Missouri Tigers tangle with Vanderbilt on Saturday

Vanderbilt Commodores (1-3, 0-2) at Missouri Tigers (3-2, 0-2)
Oct. 6, 2012 – Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field – Columbia, Mo.

KICKOFF: 6:00 p.m. (central time).
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (71,004 – FieldTurf surface).  Opened in 1926.  MU is 263-169-20 there alltime and has won 36 of its last 43 overall and is 46-12 there since 2003 (2-1 in 2012).
RADIO: Tiger Network.  Mike Kelly (play-by-play), Howard Richards (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines), Scotty Cox (producer), Matt Winegardner (director).  Carried on over 50 stations across the Midwest, and on the Internet at mutigers.com (subscription only).  It will also air live on Sirius Satellite Radio (Channel 93) and XM Satellite Radio (Channel 200).
TV: FOX Sports Net.  Bob Rathbun (play-by-play), Tim Couch (analyst), Elizabeth Moreau (sideline reporter), Jay Hoover (producer).
RANKINGS (AP/USA): MU – None;  VANDY – None.
SERIES: MU leads, 2-1-1, but last meeting was in 1958, which was Dan Devine's first season as Tiger Head Coach.
Mizzou: Gary Pinkel (Kent, ‘75), 88-56 at MU (12th year) and 161-93-3 overall (22nd year).  Pinkel is 0-0 vs. Vanderbilt and James Franklin.
Vanderbilt: James Franklin (East Stroudsburg, ‘95), 7-10 at Vandy (2nd year) and overall.  Franklin is 0-0 vs. Mizzou and Gary Pinkel.
tigers staying put in october
The Missouri Tigers (3-2 overall, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play) return home to begin an entire month in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field.  You won't see Mizzou leave the state of Missouri until the calendar flips to November, as the Tigers have home games this month against Vanderbilt (Oct. 6), Alabama (Oct. 13) and Kentucky (Oct. 27), sandwiched around a bye week (Oct. 20).
The first home test comes this Saturday, when Mizzou plays host to the Vanderbilt Commodores (1-3, 0-2), in a game scheduled to kick at 6 p.m. (central time).  The game will be televised on FOX Sports Network.
Mizzou is coming off a hard-earned 21-16 road win at Central Florida last Saturday.  In sweltering heat and humidity, the Tigers dug deep and won the second half, turning a 10-7 halftime deficit into a 21-10 lead midway through the 4th quarter, thanks to a 3rd-quarter punt return score (66 yards by Marcus Murphy) an improved run game (101 2nd-half rush yards by TB Kendial Lawrence) and a stingy defense (15 rush yards allowed in 2nd half).
Vanderbilt is coming off a bye week following a 48-3 loss at Georgia on Sept. 22nd.  The Commodores opened their season with a tough 17-13 home loss to South Carolina, and dropped to 0-2 the next week after a 23-13 defeat at Northwestern.  Vandy improved to 1-2 on Sept. 15th with a 58-0 whitewash of Presbyterian in week three.
This will mark the second of three straight weeks where Mizzou faces an opponent coming off of a bye week.  Last Saturday, the Tigers won at Central Florida (21-16), even though the Knights had a full week of rest.  Vanderbilt comes into Columbia this week off of a bye week, and next week the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (who are off this week) will roll into mid-Missouri off of a bye.
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
348.40 [98th] Total Offense 384.00 [82nd]
137.40 [85th] Rushing Offense 169.75 [57th]
7 TDs Rushing 5
211.00 [85th] Passing Offense 214.25 [79th]
123.87 [84th] Passing Efficiency 135.50 [62nd]
6 TDs Passing 3
27.40 [65th] Scoring Offense 21.75 [103rd]
333.00 [30th] Total Defense 328.00 [28th]
111.20 [26th] Rushing Defense 186.25 [91st]
6 TDs Allowed Rushing 9
221.80 [55th] Passing Defense 141.75 [8th]
136.53 [83rd] Pass Effic. Defense 111.01 [29th]
9 TDs Allowed Passing 2
23.60 [59th] Scoring Defense 22.00 [T-46th]
+1.40 [14th] Turnover Margin 0.00 [64th]
11 / 3 Fumbles/Lost 10 / 3
3 Interceptions Thrown 1
4 Interceptions Gained 2
23.85 [36th] Kickoff Return Avg. 23.76 [37th]
23.21 [4th] Punt Return Avg. 6.00 [85th]
35.52 [88th] Net Punting Avg. 40.20 [27th]
2.60 [T-31st] Sacks By 2.00 [55th]
2.60 [T-89th] Sacks Allowed 2.75 [97th]
28:27 [92nd] Avg. Time of Poss. 29:09 [76th]
27.4% [115th] 3rd Down Conv. 23.2% [118th]
41.7% [T-77th] 4th Down Conv. 50.0% [T-54th]
tigers post 21-16 win at central florida
Marcus Murphy returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and James Franklin added an 80-yard touchdown pass to freshman WR Dorial Green-Beckham as Missouri ground out a 21-16 win over Central Florida in Orlando on Saturday.
