Missouri Tigers set to battle Kansas St. Wildcats

Missouri Tigers (5-4, 1-4) at Kansas State Wildcats (6-4, 4-2)

Nov. 14, 2009 – Snyder Family Stadium – Manhattan, Kan.


The Missouri Tigers (5-4 overall, 1-4 in Big 12 Conference play) are looking to play the role of spoiler this Saturday when they invade Manhattan, Kan., where they'll take on the North Division-leading Kansas State Wildcats (6-4, 4-2). Kickoff for the game, which is being televised live on the Versus Network, has been set for 11:32 a.m. (central time).

The Tigers are coming off a tough home defeat to Baylor, that saw Mizzou bolt to a seemingly comfortable 27-16 halftime lead, only to see the Bears surge ahead in the second half with a strong offensive showing that MU couldn't match. In the end, Baylor outscored Mizzou 24-5 after intermission to deny the Tigers a chance at gaining some momentum following its solid 37-16 win at Colorado the previous week.

Kansas State, after beginning the year a little shaky, including a tight home win over FCS Massachusetts (W, 21-17 on Sept. 5th), followed by consectuive road defeats at Louisiana-Lafayette (17-15) and UCLA (23-9), have done a nice job of righting the ship. Since that 1-2 start, they've won 4-of-6 games, and are coming off a 17-10 home win over in-state rival Kansas last Saturday.

The Wildcats will take the field this Saturday looking to gain bowl eligibility – with 2 wins over FCS schools, a school needs 5 wins over FBS competition to be eligible for a bowl. They will also be looking to stay ahead of the pack for the North Division race. Kansas State holds a half-game lead over 2nd-place Nebraska (3-2 in league play, 6-3 overall) heading into Saturday's games.

   The end result of last Saturday's game against Baylor was most definitely a downer for Tiger faithful, as the Bears came to Faurot Field and left with a 40-32 win. But a huge passing display by sophomore QB Blaine Gabbert and receivers Danario Alexander and Jared Perry was impressive, even if it came in a losing effort.
   Gabbert threw for 468 yards and 2 TDs on the day, with the yardage total ranking as second-highest in MU single-game history – just 12 yards off the MU record of 480 set in 1992 at Oklahoma State by Jeff Handy. Gabbert's main accomplice was Alexander, who torched the Baylor defense for a career-high 13 catches for 214 yards, including a career-long 84-yard TD that helped stake Mizzou to a 27-16 halftime lead. Gabbert was 21-of-27 in the 1st half for 322 yards, and ended 30-of-51.
   Alexander's yardage total was the 4th-highest in MU single-game history, and it marked only the 5th 200-yard receiving game in Mizzou annals (the yardage record is 236, set twice by Justin Gage).
   When Baylor was able to keep the ball out of Alexander's hands, Perry was the benefactor, as he got free for 7 catches for 145 yards of his own.
   The 359 combined yards by the Alexander-Perry combo ranks as the most for a 1-2 duo in MU single-game history. That eclipsed the former mark of 314 yards set in 1992 (in the same Oklahoma State game where Jeff Handy set the single-game passing yardage mark) by Kenny Holly (15-158, 1 TD) and Victor Bailey (11-156).

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

   Mizzou and Kansas State will square off for the 95th time when they meet Saturday in Manhattan, with MU holding a 58-31-5 lead overall in the prior 94 meetings.
   The 58 wins is tied for the most by MU over any opponent, along with the 58 wins the Tigers hold alltime over fellow Big 12 North rival Iowa State (58-34-9 overall, with a Nov. 21st game to come vs. the Cyclones in Columbia next week).
   Mizzou has won 3 straight over K-State, including a 41-24 victory in Columbia last season. While Missouri holds the historical edge in the series, the Tigers are still trying to play catch up from a recent period of domination by Kansas State. While the Tigers have won the last three times out, K-State holds a 10-3 lead in the series since the Big 12 began play in 1996.
   Mizzou's 41-21 win in Columbia in 2006 was a watershed moment, as it broke a 13-game losing streak to Kansas State that dated from 1993-2005. The Tigers' win in Manhattan in 2007 (W, 49-32) was historic as well, as it was MU's first there since 1989 – the first season for KSU coaching legend Bill Snyder.
   Prior to K-State's 13-year stranglehold on the series, Mizzou had dominated the rivalry, holding a 55-18-5 advantage in the series ledger after claiming a 27-14 win in Columbia in 1992.
   Mizzou holds a 29-14-2 lead in games played in Manhattan, and also claims an 11-9-1 lead overall in games played in KSU Stadium, which is now officially named Snyder Family Stadium.
   The Tigers will be going for their fourth straight win over the Wildcats, and if they achieve that Saturday, it will mark the first time since 1987-90 that the Tigers won three straight over Kansas State. That was on the tail end of a five-game MU win streak from 1986-90.

