TIGER NEWS & NOTES
#21 Missouri Tigers (3-0) at Nevada Wolf Pack (0-2)
Sept. 25, 2009 - Mackay Stadium - Reno, Nev.
KICKOFF: 8:00 p.m. (central time).
STADIUM: Mackay Stadium (29,993 - FieldTurf surface). Opened in 1966. Nevada is 159-46-2 there alltime, including a mark of 15-3 there since 1994.
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) and XM Radio (channel 102).
TV: ESPN. Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (color), Steve Turnberger (director).
RANKINGS (AP/USA): MU - RV [26th] / 21st; NEVADA - NA / NA.
SERIES: Mizzou leads, 1-0. In the only previous meeting between the schools, Mizzou claimed a 69-17 win in Columbia in 2008.
Mizzou: Gary Pinkel (Kent, ‘75), 62-41 at MU (9th year) and 135-78-3 overall (19th year). Pinkel is 4-0 vs. Nevada (3-0 at Toledo) and is 3-0 vs. Chris Ault.
Nevada: Chris Ault (Nevada, ‘68), 198-93-1 at Nevada and overall (25th year). Ault is 0-1 vs. Mizzou and 0-3 vs. Gary Pinkel.
TALE OF THE TAPE
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
440.00 [26th] Total Offense 363.50 [71st]
164.67 [47th] Rushing Offense 161.00 [52nd]
4 TDs Rushing 2
275.33 [19th] Passing Offense 202.50 [76th]
163.20 [13th] Passing Efficiency 103.61 [102nd]
9 TDs Passing 1
38.67 [20th] Scoring Offense 10.00 [115th]
347.67 [65th] Total Defense 439.50 [107th]
105.67 [T-40th] Rushing Defense 178.50 [99th]
3 TDs Allowed Rushing 3
242.00 [86th] Passing Defense 261.00 [102nd]
113.49 [47th] Pass Effic. Defense 231.59 [120th]
2 TDs Allowed Passing 7
13.67 [20th] Scoring Defense 35.00 [110th]
+0.67 [35th] Turnover Margin -4.00 [120th]
5/2 Fumbles/Lost 4/4
0 Interceptions Thrown 4
2 Interceptions Gained 0
22.70 [52nd] Kickoff Return Avg. 25.00 [33rd]
4.80 [84th] Punt Return Avg. 9.00 [58th]
42.86 [4th] Net Punting Avg. 37.38 [44th]
2.00 [48th] Sacks By 1.00 [T-92nd]
1.33 [T-41st] Sacks Allowed 1.50 [52nd]
27:00 [113th] Avg. Time of Poss. 28:40 [81st]
44.4% [36th] 3rd Down Conv. 37.5% [T-77th]
75.0% [T-24th] 4th Down Conv. 0.0% [T-99th]
tigers hit the road, looking for jackpot in reno
The Missouri Tigers (3-0 overall) head west in search of wrapping up a perfect regular-season non-conference campaign for the fourth straight year. It will be a tough task, however, as Mizzou travels to Reno, Nev., where they'll face the dangerous Nevada Wolf Pack (0-2). The game will be played on Friday, as both schools agreed to move it to accommodate an ESPN national telecast, with kickoff coming at 8 p.m. central (6 p.m. Reno time).
The Tigers are coming off an explosive 52-12 win last Saturday over Furman of the Football Championship Subdivision, that saw MU erupt for 42 points in the final 19:47 of the first half, thanks to scores on five straight offensive possessions, plus the team's first defensive TD of the season. Each of Mizzou's first 3 TDs of the game were from 40 yards or more in distance (2 passing, 1 rushing), and the Tiger defense pitched a shutout until midway through the 3rd quarter.
