 (95.2%) on field goals and 35-of-35 on extra points through 11 games. He's 6-of-7 from 40 yards or longer, including making three 46-yarders, with two of those coming recently against Baylor. One of his 46-yarders against the Bears was a crucial one with 2:55 to play that pulled MU to within 40-32. His only miss of the year 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.
Ressel is approaching the MU single-season record for most FGs made. The current mark is 21, set in 2007 by Jeff Wolfert. He went 2-of-2 last week against Iowa State, as he connected from 38 and 20, with his 38-yarder coming in crunch time, with the score tied at 24-apiece in the 4th quarter, and it provided the game-winning points, as the Tigers went up 27-24, and went on to a 34-24 win.
The Jackson, Mo. native, who didn't win the starting kicking job until late in training camp, currently ranks 1st in the Big 12 (3rd in the NCAA) in field goals per game (1.82) and is 2nd in the Big 12 and 18th in the nation in scoring (8.64 ppg). Recently, he was named one of 20 semi-finalists for the 2009 Lou Groza Award., which is given annually to the nation's top kicker.
Prior to the Baylor game, Ressel had a perfect 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 Kansas game this weekend, Ressel is tops in 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 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.
||Kurtis Gregory, MIZZOU
||Tim Tebow, Florida
||Eric Decker, Minnesota
||Richie Brockel, Boise State
GREGORY FINALIST FOR LOWE'S SENIOR AWARD; LEADS FAN VOTING
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.
Last week, Gregory was named an ESPN The Magazine 1st-Team Academic All-District winner, and now is on the national ballot for contention to become a 1st-Team Academic All-American.
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!
In October, 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 is underway to determine the winner. Lowe's, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the Senior CLASS AwardTM 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.
Fan balloting is available on the award's official Web site, SeniorCLASSaward.com, as well as through text messaging. Fans can text F4 to 74567 to vote for Gregory.
As of Nov. 23rd, Gregory stood 1st 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-four in the voting, as of Monday.
The pre-season Outland Trophy candidate is slated to make his 40th consecutive start at right guard this Saturday against Kansas.
EXTRA-POINT STREAK UP TO 233 FOR TIGERS
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 233 consecutive extra point attempts entering Saturday's game against Kansas.
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.
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 Nov. 23):
EBNER RETURNS TO FIELD JUST 12 DAYS AFTER KNEE SURGERY
Sophomore LB Will Ebner is fast becoming known as the hardest hitter on the team, as the Friendswood, Texas native has to lead the team in unoffical "oohs" from the stands with the constant stream of hard shots he dishes out.
He might also have earned the award for toughest guy on the team, as he returned to the field against Texas on Oct. 24th just 12 days after he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee to repair damaged meniscus that he suffered in MU's Oct. 8th game against Nebraska. Ebner had surgery on Oct. 12th and sat out the Tigers' Oct. 17th game at Oklahoma State, but was cleared to play the next week.
And play, he did, as he came off the bench to register 7 tackles, including 1.0 tackle for loss. He followed that by making 4 tackles at Colorado, including 1 QB sack where he forced a fumble that was recovered by Mizzou on the CU 6-yardline, before he notched 8 tackles against Baylor, including 1 TFL.
Ebner followed with a 6-tackle outing at Kansas State, and he recovered a fumble in the 4th quarter by the Big 12's leading rusher, Daniel Thomas, that the Tiger offense converted into a game-clinching TD. He was a big part of Mizzou's defensive effort which kept the Wildcat offense out of the endzone for the first time all season.
Despite missing the OSU game, as well as the fact that he's only started four games so far this season, Ebner enters the Iowa State game ranked 3rd on the team with 56 tackles, and he's also 3rd in tackles for loss (7.5).
He made his first career start earlier this year in the place of injured Luke Lambert at Nevada, and turned in a career-high 9 tackles (8 solo), while adding 2.0 tackles for loss in MU's 31-21 road win. Lambert is also out for the remainder of the 2009, after having surgery to repair torn labrum in his shoulder that he suffered on the first series of the game against Texas on Oct. 24th.