TIGER NEWS & NOTES
Furman Paladins (2-0) at #25 Missouri Tigers (2-0)
Sept. 19, 2009 - Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field - Columbia, Mo.
KICKOFF: 1:07 p.m. (central time).
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (71,004 - FieldTurf surface). Opened in 1926. MU is 248-164-20 there alltime and has won 21 of its last 23 overall and is 31-7 there since 2003.
RADIO: Tiger Network. Mike Kelly (play-by-play), John Kadlec (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines), Mark Mills (engineer). Carried on over 50 stations across the Midwest, and on the Internet at mutigers.com. The MU broadcast will also be on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 126).
TV: Pay-Per-View. Dan McLaughlin (play-by-play), Howard Balzer (color), Todd Donoho (sidelines), Allan Flowers (producer), Will Bealke (director).
RANKINGS (AP/USA): MU - RV [26th] / 25th; FURMAN - NA / NA.
SERIES: 1st meeting.
Mizzou: Gary Pinkel (Kent, '75), 61-41 at MU (9th year) and 134-78-3 overall (19th year). Pinkel is 0-0 vs. Furman and Bobby Lamb.
Furman: Bobby Lamb (Furman, '86), 58-29 at Furman and overall (8th year). Lamb is 0-0 vs. Gary Pinkel and Missouri.
TALE OF THE TAPE
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
MIZZOU FURMAN (FCS Rank)
397.50 [52nd] Total Offense 416.00 [21st]
149.00 [61st] Rushing Offense 204.00 [17th]
2 TDs Rushing 5
248.50 [36th] Passing Offense 212.00 [35th]
153.26 [31st] Passing Efficiency 162.86 [16th]
5 TDs Passing 4
32.00 [45th] Scoring Offense 41.50 [11th]
322.50 [54th] Total Defense 373.00 [68th]
112.00 [54th] Rushing Defense 109.50 [43rd]
2 TDs Allowed Rushing 0
210.50 [69th] Passing Defense 263.50 [96th]
105.57 [38th] Pass Efficiency Defense 136.84 [76th]
1 TDs Allowed Passing 5
14.50 [33rd] Scoring Defense 20.50 [42nd]
+0.00 [T-59th] Turnover Margin +0.50 [T-33rd]
4/2 Fumbles/Lost 3/1
0 Interceptions Thrown 2
1 Interceptions Gained 1
20.14 [74th] Kickoff Return Avg. 13.43 [103rd]
1.33 [108th] Punt Return Avg. 0.00 [T-93rd]
43.64 [6th] Net Punting Avg. 28.00 [96th]
2.50 [T-32nd] Sacks By 1.00 [T-69th]
1.50 [T-47th] Sacks Allowed 0.50 [T-9th]
28:16 [88th] Avg. Time of Poss. 28:42 [T-70th]
39.4% [58th] 3rd Down Conv. 72.7% [1st]
100.0% [T-1st] 4th Down Conv. 100% [T-1st]
The Missouri Tigers (2-0 overall) continue non-conference play this Saturday afternoon in the friendly confines of Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium, where they take on the Furman Paladins (2-0). Kickoff for the game is set for 1:07 p.m.
Mizzou is coming off a hardfought 27-20 win last Saturday against Bowling Green, that saw the Tigers post a rally from a 3rd-quarter 20-6 deficit. The Tigers scored 21 straight points in the final 15:57 of the game to post the comeback win - which tied for the 2nd-largest 2nd-half comeback win in school history.
Furman, of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), is also an umblemished 2-0 coming into Saturday's contest, after defeating conference foe Chattanooga last week by a 38-20 score. That followed a season-opening 45-21 home win over Presbyterian. The Paladins feature an offense that leads the FCS in 3rd-down conversions (72.7%), as well as ranking in the 20 in five other major offensive categories.
Mizzou is 8-0 alltime against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) - formerly known to most of us as Division I-AA.
MU Head Coach Gary Pinkel is 5-0 against FCS foes in his time at Mizzou, with the average score being 42.8-to-6.6 in favor of the Tigers. The closest margin of victory came in 2007, when the Tigers were given a competitive game by Illinois State before claiming a 38-17 win at Faurot Field, to move to 4-0 on the season.