Mizzou TB Kendial Lawrence ran for 104 yards (with 101 of them coming in the second half), and scored from 10 yards out with 9:31 left in the game to give the Tigers their first bit of breathing room, with a 21-10 lead.  The Knights got back in the game with their own score with 4:34 remaining, but the ensuing two-point conversion pass was knocked away by Tiger CB Kip Edwards to leave it at 21-16.
Mizzou was unable to kill the clock, but following a Tigers punt, Knights receiver Jeff Godfrey's fumble with 2:26 left allowed Missouri (3-2) to hang on.  The turnover, which extended Mizzou's active streak to 23 games with a takeaway, was caused on a hit by junior CB E.J. Gaines, and recovered by junior DT Sheldon Richardson.  It was a fitting end to big days by both star defenders, as Gaines led all players with a career-high 13 tackles, including 2.0 tackles for loss, and one pass break up to go with the forced fumble.  Richardson added nine tackles, and added 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and two quarterback hurries to go with his recovered fumble.
UCF (2-2) controlled the first half, using a ball control offense which ran for 113 yards in the opening 30 minutes, against a Tiger defense which came into the game allowing only 107.00 yards per game.  Despite holding a massive edge in time of possession in the first half (21:59-to-8:01), the Knights could only take a slim 10-7 lead into the lockerroom at halftime.
A 42-yard UCF field goal by Shawn Moffitt with 3:28 to play in the first quarter gave the Knights a 3-0 lead, and it marked the first points scored against Mizzou's defense in the first quarter in 2012.  
Missouri had several promising drives stall early before getting on the board via an 80-yard touchdown strike from Franklin to Dorial Green-Beckham. That gave the Tigers a 7-3 lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
UCF defensive back A.J. Bouye briefly had Green-Beckham locked up by the legs near the 50 before slipping to the turf. Green-Beckham then sprinted untouched into the end zone.  The play, the Tigers' longest from scrimmage this season, also was a career-best for Franklin.
The Knights responded on the ensuing drive, with Blake Bortles using a 41-yard pass to Rob Calabrese to set up an 11-yard touchdown pass to Quincy McDuffie.
Following a series of punts, UCF got hot again and drove the ball from its own 12 all the way inside the Tigers' 10 with less than 2 minutes to play in the half.
A pass interference call on Missouri gave the Knights first-and-goal on the 3. But after a stuffed run and incomplete pass, the opportunity was squandered as Tiger DE Michael Sam sacked Bortles on the 8-yardline, and time expired before the Knights could run out their field goal team.
Franklin bounced back from a rough outing the previous week at South Carolina, and put together his best game of 2012, going 19-for-30 for 257 yards and the one TD.
Prior to Murphy's punt return, the Knights looked to be taking control of the game, leading 10-7 and coming off an interception and fourth sack of Franklin early in the third quarter.
The Tigers were successful at times with their hurry-up offense, but UCF's defense also helped keep Franklin off balance, sacking him three times in the opening 30 minutes.
Mizzou's defense made adjustments in the second half, and held the Knights to just 15 rushing yards after intermission.  At the same time, the Tiger offense used its own ground attack after halftime, with Lawrence getting the bulk of the work, as he carried 18 times in the second half for 101 yards and a touchdown.
faurot field has been a tigers' lair
Mizzou has enjoyed quite a home field advantage at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium (nicknamed "The Zou"), as the Tigers stand 51-19 overall at home (72.9%) in Head Coach Gary Pinkel's tenure (2001-present).