Nevada, which entered the season figuring to be one of the top teams in the Western Athletic Conference, has gotten off to a tough start, as they've dropped two road games to start the season - 35-0 at 23rd-ranked Notre Dame on Sept. 5th, followed by a 35-20 loss at Colorado State last Saturday. The Wolf Pack have been plagued by the turnover bug in their first two games, as they are minus eight in turnover margin, including a minus-five that led to 28 of CSU's 35 points on Saturday. As if that weren't enough motivation for the Wolf Pack, they'll be on the hunt for Tiger hide, to avenge a 69-17 loss that Mizzou put on them in Columbia last season.
scoring explosion leads tigers to rout of furman
In Mizzou's first two games (37-9 win over Illinois & 27-20 win over Bowling Green), Mizzou scored 7 touchdowns in 120 minutes of play. In a span of 19 minutes and 36 seconds last Saturday versus Furman, Mizzou scored 6 TDs, as it turned a scoreless game into a 42-0 halftime lead over the Paladins last Saturday, on the way to a 52-12 win.
After MU's first two possessions stalled out, the Tigers got untracked, and did so in a hurry, as they scored 3 TDs in a span of five offensive snaps to make it 21-0. The first came on some trickery, as WR Danario Alexander took a lateral from QB Blaine Gabbert and sold a screen, before pulling up to hit a wide-open Jared Perry streaking down the right sideline for a 40-yard TD pass with 4:47 left in the 1st quarter.
The Tiger defense got a stop, and on the ensuing play from scrimmage, Gabbert hit Perry on a 48-yard TD pass for a 14-0 lead. After another defensive stand, Gabbert and company struck paydirt again, as the QB took matters into his own hand, as he kept the ball on an option run around left end on the third play of the drive. After getting around the edge, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Gabbert lowered his head, broke a tackle and scooted 40 yards for a score to become the first Tiger since the legendary Brad Smith (2002 vs. Kansas) to throw and run for a touchdown of 40 yards or more in the same game.
But the onslaught wasn't over, as Gabbert had two more TD passes, with both going to Alexander (13 yards, 17 yards), sandwiched around DE Jacquies Smith's 1st career interception that he returned 43 yards for a score to make it a 42-0 halftime Tiger lead.
The first three Tiger TDs all came from 40 yards or more, with the final two coming on solid, sustained drives. The final TD was also part of an outstanding two minute drill that saw Gabbert and company march from its own 23-yardline with 1:10 left in the half, to a touchdown on Gabbert's 17-yard pass to Alexander with just :11 seconds left. That efficient 2-minute drill covered 77 yards in 5 plays and took just :59 seconds.
tigers have 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 3-0 start to the 2009 season, MU's three-year win total of 25 is tied for the 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 Mizzou 12 10 3
25 USC 11 12 2
25 Oklahoma 11 12 2
25 Boise State 10 12 3
25 Florida 9 13 3
25 Texas 10 12 3
24 Cincinnati 10 11 3
24 Utah 9 13 2
23 BYU, Georgia, Kansas, LSU, Ohio State, Penn State,
Tulsa, Virginia Tech
tigers riding school-record non-conference win streak
Dating back to the season-opening win against Illinois in 2007, Mizzou has won 13 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 16 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).
That 2005 season was the last one where Mizzou failed to go undefeated vs. non-league foes in the regular-season. After that, Mizzou went 4-0 in 2006, 2007 and 2008 - including road wins at Ole Miss (2007) and New Mexico (2006), plus neutral-site wins against Illinois in 2007 and 2008.
Mizzou Coach Gary Pinkel has enjoyed success against non-conference foes in his time at MU, as he's a solid 29-7 in all (.806) 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
13 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, gabbert tops in big 12 in pass efficiency
Three games into the 2009 season, a look at the statistical rankings shows something that not many people would have counted on prior to the year - Mizzou leads the Big 12 as a team, as does sophomore first-year starting QB Blaine Gabbert, in passing efficiency.
Just three games into his collegiate starting career, Gabbert sports the top mark among the pass-crazy league's QBs, with a rating of 166.10, a figure which rates him 11th in the NCAA entering the Nevada game. As a team, Mizzou also leads the Big 12 at 163.20, which is good for 13th nationally so far.