Jeremy Maclin scored three touchdowns and totaled 278 all-purpose yards, helping No. 13 Missouri shake off a slow start in its home finale and whip Kansas State 41-24 to grab first place in the Big 12 North.
   Missouri (8-2, 4-2 Big 12) took control with 17 points in the final 5:46 of the first half, including a pair of touchdown passes from Chase Daniel to Maclin. Maclin had eight receptions for 118 yards and two TDs, four carries for 84 yards and a third TD on a 56-yard jaunt on a direct snap.
   Kansas State (4-6, 1-5) has lost five of six, the latest setback coming only three days after Head Coach Ron Prince was fired effective at the end of the season.
   Maclin was a thorn in the side of a K-State defense that was burned by Maclin as a freshman in 2007 for three touchdowns and a school-record 360 yards total offense in Manhattan, Kan. Maclin entered the 2008 game averaging 189.67 all-purpose yards, second in the nation.
   The Tigers got a strong effort from their lightly-regarded defense to beat Kansas State for the third straight time after losing 13 in a row to the Wildcats.
   Kansas State scored twice - Brandon Banks' 93-yard run and a 3-yard touchdown pass from Carson Coffman to Banks - in the final 1:11 to make the final score much closer.
   It was an emotional senior day for the Tigers. The father of linebacker Aaron O'Neal, who died after a voluntary summer workout in 2005 and never played for Missouri, led a procession of 23 seniors who combined for 35 wins over four seasons in a pre-game ceremony.
   The win moved Missouri to 11-2 against the North the last three seasons and can clinch its second straight Big 12 championship game berth next week with a victory at Iowa State combined with a Kansas loss at home against No. 5 Texas.
   Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, averaging 10 catches the last four games, missed the game with a sprained big toe. The offense seemed out-of-sync early without Daniel's most consistent pass-catcher, running only seven plays on its first two possessions.
   Blair Irvin's interception ended Missouri's first possession after only two plays, and the second drive netted one first down.
   Two big plays from Maclin helped the Tigers open things up. He won a foot race on a simple swing pass on a 42-yard score, one play after Will Ebner's blocked punt, and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass on one leg in the back of the end zone.
   Kansas State trailed 24-3 at the half and barely avoided getting shut out in the first 30 minutes for the second straight game, getting a 43-yard field goal from Brooks Rossman on the final play.

   Even despite the fact that Mizzou is coming off a tough overall defensive day in last Saturday's 40-32 home loss to Baylor, the Tiger defense was still very good defending against the run. Baylor gained only 38 net yards on 28 attempts, good for just 1.4 yards per carry on the day. Of course, in NCAA football, QB sack yardage counts against running totals, and MU's 3 sacks for 29 yards factored into that, but even if you back the sack yardage out, Baylor netted just 67 yards on 25 carries, which is still only 2.6 yards per carry.
   That marked the second-straight impressive outing against the run for Mizzou's defense, as it followed a game at Colorado where the Tigers held CU to minus-14 yards on the ground (the lowest single-game total for an MU opponent since 1972).
   Mizzou will certainly be challenged by Kansas State's potent running attack which comes into Saturday's game in Manhattan ranked 2nd in the Big 12 Conference, and 23rd nationally, averaging 190.70 yards per game. Oklahoma State currently leads the Big 12 in rushing (196.00 avg.), and earlier this year the Tigers held the Cowboys to 124 yards on the ground, or 72 below their current Big 12-leading average.
   At right is a recap of Mizzou's rush defense log for the 2009 season. The numbers below show that only one opponent so far has exceeded their current per-game rushing average (through games of Nov. 7th) against Mizzou in 2009, and that includes holding the nation's top-rushing team, Nevada, to 123 yards below their average.