Here are a few more facts related to Mizzou playing at home:
• – From 2006-present, Mizzou has gone 33-7 at home, for a winning percentage of 82.5%...
• – From 2006-present, Mizzou has gone 16-7 at home in conference games, for a winning percentage of 69.5%...
• – Six of those 7 home losses since 2006 came at the hands of ranked opponents.  The only time a non-ranked foe came away victorious at Faurot during that stretch was Baylor in 2009 (40-32).
gaines comes up big at ucf
Junior CB E.J. Gaines is following up his 1st-Team All-Big 12 season of a year ago in fine fashion.  He's coming off a huge effort last Saturday in Mizzou's gutsy 21-16 win at Central Florida.
Gaines was all over the field in Saturday's win, as he registered a career-best 13 tackles (plus 1 PBU, 2.0 TFLs and 1 forced fumble).  Gaines had an impactful 4th quarter, as he had 2 tackles for loss on consecutive plays to force a UCF punt with MU clinging to a 14-10 lead.  He later forced a fumble near midfield with 2:29 left in the game that was recovered by Mizzou to effectively end the game and protect MU's 5-point lead.
Gaines now has 5.0 TFLs on the season, and that is most in the SEC among cornerbacks.  He ranks 3rd on the Tiger squad with his 31 tackles so far, and his 5 passes defended is most on the team, and ranks him 7th in the SEC.
murphy does it again, leads nation in punt return tds
Sophomore scatback Marcus Murphy has established himself as one of the most dangerous punt returners in the nation, and it's been a welcome sign for the DeSoto, Texas native, after he missed the entire 2011 season due to a shoulder injury.  On Monday, Murphy was named the SEC co-special teams player of the week.
Murphy broke off a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter of Mizzou's 21-16 win at Central Florida on Saturday.  It was a huge momentum play which turned a 10-7 Tiger deficit into a 14-10 Mizzou lead with 7:04 left in the 3rd quarter.
It marked the 3rd punt return for a TD on the year by Murphy, giving him sole possession of the MU single-season punt return TD record (he had punt return TDs of 72 and 70 yards earlier vs. SELA).  He is now also tied for the MU career punt return TD record of 3, shared with former All-American All-Purpose player Jeremy Maclin.
Murphy ended the UCF game with 3 punt returns for 70 yards and the score, plus he returned one kickoff 33 yards.  He currently ranks 1st in the SEC and is 7th in the NCAA with his punt return average of 20.07 yards, and his 3 punt return TDs is most in the nation.
The only other player nationally to have more than one punt return score through games of Sept. 29th is Rashad Greene of Florida State, who has 2.
lawrence burns knights in big 2nd-half
Senior TB Kendial Lawrence had quite a second half, and his production after intermission was a huge key to Mizzou's 21-16 win last Saturday at Central Florida.  The Tigers fell behind 10-7 at halftime, and Lawrence was held to a single rush for 3 yards (on MU's 2nd snap of the game), and a 14-yard reception on MU's second series.
Tiger coaches made a concerted effort to get the playmaker more involved in the second half, and the strategy paid dividends, as Lawrence accounted for 137 yards from scrimmage after halftime, including 101 rushing yards on 18 carries.  He finished the game with 104 rushing yards on 19 attempts, for a solid average of 5.5 yards a rush.  He had a nifty 33-yarder in the 4th quarter which took the ball to the UCF 10-yardline, and on the next play, he scampered around the right edge for a 10-yard TD with 9:31 left in the game to give MU some breathing room, at 21-10.
The 19 rushing attempts represented a career high for the Rockwall, Texas native.  He also established career highs in receptions (4) and receiving yards (50), as QB James Franklin used Lawrence effectively as a safety outlet out of the backfield.
The 100-yard rushing game was the 2nd of the season for Lawrence, who opened the 2012 campaign with a career-high 121-yard, 2-TD outing against Southeastern Louisiana.  He's got 4 100-yard rushing games to his credit, with all four coming in his last 9 games overall.
Lawrence ranks 10th in the SEC so far with his per-game rushing average of 79.00 yards per outing.  He's got 5 of Mizzou's 7 rushing TDs so far on the 2012 season.
franklin bounces back with solid outing in win at ucf
Junior QB James Franklin stepped up and accepted the blame following Mizzou's disappointing 31-10 loss at South Carolina two Saturdays ago, as Franklin said that he wasn't himself and felt tentative facing Carolina's rugged defense.