With that, here's a look at MU's previous FCS contests...
- 2008 - vs. SE Missouri State - W, 52-3
- 2007 - vs. Illinois State - W, 38-17
- 2006 - vs. Murray State - W, 47-7
- 2003 - vs. Eastern Illinois - W, 37-0
- 2001 - vs. Southwest Texas State - W, 40-6
- 2000 - vs. Western Illinois - W, 50-20
- 1998 - vs. Northwestern State - W, 35-14
- 1992 - vs. Marshall - W, 44-21
Saturday's game between Mizzou and Furman was not chosen for telecast over the Big 12 Conference package, which typically includes games most weeks on Fox Sports Net, ESPN, ABC or the Versus Network.
Per league rules, when a game is not selected for one of those windows, the only option a school has to get the game on TV is to show it on a pay-per-view basis.
Saturday's game (with kickoff at 1:07 p.m.) will be produced by Fox Sports Net and offered on various cable providers and satellite systems around the country. Fans are encouraged to check with www.mutigers.com for continuous updates on providers of the telecast, which is available for $29.95.
For the Furman game Dan McLaughlin will call the play-by-play alongside color analyst Howard Balzer. Todd Donoho will serve as sideline reporter.
One week after breezing through a smooth-looking 37-9 season-opening win over favored Illinois, the Missouri Tigers were expected by most to do the same in their home opener against Bowling Green. Not much went right for the young Tigers, however, and through a combination of mistakes by MU and solid play from the Falcons, Mizzou trailed 20-6 late in the 3rd quarter before scoring the last 21 points of the game to pull out a 27-20 win and improve to 2-0 on the season.
- - Mizzou's win tied for the 2nd-largest deficit overcome in school history to post a win. The alltime largest deficit overcome for MU was 21 points (vs. South Carolina in the 2005 Independence Bowl), and it marked the 7th time MU has rallied to post a win after trailing by 14 points in a game (the last was in 2001 at Kansas, when MU trailed 14-0 in the 2nd quarter to rally for a 38-34 win)...
- - The comeback was also historic in another way, as it marked only the 3rd time in school history that the Tigers have rallied from a 14-point 2nd-half deficit to get a win. The first occasion was in 1976, when Mizzou trailed at #2 Ohio State, 21-7 in the 3rd quarter. The Tigers rallied for a 22-21 win, getting a TD and 2-point conversion in the final minute of play for the win. The last occurrence of overcoming a 14-point (or bigger) 2nd-half deficit to notch a win was the aforementioned 2005 Independence Bowl, when MU trailed 28-14 to start the 2nd half of play...
When Mizzou found itself trailing Bowling Green last Saturday, 20-6 midway through the 3rd quarter, the Tigers turned to their ground game to establish some rhythm, and it was junior TB Derrick Washington who led the charge.
- - Washington helped lead Mizzou's comeback win over Bowling Green with a 120-yard rushing night, on a career-high 23 carries, good for an average of 5.2 yards per rush. Included on his night was a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 5:38 left in the game that served as the winning score in MU's 27-20 victory...
- - Washington was a workhorse in the second half, as he carried 12 times, including 9 attempts in the 4th quarter alone, when he had 42 yards on the ground. He had three critical gains in the second half that were key to MU's comeback from a 20-6 third-quarter deficit, in addition to his game-winning score...
o - The first was an 18-yard run on what was a 3rd-and-10 situation from the BGSU 45-yardline with less than 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Mizzou trailed 20-6 at the time, and on the next play following his first down, QB Blaine Gabbert hit WR Jared Perry on a 27-yard touchdown pass to get the Tigers in the endzone for the first time on the evening, and back in the game...
o - The second was on a 3rd-and-1 with around 11 ½ minutes to play in the 4th quarter, when he churned hard in traffic to pick up 3 yards and extend the drive. Four plays later, D-Wash was called on again on 4th-and-1 from the BGSU 39-yardline to keep the drive going, and he picked up 6 tough yards to get the job done. Once again, on the very next snap, Gabbert threw to WR Wes Kemp for a 33-yard touchdown, which tied the game at 20-20 with 10:15 left...