A breakdown of national stats from the outstanding website cfbstats.com (we highly recommend it to any of you stat afficionados), shows that no collegiate QB has been better than Gabbert in the 2nd half of play so far. Gabbert's 2nd-half QB rating of 221.26 is tops anywhere, here's a quick look at the numbers, courtesy cfbstats.com:
2nd-HALF NCAA QB RATING (Thru Games of Sept. 19th)
Rating Player, Team Stats
221.26 BLAINE GABBERT, MIZZOU 24-of-29, 321 Yds., 4 TDs, 0 INTs
220.09 Jevan Snead, Ole Miss 13-of-18, 199 Yds., 3 TDs, 0 INTs
211.13 Kellen Moore, Boise State 17-of-24, 283 Yds., 3 TDs, 0 INTs
200.17 Chris Jacquemain, Akron 10-of-14, 136 Yds., 2 TDs, 0 INTs
198.60 G.J. Kinne, Tulsa 23-of-31, 302 Yds., 4 TDs, 0 INTs
spoon knifes way into mu career top-10 tackles list
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 3 games, he's on his way toward doing just that, as Spoon ranks 3rd in the Big 12 with his 9.67 tackles per game average (29 total). He's coming off a 6-tackle outing against Furman in which he played two series into the 3rd quarter before shutting it down. Prior to leaving the game, he forced a fumble that prevented a Furman TD, as it came on a strip of a Paladin WR inside the MU 2-yardline, with MU teammate Jasper Simmons recovering the ball that was fumbled into the endzone.
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.
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-NEVADA SERIES HISTORY
Mizzou and Nevada have met only once previously, with last year's Tiger win in Columbia serving as the only matchup prior to Friday's contest in Reno.
Tiger Head Coach Gary Pinkel definitely has a history with Nevada, however, as he is 4-0 versus Nevada (he went 3-0 versus the Wolf Pack while at Toledo). His Rockets defeated Nevada twice in the 1995 season, winning a 49-35 game at Nevada early in the year, and then claiming a 40-37 overtime win that same season in the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl. That game had historical significance, as it was the first-ever overtime game played in Division I, after the new rule had been placed into effect just prior to bowl season that year. Both of those wins in 1995 came against current Nevada Head Coach Chris Ault.
Toledo also took a 31-13 win over Nevada in Toledo in 1997 (without Ault on the Nevada sideline).
In all, Pinkel is 4-2 versus teams currently comprising the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), with the other two games being losses while at Toledo to Louisiana Tech (L, 61-20 at La. Tech in 1996: L, 34-17 at Toledo in 1999).
Mizzou stands 7-0-1 against current WAC teams, and that includes a 4-0 mark against Utah State (last time played: 1990), 2-0 versus Idaho (last time played: 1963), 1-0 versus Nevada, and 0-0-1 against Hawaii (1994). That Hawaii game ended in a 32-32 tie in bizarre circumstances, as the Tigers held a 25-24 lead late in the game. Tiger DE Marc Pedrotti intercepted a Hawaii pass deep in UH territory, but instead of falling on the ball with 1:29 left, he returned it 20 yards for a TD to make it 32-24. If he taken a knee, the Tigers could have run out the clock and left with a win, but the return gave Hawaii one last chance, and UH drove the field for a TD just before the final gun, and they forced the tie with a successful 2-point conversion. It's certainly hard to fault someone for making a play like Pedrotti did, it was just another example of the bizarre misfortune that MU football ran up against in the 1990s (games such as the 5th Down Game and the Flea-Kicker Game come to mind).
last year rewind: #6 mizzou 69, nevada 17
Chase Daniel threw for 405 yards to set the school career passing record and Missouri scored on its first 10 possessions in a 69-17 win over Nevada in Columbia last season.
Daniel threw for four TDs and was 23-for-28 to take Missouri (3-0) to seven touchdowns and a field goal before exiting in the third quarter. His backups, Chase Patton and Blaine Gabbert, led two more scoring drives before Missouri was forced to punt late in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers gained 651 yards and averaged 10 yards per play. The 69 points tied a team record set against Kansas in 1969. This came against a Nevada defense that just one week prior held Texas Tech's high-profile passing attack in check, limiting QB Graham Harrell to career lows in completions and completion percentage.