   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.
   Recently, he was one of 10 standouts named as a semifinalist for the 2009 Lombardi Award. He had 11 tackles last week against Baylor, and now has 34 stops in his last 3 games overall.
   He 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 9 games, Spoon ranks 2nd in the Big 12 (29th nationally) with his 9.33 tackles per game average (84 total). He's 7th in the Big 12 (30th nationally) in tackles for loss, at 1.28 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 interception of McCoy to mark his first INT of 2009.
   He now has 386 tackles for his career (he's only in his 3rd year as a starter on defense), which ranks him 4th in Mizzou history. He needs only 5 more tackles to crack the top three, and he's 48 tackles away from the MU career record of 434 tackles, set by James Kinney from 2001-04. With 3 games guaranteed remaining, he'd have to average 16.0 tackles per game to reach that mark. If the Tigers reach a bowl game this season, that goes down to 12.0 per game for him to become MU's alltime leading tackler.
   Weatherspoon turned in a game-high 14 tackles in Mizzou's comeback win against Bowling Green. He made four stops in the decisive 4th quarter that saw Mizzou outscore the Falcons, 14-0. Perhaps his biggest play was on a 3rd-and-9 early in the 4th quarter, when he stopped a pass play for a loss of two yards to force a BGSU punt. On the ensuing possession, the Tiger offense drove for a game-tying score…
   He got his senior campaign off to a promising start as he registered a team-best 9 tackles in MU's 37-9 dismantling of favored Illinois. Spoon added a QB sack of the Illini's Juice Williams, and threw in 1 QB hurry too.
   Weatherspoon led the Big 12 in 2008 with a career-best 155 tackles, which ranked him 5th in all of the NCAA last year. He closed his junior season in fine fashion as he tallied 17 tackles in helping lead MU to a comeback 30-23 overtime win against Northwestern in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, winning Defensive MVP honors in the process.

   One of the great stories happening in Big 12 football right now is the outstanding play of senior WR Danario Alexander, who has overcome four surgeries during his 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 potential All-American honors, as well.
   The Marlin, Texas, native enters Saturday's game against Kansas State with a team-best 71 receptions for 1,038 yards and 8 TDs. He's already surpassed his previous season highs, which came back in 2007 when he had 417 yards on 37 catches in 10 games.
   He's coming off another All-American type day against Baylor, 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.
   That was Alexander's 5th 100-yard outing of the year. Alexander enters the Kansas State game ranked 2nd in the Big 12 and 5th in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (115.33 avg.), and he's also 3rd in the Big 12 and 5th nationally in receptions per game (7.89 avg.).
   Alexander's performance vs. Baylor upped his totals to 149 career catches for 2,035 yards and 16 TDs. He currently ranks 7th on both the MU career receptions and receiving yardage chart, and his 16 career TDs puts him 5th alltime at MU. His current season total of 1,038 yards is already 5th-best in MU single-season history, and he stands just 222 yards shy of the record of 1,260 yards set just last year by All-American Jeremy Maclin.
   His monster game against Baylor (he grew up in Marlin, Texas, just 20-some miles away from Waco, Texas) 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.
   Prior to Nevada, he caught 3 passes for 46 yards and he became the first Tiger to throw for a TD and catch a TD pass in the same game since the 2006 Brut Sun Bowl when he did so against Furman. On the TD pass, Alexander combined with fellow WR Jared Perry as Alexander took a lateral toss from QB Blaine Gabbert, and after selling a bubble screen, he pulled up and lofted a pass downfield to a wide-open Perry for a 40-yard TD that was MU's first score of the game. Later in the 2nd quarter, Alexander caught a pair of TD passes (13 yards and 17 yards), with the latter coming with just :11 seconds remaining in the half.
   He had a 7-catch, 56-yard outing against Bowling Green, and his 22-yard catch-and-run late in the 4th-quarter that went down to the 1-yardline set up the game-winning TD that Derrick Washington scored with 5:38 to play.
   Alexander opened his final season at MU in style, as he turned in career highs of 10 receptions for 132 yards against Illinois. Time and again he was QB Blaine Gabbert's go-to guy, as 6 of his 10 catches came on 3rd or 4th down, with 4 of them extending the chains. A fifth, which didn't gain a first down, was just as crucial as any of them, as he had a 16-yard catch on the sideline on a 3rd-and-27 from the Illinois 30-yardline on MU's opening drive of the game. That catch was essentially worth three points, as it put the Tigers within field goal range, and after Grant Ressel made the ensuing 32-yard field goal, the Tigers were off and running with a 3-0 lead.
   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.