- - The 100-yard outing was Washington's 4th of his career. His 23 rushing attempts eclipsed his previous career-high of 19, and it was the most rushes by a Tiger tailback in a regular-season game since the late Damien Nash carried 25 times (102 yards) against Colorado in 2005. Tony Temple carried 24 times (281 yards) in the 2008 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas...
In all against Bowling Green, Mizzou ran the ball 44 times and netted 181 yards, good for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Not record-setting numbers by any means, but it was a nice step up from the opening-game performance of 117 yards on 37 carries vs. Illinois (3.2 avg.). Plus, if you take out the 23 yards lost on 2 sacks of Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert against BGSU, the Tigers gained 204 yards when attempting a run, on 42 tries. That's a solid per-carry mark of 4.9 per carry.
The 44 rushing attempts was the most by Mizzou since Nov. 10, 2007, when the Tigers ran 49 times (203 yards) in a 40-26 win over Texas A&M.
In addition to the exploits of Derrick Washington, true freshman TB Kendial Lawrence made some significant contributions. Taking over the number two spot with top reserve TB De'Vion Moore out with an ankle sprain, Lawrence responded by gaining 49 yards on 7 carries (7.0 avg.). He had runs of 12, 11 and 10 yards, and had an apparent 32-yard TD run wiped out by a holding call.
First-year Offensive Coordinator David Yost has shown through two games a willingness to lean on the ground game if needed. Mizzou is averaging 40.5 rushing attempts in its first two games in 2009, and that's up significantly from from an average of 29.8 rushes per game in 2008.
Since going to the spread offense prior to the 2005 season (Brad Smith's senior year), the Tigers have been known as a pass-first operation, but that wasn't exactly the case, as Smith's forte was his run-pass dual threat. Then, in 2006, with first-year starter Chase Daniel at the helm, the Tigers were very balanced. Only as Daniel got more experience did the balance start to shift toward the passing attack. Here's a breakdown of MU's run-pass balance since 2005:
- - 2005 - 981 total plays, 512 rushes (52.2%), 469 passes (47.8%)...
- - 2006 - 922 total plays, 457 rushes (49.6%), 465 passes (50.4%)...
- - 2007 - 1,112 total plays, 530 rushes (47.7%), 582 passes (52.3%)...
- - 2008 - 982 total plays, 417 rushes (42.5%), 565 passes (57.5%)...
- - 2009 - 149 total plays, 81 rushes (54.4%), 68 passes (45.6%)...
The undisputed face, voice and leader of the 2009 Tigers is senior LB Sean Weatherspoon. "Spoon" came to Mizzou as a mostly-unheralded two-star recruit out of Jasper, Texas, and he's looking to leave as an All-American.
Through 2 games, he's on his way toward doing just that, as Spoon leads the Big 12 Conference in tackles (and ranks 12th nationally), with 23, including a 14-tackle outing last Saturday against Bowling Green.
- - 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...
- - Spoon now has 325 career tackles, and that places him in 11th place alltime on the Mizzou career charts, just four away from cracking the top-10. He is 110 tackles away from the MU career record of 434 tackles by former LB James Kinney (2001-04)...
He got his senior campaign off to a promising start as he registered a team-best 9 tackles in MU's 37-9 dismantling of favored Illinois. Spoon added a QB sack of the Illini's Juice Williams, and threw in 1 QB hurry too.
He's been named a 1st-team pre-season All-American by ESPN.com, and is on the pre-season watch lists for the Walter Camp, Butkus, Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik and Lott awards in 2009.
And for good reason, as he led the Big 12 in 2008 with a career-best 155 tackles, which ranked him 5th in all of the NCAA last year. He closed his junior season in fine fashion as he tallied 17 tackles in helping lead MU to a comeback 30-23 overtime win against Northwestern in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, winning Defensive MVP honors in the process.
Spoon entered his name for consideration for the 2009 NFL Draft, but chose to come back for his senior year. In doing so, he has a chance to leave Mizzou as the school record-holder for career tackles.
After earning playing time as a true freshman mostly in a reserve role and on special teams, Weatherspoon emerged on the scene in 2007 as a sophomore. He took over the starting spot at the weakside linebacker position a year ago, and from the get-go was a leader on the defense. He ended the year with a team-best 130 tackles, and was named a 1st-Team All-Big 12 performer by the Associated Press.