Daniel connected on touchdown passes of 80, 14 and 49 yards with Jeremy Maclin, and threw a 27-yarder to Jared Perry. Derrick Washington ran for two scores.
Missouri also scored on a fake field goal and an interception return in the second half, after Daniel had already put the game out of reach.
Maclin had six catches for 172 yards. Three other receivers had six catches - Chase Coffman for 127 yards and a touchdown on a fake field goal, Tommy Saunders for 100 yards and Perry for 98 yards.
Missouri led 14-0 2:58 into the game on Washington's 59-yard run and Maclin's 80-yard catch-and-run.
Nevada scored on a 1-yard run by quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the first quarter, a 31-yard field goal by Brett Jaekle in the second and on a 42-yard pass from Kaepernick to Marko Mitchell on the final play of the first half that cut the deficit to 38-17.
But after gaining 237 yards of offense in the first half, the Wolf Pack managed just 125 in the second.
Kaepernick was 17-for-31 for 152 yards and led Nevada with 71 yards rushing on eight carries.
Washington led Missouri with 80 yards rushing on eight carries.
tiger defense had second-half shutout of wolf pack in 2008
Overshadowed by their high-profile offensive teammates, the Tiger defense turned in a solid overall day in last year's 69-17 win over Nevada. After allowing 17 points in the first half, including a 42-yard TD pass on the final play of the 2nd quarter, the Tiger defense settled down after halftime and stifled the Wolf Pack's potent Pistol attack, keeping them off the scoreboard for the final 30 minutes of play.
In all, Mizzou limited Nevada to nearly 200 yards below its total offense average coming into the game. The Wolf Pack came in ranked 6th nationally in total offense, averaging 558.50 ypg, but were kept to 362 by Mizzou. Their rushing attack, which was ranked 5th coming in (325.00 ypg) was held to nearly 150 yards below that - 182.
The total offense number is even more impressive, considering the Tiger defense was on the field for a total of 84 plays (compared to just 65 for the quick-strike MU offense), giving Nevada a per-play average of 4.3 yards (compared to Mizzou's whopping average of 10.0 yards per snap).
two-minute offense has worked like a charm in 1st half
Sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert has belied his youth and relative inexperience in most areas of the his game so far, but especially when it comes to running the 2-minute offense. In 3 games thus far, Gabbert has led Mizzou to 3 scores in the final minute of the 2nd quarter.
In the opener against Illinois, Gabbert drove Mizzou 13 plays for 53 yards, and ate up 4:15 off the clock to get the Tigers in position for a 41-yard Grant Ressel FG, which he nailed with :06 seconds left in the half for a 16-3 MU lead. That drive didn't start as a standard 2-minute drill, but we're counting it since the drive was effective enough to milk all but :06 seconds off the clock.
In game 2 against Bowling Green, with MU trailing 13-3, Gabbert got the Tigers a couple of first downs, and with :51 seconds left, Ressel hit a 46-yard FG to draw Mizzou to within 13-6 to cap a 10-play, 35-yard drive that spanned 1:38 in possession time. That helped spur the Tigers to their second-half comeback win.
Last time out against Furman, Gabbert led a laser-like 2-minute drill that started on MU's 23-yardline with 1:10 to play. Five plays later, Gabbert hit WR Danario Alexander with a 17-yard TD pass with just :11 seconds remaining in the half for a 42-0 lead. The drive went 5-plays, 77-yards and took just 0:59 seconds in all.
Gabbert learned from the best, in former Tiger QB Chase Daniel. Daniel was the master of the 2-minute drill before halftime, as he led MU to 22 scores (10 TDs, 12 FGs) in 25 tries during a 2-minute drill in the 2nd quarter. in his last 2 years as a starter (2007 & 2008) Two of the three misses were FG attempts at the halftime gun of 59-yards and 52-yards, while the one true miss was against Kansas in 2007 when an attempted 2-minute drill didn't work.