He was determined to put that behind him and come out looking like the old James Franklin against Central Florida, and he responded in fine fashion, as he had a season-best passing performance in Mizzou's 21-16 road win.
Franklin had a solid day as he completed 19-of-30 passes for 257 yards and 1 TD (with 1 INT), helping the cause at always-tough Central Florida.  His completion percentage of 63.3% was a season-best, as was his QB rating of 139.63.
Franklin's big play came on an 80-yard TD hookup with freshman WR Dorial Green-Beckham early in the 2nd quarter which gave Mizzou a 7-3 lead.  That represented a career-long pass for Franklin.
He was held to negative 18 yards rushing thanks to being sacked 5 times for 28 yards in all.  His non-sack rushing totals were 4 carries for 10 yards.
Junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson continued his all-star caliber play in Saturday's win at UCF.  Richardson was again a high-impact performer, as he contributed with 9 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 1.0 QB sack, and 2 QB hurries.  Additionally, he pounced on the game-saving fumble with 2:29 to play in the game near midfield, which gave Mizzou possession while holding onto its 21-16 lead.
With 33 tackles through 5 games, Richardson is amazingly Mizzou's 2nd-leading tackler, despite being a defensive tackle.  He also ranks 1st in the SEC among defensive linemen, and his per-game tackles average of 6.60 ranks him 24th in the SEC among all players, and 2nd among defensive linemen (Damontre Moore of Texas A&M has 6.75 per game in 4 games).
In his last 3 games, Richardson has amassed 25 tackles, 2.0 QB sacks, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and 1 recovered fumble.
green-beckham takes it to the house
With a massive amount of pressure and outside expectations squarely on his shoulders, true freshman WR Dorial Green-Beckham – regarded by many as the nation's top-rated high school recruit in the class of 2012 when he signed with Mizzou – has been doing a great job of showing patience while learning the system.  More and more, Tiger coaches have worked to get him more involved in the game plan each week, and last Saturday at Central Florida, he struck gold.
Green-Beckham got his much-anticipated first collegiate score when he took a deep slant on a skinny post route, broke an attempted tackle, and sped the rest of the way for an 80-yard touchdown from QB James Franklin in the 2nd quarter to give Mizzou a 7-3 lead at the time.  It was Green-Beckham's first career score, and it was the longest score on an offensive play by a Tiger freshman since 2007, when Jeremy Maclin scored on an 82-yard TD pass against Texas A&M.
The score was the longest by Mizzou since 2009, when Blaine Gabbert connected with WR Danario Alexander on an 84-yard touchdown pass.
Green-Beckham now has 7 catches on the season for 128 yards and 1 TD.  His per-catch average of 18.3 is 3rd-best on the team to this point.
tiger defense taketh away - 23 straight games with a takeaway
Defensive coaches preach takeaways at all levels of the game of football.  Mizzou's coaches have gotten their message through to the Mizzou defense of late, as the Tigers carry an active streak of 23 games having gained a takeaway into Saturday's game with Vanderbilt.  The last time Mizzou's defense didn't come up with a turnover was Oct. 30, 2010 at Nebraska (a 31-17 loss).
The streak came oh-so-close to ending last Saturday at Central Florida, but just like that, with only 2:29 remaining in the game, junior CB E.J. Gaines popped the ball loose from a UCF receiver after a short catch, and junior DT Sheldon Richardson gladly pounced on the fumble to effectively end the game.
Missouri looked like a new team in the second half in all three phases of the game. The Tigers allowed 21 first half first downs to the Knights, but relinquished just one in the third quarter to regain the lead. For the second half UCF managed to move the chains just six times.  The Knights ran for just 15 yards in the 2nd half, after gaining 113 yards on the ground in the opening half.