Mizzou's defense, under first-year coordinator Dave Steckel, returned only four starters from a year ago, leaving it a young, relatively experienced unit coming into the 2009 season. Through two games, the play of the Tigers has belied their youth, as they've played a crucial role in MU's 2-0 start.
- - Against Bowling Green, Mizzou's defense was stellar in crunch time, as it held BGSU to just 47 yards of offense in the 4th quarter, which helped pave the way for MU's comeback from a 20-6 third-quarter deficit...
- Twice in the first half, the Tiger defense had its backs against the wall, as the Tigers turned the ball over on its own 19 yardline and its own 14 yardline. Both times, the defense held tough and forced Bowling Green to field goals, as the Falcons gained just 3 yards and 4 yards, respectively, on the two possessions...
Being the punter for an offense as prolific as Missouri's has been the past few years is kind of like being the Maytag repairman - you're not called on too much, and when you are, people aren't too happy about it. But senior P Jake Harry IV is doing well enough in his appearances through 2 games that maybe Tiger fans won't be so hesitant to see the left-footer trot out on the field.
- - Last Saturday against Bowling Green, Harry had a big night in helping keep Mizzou on top of the field position battle, as he averaged 45.4 yards on a career-high 7 punts. He had a 69-yard punt in the 2nd quarter, and also had a 58-yarder in the 1st quarter of play...
- - Two of his punts ended inside the BGSU 20-yardline, and only 1 was returned on the night, with the return going for negative one yard...
- - Harry is averaging 46.60 yards per punt, which is currently 2nd-best in the Big 12 Conference, and tied for 6th nationally...
- - Through 2 games and 10 punts, Harry has 4 boots of 50 yards or more, and has 4 punts which have landed inside the opponent's 20-yardline. Against Illinois, he punted 3 times and averaged 49.3 yards on the day, with a long of 60 yards...
- - Mizzou's net punting average of 43.64 ranks 6th-best in the NCAA through two games. Opponents have managed just 4 punt return yards on 3 attempts against the Tigers thus far...
Harry took over punting duties in 2008 for the first time, and he averaged a solid 40.7 yards per punt, while Mizzou's net punting average of 37.71 ranked them 16th in the NCAA. That was a huge jump in improvement from 2007, when the Tigers ranked 113th in the NCAA in net punting with a mark of 31.46.
After winning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week in his first career start for his stellar performance in Mizzou's season opener against Illinois, sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert had a tough act to follow. Things didn't go so smoothly for the St. Louis native last Saturday against Bowling Green, but perhaps what he did in the 2nd half of the game was even more impressive than his performance against Illinois, because of the pressure involved.
Gabbert keyed a 2nd-half comeback that saw the Tigers erase a 20-6 deficit late in the 3rd quarter, as they scored touchdowns on 3 consecutive possessions to grab a 27-20 win - we've already documented how that stands as only the 3rd time in MU history that the Tigers have won after trailing by as many as 14 points at any time in the 2nd half of a game.
- - His first half against BGSU was tough, as he stood 10-of-21 passing for just 44 yards, as the Tigers trailed 13-6 at halftime. Things got worse in the 2nd half before they got better, as Bowling Green took the opening possession of the 3rd quarter and drove for a TD to make it 20-6. The Tigers followed with a 3-and-out possession, , but after the Tiger defense stiffened and forced a punt, Gabbert and company dug in and went to work on the next 3 possessions, scoring 3 straight TDs. The drives covered 87, 72 and 61 yards, respectively, and Gabbert was a combined 9-of-10 passing in those three crucial drives for 121 yards and 2 TDs. The first drive started at MU's 13-yardline with just 4:50 left in the 3rd quarter and MU trailing, 20-6. It ended with his 27-yard TD pass to WR Jared Perry, while the 2nd drive ended with his 33-yard TD pass to WR Wes Kemp...
- - In two games, Gabbert has been outstanding in the 2nd half, as he's a combined 21-of-25 passing (84.0%) for 300 yards and 4 TDs, with no interceptions. That's good for a QB rating of 237.60. A breakdown of his second-half outings include:
o - vs. Illinois - 11-of-13, 172 yards, 2 TDs...
o - vs. Bowling Green - 10-of-12, 128 yards, 2 TDs...
