Mizzou Football: A New Era is Born

By: Ben Rackers

COLUMBIA, Mo. A new era in Mizzou football history is about start as the University of Missouri Tigers take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday September 8th, 2012 in the first Southeastern Conference game in Mizzou's history.

When Head Coach Gary Pinkel was asked about the buildup to Saturday's game, he said, "It's the first SEC game, first SEC home game, so I think that it is going to go down in history. They are always going to look at it and how it came out, but then we are also playing a great football team."

The Tigers will continue to use a balanced attack that saw them gain 452 yards in total offense last week, with 261 of those yards coming on the ground. Many people see Mizzou as a spread-you-out, pass-happy team, when in reality they are more like their fellow teams in the SEC in that the Tigers like to run the ball. Senior running back Kendial Lawrence ran the ball 10 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns last week, with one coming on a 76-yard scamper. If Lawrence can have a similar game this Saturday, Mizzou will be in pretty good shape.

One of the reasons that the running backs for the Tigers are able to have success is the ability of the wide receivers to block. "Receivers coach Andy Hill does an excellent job with that," said Pinkel. "He does a good job of coaching the importance of blocking. If you want to get some big plays the receivers are generally the ones to help spring it, then it is the speed of running back or quarterback or whoever has the football."

Speaking of quarterbacks, Mizzou has a pretty good one in junior James Franklin. The second-year starter not only has the ability to beat defenses with his arm, but he also can beat them with his legs. Franklin led the Tigers in rushing touchdowns last season while still throwing for over 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns. His ability to make smart decisions with the football, like he did last season, will be huge in how far the Tigers can go this season.

One of the more experienced groups on the Tigers squad is the wide receivers corps. Senior T.J. Moe and juniors Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington all have had significant playing time and success the past few seasons. Then you have seniors Rolandis Woodland and Gahn McGaffie, add freshman Dorial Green-Beckham, and you have yourself a talented, experienced, and deep group of players that have shown the ability to make big plays.

The defense is also a veteran group, with four seniors, four juniors, and two sophomores starting for the Tigers. The defensive line has shown an ability to make plays in the backfield and if the Tigers are to succeed on Saturday, then guys such as junior DT Sheldon Richardson and junior DE Michael Sam must make some plays in the backfield. Senior linebackers Zaviar Gooden, Will Ebner, and junior Andrew Wilson must continue to make tackles and not let the Bulldogs' running backs loose in the secondary. The defensive backs need to stay true to their assignments and not bite on play-action passes that Georgia QB Aaron Murray might sling. If the defense can do this, then the Tigers will have success on Saturday.

Last Saturday, Mizzou got a nice surprise in the return game, with sophomore PR Marcus Murphy scoring two TD's. Coach Pinkel is excited for what this means for future games. "I'm excited about it, and what happens for your punt return team, is now they know they have a guy back there, and so all of them you block a little bit different. We got a guy back there that if we block for him, can change football games, and that lends itself a real positive way, a very motivating way for your team." If Murphy can continue this success in the return game and redshirt freshman Andrew Baggett can make his extra points and field goals, then Mizzou will have a successful season.