Amazingly, 15 of those 22 scores under Daniel's direction came with :23 seconds or less on the clock, including 11 that came with :09 seconds or less (8 were FGs by Jeff Wolfert with no time left).
perry very scary for furman
Senior WR Jared Perry turned in a career day in just two quarters of play last Saturday in Mizzou's 52-12 win over Furman. The LaMarque, Texas native had 7 catches for 161 yards and 2 TDs, with all of those figures representing career bests. With the Tigers holding a 42-0 halftime lead, Perry was given the rest of the day off, as he didn't play in the 3rd or 4th quarters.
tigers post comeback for the ages to down bowling green
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.
gabbert shows his mettle with 2nd-half comeback
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 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.
o - vs. Illinois - 11-of-13, 172 yards, 2 TDs...
o - vs. Bowling Green - 10-of-12, 128 yards, 2 TDs...
o - vs. Furman - 3-of-4, 21 yards...
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).
Last week was more of the same as Gabbert led the Tigers to a 52-12 win over Furman, thanks to a 17-of-25 passing performance that covered 256 yards and 3 more TDs, plus he added a 40-yard TD run to become the first Tiger since Brad Smith in 2002 (vs. Kansas) to throw and run for a TD of 40 yards or more in a game.
For grins, we went back and looked up the numbers for former star QB Chase Daniel in his first 3 career starts, and Gabbert has put together better numbers than the 2007 Heisman Finalist...
Numbers For First Three Career Starts at Mizzou
Daniel - 72-of-108, 762 yds., 7 TDs, 1 INT, QB Rating of 145.47; 87 rush yds., 2 TDs
Gabbert - 62-of-91, 747 yds., 8 TDs, 0 INTs, QB Rating of 166.10; 95 rush yds., 2 TDs
washington leads ground charge
When Mizzou found itself trailing Bowling Green 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.
o - The biggest 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...
Washington was kept in check last week against Furman, as he gained 45 yards on 15 carries, but he did manage a 3rd-quarter TD plunge from 1 yard out, and enters the Nevada game with 226 net yards and 2 TDs.
out of the mouths of babes
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 five are projected to start on offense/defense Friday at Nevada, with only eight total who are on the two-deep entering Friday's game. That's a stark contrast to 2008, when the Tigers began the season with 12 senior starters (5 on offense and 7 on defense).
Here's a breakdown of MU's projected starters and the offense/defense two-deep for the Nevada game. You'll notice that of MU's 53 players listed on the 2-deep, more than half (36) are either freshmen or sophomores...
PROJECTED STARTERS BY CLASS 2-DEEP BY CLASS
Seniors 5 [3 off./2 def.] 8 [3 off./5 def.]
Juniors 7 [2 off./5 def.] 9 [ 2 off./7 def.]
Sophomores 9 [6 off./3 def.] 21 [15 off./6 def.]
Freshmen 1 [0 off./1 def.] 15 [7 off./8 def.]
alexander the great
Senior WR Danario Alexander has his final season as a Tiger off to a great start, as he's been involved heavily in the passing game, as he leads MU with 20 receptions. He's got 234 receiving yards and 2 TDs, which are both 2nd-best behind running mate and fellow senior Jared Perry.
The duo even combined for an exciting TD in last Saturday's win over Furman, 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. For the game, Alexander 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 former TE Chase Coffman did the daily double in the 2006 Brut Sun Bowl vs. Oregon State.
Alexander led the Tigers in receiving in each of the first two games in 2009. He had a 7-catch, 56-yard outing against Bowling Green, and his 22-yard catch-and-run late in the 4th-quarter that went down to the 1-yardline set up the game-winning TD that Derrick Washington scored 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 Friday's game at Nevada with 98 career catches for 1,231 yards and 10 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.
defense pitching in, limiting big plays
To the casual observer, Mizzou's defensive numbers through 3 games might not appear eye-popping, as the Tigers rank anywhere from 20th to 65th 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.
They're doing a great job of limiting big plays by opposing offenses so far, with only 7 plays going for 20 yards or more against them in 2009 (6 passing, 1 rushing). Only one of those (a 21-yard pass from Furman) have gone for a TD.
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.
The defense pitched a first-half shutout of Furman last time out, and forced 2 turnovers, including an interception that sophomore DE Jacquies Smith returned 43 yards for a touchdown.