Gabbert had Tiger nation - and much of the nation overall - abuzz with his first collegiate start, as he completed 25-of-33 passes for 319 yards and 3 TDs (49, 4 and 46 yards), and rushed for a 4th score in MU's 37-9 season-opening win over Illinois. He had 39 rushing yards in all, to give him 358 yards of total offense in his starting debut.
His QB rating of 186.96 was the best of any Big 12 signal caller on the opening week, and it was the 2nd-highest rating ever for a Tiger making his starting debut - trailing only the mark of 207.4 set by Chase Daniel in 2006 against Murray State (23-of-32 for 320 yards and 5 TDs).
Gabbert took the field for his first series vs. Illinois under some duress, as the Tigers got their first possession of the season in the shadow of their own goalline, taking over on their 7-yardline. Gabbert calmly drove the Tigers 79 yards in 14 plays for a short field goal to give MU a 3-0 lead, that would grow to 10-0 on the next drive as he threw a laser to WR Wes Kemp for a 49-yard TD pass.
In all, Gabbert led the Tigers to scores on 7 of the 9 possessions of which he took the field. - they ended in 4 TDs (all of which he personally accounted for), 3 FGs and 2 punts (only one of which was a 3-and-out series).
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 up to the task, as he's a perfect 5-of-5 on field goals and 7-of-7 on extra points through 2 games.
The Jackson, Mo. native who walked on to the Tiger squad in 2007 was an unsung hero of Mizzou's 27-20 win over Bowling Green last Saturday, as he accounted for the only points MU could muster through nearly 3 quarters of play. His 2nd-quarter field goals of 38 and 46 yards helped keep the Tigers afloat and within striking distance, until the offense could get untracked in the 2nd half. His 46-yarder (a career long) came with 51 seconds before halftime, and cut the score to 13-6 at the time.
All 5 of his field goal tries so far this year have come in the first half, and all have been kicked when the outcome of the game was still up in the air - none have come 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.
Perhaps Tiger coaches should just look for defensive linemen with the last name of Smith when they're out on the recruiting trails. After all, the top two QB sack masters in Mizzou history are Brian Smith (31.5 sacks from 2003-06) and Justin Smith (22.5 sacks from 1998-2000).
Now, it's turn for the next Smith to take his turn, and redshirt freshman Aldon Smith (no relation to Brian or Justin) is turning some heads with his play through 2 games. Heading into the Furman contest, Smith ranks 18th in the NCAA in both QB sacks (1.00 per game) and tackles for loss (2.00 per game). He's coming off a 5-tackle performance against Bowling Green that included one huge 4th-quarter sack of 18 yards that came with around 9 minutes left in the game, with MU trailing 20-13 at the time. His sack was on 3rd down, and forced a BGSU punt that MU took and drove for the game-tying TD.
Smith started against Bowling Green, after he was very impressive in his collegiate debut against Illinois, when he registered 6 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss and 1 QB sack of the Illini's Juice Williams.
If that seems like a lot of Smiths to keep track of, well wait, there's more. Aldon's running mate at the other defensive end is sophomore Jacquies Smith (again, no relation to any previously-mentioned Smiths). Jacquies (pronounced jah-QWEE-s) has started both of MU's first 2 games, and has been very productive as well, as he's got 9 tackles and has added 1.5 QB sacks of his own.
To the casual observer, Mizzou's defensive numbers through 2 games might not appear eye-popping, as the Tigers rank anywhere from 39th to 69th nationally in the major stat categories of defense. But make no mistake about it, the Tiger defense has shown nice improvement from a year ago, and appears to be a unit that is ready to help decide the outcome of ballgames.
The defense was key to MU's 27-20 comeback win over Bowling Green, as it pitched a shutout for the final 24:44 of the game, allowing their offensive teammates time to get the kinks worked out, as MU rallied from a 20-6 3rd-quarter deficit to post the comeback win.