   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 State contest, Smith ranks 7th in the NCAA in tackles for loss (1.67 avg.) and 8th in QB sacks (1.00 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 15.0 tackles for loss and 9.0 QB sacks, and he's coming off a 5-tackle outing against Baylor where he recorded a pair of TFLs (13 yards in losses) and one more QB sack.
   He is fast approaching the 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 1.00. The next-best freshman currently on the national sacks list is USC’s Nick Perry, who ranks 23rd in the NCAA overall, with a per-game average of 0.78. There’s not another freshman in the top-60 nationally other than those two...
  • Smith is by far the top freshman in the NCAA in TFLs, with his per-game average of 1.67 (15.0 TFLs in 9 games). He is the ONLY freshman in the nation who ranks among the top-100 in this category, entering the Kansas State game...

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 State game 4th on the team with 48 tackles, and he leads the Tigers with his TFL (15.0) and QB sack (9.0) 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 the night with 7 tackles in Reno.
   Smith had a 5-tackle performance against Bowling Green that included one huge 4th-quarter sack of 18 yards that came with around 9 minutes left in the game, with MU trailing 20-13 at the time. His sack was on 3rd down, and forced a BGSU punt that MU took and drove for the game-tying TD.
   Smith started against Bowling Green, after he was very impressive in his collegiate debut against Illinois, when he registered 6 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss and 1 QB sack of the Illini's Juice Williams.

   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 Award™ winner in early January.
   The 2009 finalists are: Zane Beadles, University of Utah; Richie Brockel, Boise State University; Eric Decker, University of Minnesota; Kurtis Gregory, University of Missouri; Jerry Hughes, TCU; Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan University; Colt McCoy, University of Texas; Zoltan Mesko, University of Michigan; Darrell Stuckey, University of Kansas; and Tim Tebow, University of Florida.
   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. 9th, 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-three in the voting, as of Sunday.
   The pre-season Outland Trophy candidate is slated to make his 38th consecutive start at right guard this Saturday against Kansas State.

   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 17-of-18 on field goals and 26-of-26 on extra points through 9 games. He's 6-of-7 from 40 yards or longer, including making three 46-yarders, with two of those coming last week 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.
   The Jackson, Mo. native, who didn't win the starting kicking job until late in training camp, currently ranks 1st in the Big 12 (4th in the NCAA) in field goals per game (1.89) and is 2nd in the Big 12 and 17th in the nation in scoring (8.56 ppg). On Monday, 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 State game this weekend, Ressel is also 2nd 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.

   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 224 consecutive extra point attempts entering Saturday's game against Kansas State.
   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:

  • 2005: the last 13 PATs of the season (by Adam Crossett)...
  • 2006: a perfect 45-of-45 (by Jeff Wolfert)...
  • 2007: a perfect 67-of-67 (by Jeff Wolfert)...
  • 2008: a perfect 73-of-73 (by Jeff Wolfert)...
  • 2009: a perfect 26-of-26 (by Grant Ressel)...

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.

   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 half (36) of MU's 53 players listed on the 2-deep are either freshmen or sophomores.

   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. 7):

   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 last Saturday against Baylor, including 1 TFL.
   Despite missing the OSU game, as well as the fact that he's only started three games so far this season, Ebner enters the Kansas State game ranked 2nd on the team with 50 tackles, and he's also 3rd in tackles for loss (7.0).
   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.