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.
more on the rushing attack
Mizzou is coming off a season-best 196-yard rushing day against Furman, as the Tigers averaged 5.4 yards a carry on 36 attempts. True freshman Kendial Lawrence had the biggest day, as he netted 77 yards on just 10 carries. Lawrence now has 126 rushing yards on 17 carries over the last 2 games (a whopping 7.4 avg. per rush).
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 39.0 rushing attempts in its first 3 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:
we'll grant you this: ressel has been good
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 6-of-6 on field goals and 14-of-14 on extra points through 3 games.
The Jackson, Mo. native, who didn't win the starting kicking job until late in training camp, ranks 1st in the Big 12 (5th in the NCAA) in field goals per game (2.00) and is 4th in the Big 12 and 16th in the nation in scoring (10.67 ppg)...
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 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.
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 have come in mop-up time when there's no pressure riding on the kick. Last time out versus Furman, he did have his only FG try come in mop-up time, but it was a 44-yarder in the 4th quarter, which he nailed to give the Tigers a 52-6 lead. Against Illinois, he was 3-for-3 on FG tries, connecting from 32, 44 and 41 yards in MU's 37-9 season-opening win.
It didn't take long for Ressel to get his first test vs. Illinois, as he was called on for a 32-yard attempt that he nailed to cap MU's season-opening possession to give MU a 3-0 lead at the 7:23 mark of the 1st quarter. After MU took a 10-0 lead and Illinois closed to 10-3, the Tiger defense got an interception in Illini territory. The drive stalled out, however, and Ressel was called on to try a 44-yard attempt, which again was true with 8:36 left in the half for a 13-3 lead. He tacked on a 41-yarder for good measure with just :06 seconds left in the half to give Mizzou a huge boost of momentum, as well as a 16-3 lead, into the lockerroom for halftime.
Ressel won the kicking job in fall training camp in a fierce competition with senior PK Tanner Mills. Ressel had no previous collegiate place kicks on his resume prior to this season, but he did punt once in 2008 in mop-up time, as he booted a 43-yard punt against Southeast Missouri State.
harry giving ‘em the boot
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 3 games that maybe Tiger fans won't be so hesitant to see the left-footer trot out on the field.
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.
aldon smith the latest smith to wreak havoc for tiger d-line
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 3 games. Heading into the Nevada contest, Smith ranks 8th in the Big 12 in QB sacks and tackles for loss. He had 2 tackles in limited time last time out against Furman, and added 2 pass break ups to his stat line, and he's now tied for the team lead in that category through 3 games.
Smith had a 5-tackle performance against Bowling Green that included one huge 4th-quarter sack of 18 yards that came with around 9 minutes left in the game, with MU trailing 20-13 at the time. His sack was on 3rd down, and forced a BGSU punt that MU took and drove for the game-tying TD.
Smith started against Bowling Green, after he was very impressive in his collegiate debut against Illinois, when he registered 6 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss and 1 QB sack of the Illini's Juice Williams.
If that seems like a lot of Smiths to keep track of, well wait, there's more. Aldon's running mate at the other defensive end is sophomore Jacquies Smith (again, no relation to any previously-mentioned Smiths). Jacquies (pronounced jah-QWEE-s) has started each of MU's first 3 games, and has been very productive as well, as he's got 10 tackles and has added 1.5 QB sacks of his own, to go with an interception last Saturday that he returned 43 yards for a TD.
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 135-78-3 (63.2%). 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 40-16 (71.4%) over the past 4+ seasons, and to bowl games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, has a 9-year record in Columbia of 62-41 (60.2%). Dating back to the 2005 Independence Bowl win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, Pinkel has won 34 of his last 45 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 62.
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 62 9 (2001-Present) 62-41 .602 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.
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...
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 53-27 Mizzou 27-21
Nebraska 48-30 Nebraska 25-23
Kansas 46-31 Kansas 22-26
Kansas St. 38-39 Colorado 20-28
Colorado 34-44 Kansas St. 19-29
Iowa St. 27-48 Iowa St. 11-37
CAN TIGERS WORK A THREE-PEAT?
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
Missouri Sports Information