While the Falcon offense did manage TD drives of 80 yards (1st quarter) and 73 yards (3rd quarter), the Tiger defense was really good the rest of the night, as it held BGSU to a combined 167 yards of offense on its other 13 possessions. First-year Defensive Coordinator Dave Steckel's unit bowed its backs in two crucial situations in the 1st half, when MU turned the ball over twice inside its own 20-yardline. Both times, the defense held BGSU without a first down and forced field goals, which helped keep the Falcons within reach.
In all, Bowling Green had 320 yards of offense, as the Tigers allowed the Falcons to convert on just 6-of-18 3rd-down conversions, while denying their only 4th-down attempt, as well, which ended the game.
Bowling Green had just 3 plays that went for 20 yards or more, including one rush of 20 yards, and passes of 21 and 20 yards. Keeping the big plays to a minimum has been a key so far for Stec's defense, as they also limited Illinois to long gainers in their 37-9 season-opening win.
In 2008, Illinois burned the Tiger defense with the big play, as they had a whopping 9 plays that went for 20 yards or more, including 4 that went for 30 yards or more.
In 2009, it was a different story. Illinois had just one pass play in the game that went for 20 yards or more (a 24-yarder), and the longest rush was just 15 yards (only 3 rushes in all went for 10 yards or more).
In all, Illinois managed 325 yards of total offense - more than 200 fewer than they amassed against MU in 2008.
Senior WR Danario Alexander has led the Tigers in receiving in each of the first two games in 2009. He's coming off 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 on a 1-yard plunge 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 Furman with 95 career catches for 1,185 yards and 8 TDs.
His performances have been good to see for such a great kid who has battled through various injuries over the past two seasons. It's easy to forget that Alexander beat out Jeremy Maclin for the starting job at one receiver spot prior to 2007 - a pretty good indicator of his talent. But Alexander broke his wrist in the 2007 season opener, and that kept him out of action for three games. He returned to catch a TD pass in game 5 against Nebraska, and closed the regular season with an 8-catch, 117-yard, 1-TD performance in 4th-ranked MU's historic 36-28 win over arch rival and 2nd-ranked Kansas that led to MU taking over the #1 ranking the next week in the A.P. and BCS polls.
But Alexander saw his season come to an end the next week in the Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma as he tore knee ligaments while being tackled on an end around. He had surgery to repair the damage, and was making good progress until his ligament graft came undone during the spring of 2008, which forced him to undergo surgery again. He worked hard to return in 2008, and he did so admirably after missing only the first two games, but he clearly wasn't 100% for the season. His numbers dropped from 37 catches for 417 yards and 2 TDs in 2007 in 10 games to 26 catches for 329 yards in 12 games in 2008. He did up his TD total last year to 5, but he had a third surgery on his knee in the off-season to clean things up another time.
Alexander's perserverance to overcome his challenges was recognized in the off-season by his teammates, as they voted him one of four team captains for the 2009 season.
- - Senior WR Jared Perry just missed his first career 100-yard outing in his 2009 opener, as he caught 4 passes for 93 yards against Illinois, including a 46-yard TD in the 3rd-quarter that essentially iced the game, as it gave the Tigers a 30-3 lead. He followed with a 6-catch, 55-yard outing last week against Bowling Green, which included a 27-yard TD catch in the 3rd quarter that pulled the Tigers to within 20-13. That catch likely ranks among the most important of his Tiger career, as it seemed to ease the pressure off MU's offense, and they drove for TDs on each of the next 2 possessions to pull out the comeback win. Perry is MU's active leading career receiver with 101 career receptions for 1,296 yards and 9 TDs...
- - Sophomore WR Wes Kemp made his starting debut vs. the Illini, and he responded in fine fashion, as he caught 4 passes for 77 yards. Kemp got free on the right sideline and hauled in a 49-yard TD pass from Gabbert to reach the endzone for the first time in his career, and give the Tigers a 10-0 lead. He was held against Bowling Green to just 2 catches for 38 yards, but his last grab was crucial, as it was a 33-yard TD that came with 10:15 left in the game, and tied the score at 20-20. Kemp played in 9 games a year ago as a true freshman, and caught 1 pass for 15 yards...
- - Mizzou's starting trio of wide receivers of Danario Alexander, Jared Perry and Wes Kemp combined for 18 receptions that accounted for 302 of MU's 325 passing yards against Illinois in Saturday's 31-9 victory...
Since nicknaming Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium "The Zou" prior to the 2003 season, Gary Pinkel's Tigers have done a nice job of defending their home turf (FieldTurf surface, which was also installed prior to the '03 season, by coincidence).
Since 2003, the Tigers are an impressive 31-7 at home, good for a winning percentage of 81.6%, including 17-6 during that time in Big 12 competition (73.9%). That breaks down to records of 6-0 in 2003, 3-3 in 2004, 4-2 in 2005, 6-1 in 2006, 6-0 in 2007, 5-1 in 2008 and 1-0 in 2009.
The Tigers carry an active win streak of 3 games at The Zou, and have won 19 of their last 21 at home dating back to midway through the 2005 season. The only losses in that stretch were a 26-10 setback in 2006 to #19 Oklahoma and a 28-23 loss in 2008 to #17 Oklahoma State.
Mizzou has won 10 straight home games against non-conference opponents, dating back to the last setback, a 45-35 loss to New Mexico in the 2005 home opener.
If the future belongs to youth, then things should be looking up for Tiger Football for a long while, because the 2009 Mizzou team takes the field as an extremely young squad.
While Head Coach Gary Pinkel would never offer up youth as an excuse for anything, the fact remains that this team is very young, with only 14 seniors on the roster. Of those, only seven started on offense/defense in the opener against Illinois, with only eight total who are on the two-deep entering Saturday's game against Furman. That's a stark contrast to 2008, when the Tigers began the season with 12 senior starters (5 on offense and 7 on defense).
Here's a breakdown of MU's projected starters and the offense/defense two-deep for the Furman game. You'll notice that of MU's 50 players listed on the 2-deep, more than half (34) are either freshmen or sophomores...
STARTERS BY CLASS 2-DEEP BY CLASS
Seniors 6 [3 off./3 def.] 8 [3 off./5 def.]
Juniors 6 [2 off./4 def.] 8 [ 2 off./6 def.]
Sophomores 9 [6 off./3 def.] 20 [14 off./6 def.]
Freshmen 1 [0 off./1 def.] 14 [7 off./7 def.]
tigers 2nd in most wins in nation over last three seasons
With a school-record 12 wins in 2007, and 10 more wins in 2008, (the first time Mizzou has had double-digit win totals in consecutive years), plus a 2-0 start to the 2009 season, MU's three-year win total of 24 is tied for 2nd-most in the nation during that time period. Here's a look at the leaders...
MOST WINS, 2007-09
Wins School 2007 2008 2009
25 USC 11 12 2
24 Mizzou 12 10 2
24 Oklahoma 11 12 1
24 Boise State 10 12 2
24 Florida 9 13 2
24 Texas 10 12 2
24 Utah 9 13 2
23 BYU, Cincinnati, Tulsa
pinkel stands 3rd on alltime mu coaching wins list
Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel is in his 9th season at MU and touts a career record of 134-78-3 (63.0%). The Illinois game to open the 2008 season was the 200th in Pinkel's head coaching career.
Pinkel, who has led MU to a combined record of 39-16 (70.9%) over the past 4+ seasons, and to bowl games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, has a 9-year record in Columbia of 61-41 (59.8%). Dating back to the 2005 Independence Bowl win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, Pinkel has won 33 of his last 44 games overall.
MU's win in the 2008 opener against Illinois gave Pinkel his 50th MU win, and he now ranks 3rd on the coaching wins list at MU, with 61.
Pinkel is in a select group of Mizzou coaches that includes College Football Hall of Famers Don Faurot and Dan Devine, as well as Warren Powers, to be the only coaches to have an MU record of above .500 (with at least one full season coached) dating all the way back to 1935.
Here's a quick look at the top winning coaches in MU history...
MIZZOU COACHING WINS LEADERS
Coach Wins # Seasons (Years) Record Pct. # Bowls
Don Faurot 101 19 (1935-42, 46-56) 101-79-10 .558 4
Dan Devine 93 13 (1958-70) 93-37-7 .704 6
Gary Pinkel 61 9 (2001-Present) 61-41 .598 5
Warren Powers 46 7 (1978-84) 46-33-3 .580 5
For the efforts in 2007, Pinkel was a finalist for several national coach of the year awards, including the Robinson, Bryant and Munger awards. He was also named the National Coach of the Year by FieldTurf in 2007.
Pinkel has led MU to 5 bowl games, and if his Tigers reach a 6th in 2009, he will join Devine as the only other coach to guide MU to 6 bowl games.
Pinkel has directed Mizzou to 5 winning seasons (8-5 in 2003, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 12-2 in 2007, 10-4 in 2008), with those representing 5 of MU's 7 winning campaigns dating back to the 1983 season.
The Big 12 North Division titles won by Mizzou in 2007 and 2008 represent the first football conference title of any kind Mizzou has won since 1969 - the last time it claimed a share of the old Big Eight Conference crown.
In November of 2008, Pinkel agreed to a new seven-year contract, meaning he'll patrol the Tiger sidelines through the 2015 season.
Dating back to the season-opening win against Illinois in 2007, Mizzou has won 12 consecutive non-conference games. That is the longest such streak in school history, surpassing the previous mark of 7 from 1981-82 (see chart below). The last non-conference defeat the Tigers suffered was a 39-38 loss to Oregon State in the 2006 Sun Bowl. If you take bowl games out of the equation, then the Tigers have won 15 straight regular-season non-league games, dating back to a win over Troy in 2005. Mizzou's last regular-season non-conference loss was a home loss in 2005 to New Mexico (45-35).
Mizzou Coach Gary Pinkel has enjoyed success against non-conference foes in his time at MU, as he's a solid 28-7 in all (.800) while stepping outside of Big 12 play.
Here's a rundown of Mizzou's longest non-conference win streaks (including bowl games):
# Wins Year(s) Began With Ended With
12 2007-09 W, 40-34 vs. Illinois, 9-1-07 Current streak
7 1981-82 W, 24-10 vs. Army, 9-12-81 L, 21-0 at Texas, 9-11-82
6 2005-06 W, 52-21 vs. Troy, 9-17-05 L, 39-38 vs. Oregon St., 12-29-06
6 1998-00 W, 35-14 vs. Northwestern St. L, 62-9 at Clemson, 9-9-00
6 1978-79 W, 45-14 vs. Miss., 9-23-78 L, 21-0 vs. Texas, 9-29-79
6 1968-69 W, 44-0 vs. Illinois, 9-28-68 L, 10-3 vs. Penn St., 1-1-70
6 1960-61 W, 20-0 vs. SMU, 9-17-60 T, 14-14 vs. California, 10-7-61
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 years (2003-09). The charts look like this:
BIG 12 NORTH TEAM WINS BIG 12 NORTH TEAM WINS
LAST 7 YRS., ALL GAMES LAST 7 YRS., BIG 12 GAMES ONLY
School Record School Record
Mizzou 52-27 Mizzou 27-21
Nebraska 48-29 Nebraska 25-23
Kansas 45-31 Kansas 22-26
Kansas St. 38-38 Colorado 20-28
Colorado 33-44 Kansas St. 19-29
Iowa St. 26-48 Iowa St. 11-37
Two-time defending champions of the Big 12 North Division, the Missouri Tigers entered the 2009 season without a bullseye squarely on their backs, as most prognosticators have either rivals Kansas or Nebraska winning the North Division. Obviously, the Tigers are dead set on proving the skeptics wrong, after going 7-1 in league play in 2007 (with an average margin of victory in those seven league wins of an impressive 23.4 points per game), followed by a 5-3 league mark in 2008 after beginning that year as the unanimous pre-season favorite by league media.
After being picked to win the Big 12 North each of the last two years, the Tigers were slotted 3rd in 2009 by league scribes. Here's a quick look at the preseason media poll (first place votes in parentheses):
NORTH PTS. SOUTH PTS.
1. Nebraska (17) 172 1. Texas (17) 174
2. Kansas (12) 164 1. Oklahoma (15) 174
3. Missouri (3) 124 3. Oklahoma State 130
4. Colorado 100 4. Texas Tech 89
5. Kansas State 81 5. Baylor 75
6. Iowa State 33 6. Texas A&M 33