Mizzou's defenders are doing something right in terms of getting the ball out.  Their 9 forced fumbles so far this season is tied for most in the nation.  Here's a look:
1. Mizzou 9
Louisiana Tech 9
3. Middle Tenn. St. 8
Ohio 8
5. Colorado St. 7
Miami, Fla. 7
New Mexico 7
Penn State 7
Kansas 7
mizzou-vanderbilt series history
Mizzou and Vanderbilt will take the field for the 5th time when they square off Saturday in Columbia, Mo.  Mizzou holds a 2-1-1 edge in the series history, but there's no recent rivalry to speak of, as this will mark the first contest between the two schools since 1958.  If momentum can carry over from 54 seasons ago, then perhaps the Commodores can benefit, as they did win the last meeting between the two, in a 12-8 triumph in Columbia in what marked the first-ever game coached at Mizzou by eventual College Football Hall of Fame Coach Dan Devine.
The year before that, the Commodores spoiled another Mizzou coaching debut, as Frank Broyles opened his first – and only – season as MU's coach with a 7-7 tie at Vanderbilt in 1957.
Prior to that, Mizzou swept a pair of meetings back in 1895 and 1896, winning 16-0 in Columbia in 1895, and following the next season with a 26-6 win in St. Louis.
VANDERBILT (MU Leads, 2-1-1)
1895 W, 16-0 at Columbia
1896 W, 26-6 at St. Louis
1957 T, 7-7 at Nashville
1958 L, 12-8 at Columbia
at Columbia: Tied, 1-1
at Memorial Stadium: VU leads, 1-0
tiger schedule ranks as 3rd-toughest in ncaa so far
According to the NCAA, only two other teams who have played as tough of an early-season schedule as the Missouri Tigers.  When factoring in FBS opponents only, (and not including games against itself) Mizzou's 4 foes (Georgia, Arizona State, South Carolina, UCF) are a near-perfect 13-1.  That .929 winning percentage ranks the Tigers' strength of schedule 3rd, trailing only Vanderbilt (1.000) and Kentucky (.933).  The Sagarin rankings also put MU's strength of schedule at #3 (79.15 rating), trailing only Auburn (1st – 79.43) and Oregon State (2nd – 79.39).
According to the NCAA measurements, Mizzou's future opponents have a combined record of 14-13.
Here's a look at the NCAA rankings for toughest schedule to date:
1. Vanderbilt 11-0 1.000
2. Kentucky 14-1  .933
3. Mizzou 13-1  .929
4. Stanford 10-1  .909
5. Arizona 9-1  .900
6. Iowa State 7-1  .875
7. Auburn 9-2  .818
South Florida 9-2  .818
9. UAB 12-3  .800
Oregon State 8-2  .800
mizzou has 11th-most wins in the nation since 2007
There's no question that Head Coach Gary Pinkel and his Mizzou Football program has elevated itself to among the nation's elite.  With its 10-win season in 2010, MU won its 40th game since 2007, good for an average of 10 per year during the four-year stretch.
Including a 3-2 start in 2012, MU's 51 wins since 2007 ranks as 11th-most in the nation (among BCS automatic qualifying conferences).  Here's a look at the win totals among the nation's best during that time (through Sept. 29th):
School 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
1. Alabama 7 12 14 10 12  5 60
2. LSU 12 8 9 11 13  5 58
  Oregon 9 10 10 12 12  5 58
4. Virginia Tech 11 10 10 11 11  3 56
5. Oklahoma 11 12 8 12 10  2 55
  Ohio State 11 10 11 12 6  5 55
7. Florida 9 13 13 8 7  4 54
8. USC 11 12 9 8 10  3 53
9. Texas 10 12 13 5 8  4 52
  West Virginia 11 9 9 9 10  4 52
11.Missouri 12 10 8 10 8  3 51
  Wisconsin 9 7 10 11 11  3 51
13.Oklahoma St. 7 9 9 11 12  2 50
Non BCS-AQ League Schools:
Boise St. 10 12 14 12 12  3 63
TCU 8 11 12 13 11  4 59
Utah 9 13 10 10 8  2 52
BYU 11 10 11 7 10  3 52
NOTE – Utah & TCU are not listed among BCS Conferences, due to being in a non-BCS AQ league prior to 2012.
tiger defense holding its own
Mizzou's defense has played very well through four games in 2012, as it has held opponents under their season averages in most every category.  Against FBS foes, the only category below which stands out is Georgia's point total – but keep in mind the Bulldogs had only 27 points until two MU turnovers late in the game gave UGA possession on the MU 1-yardline and the MU 5-yardline, leading to 14 points.
Here's a look at how Mizzou's defense has held up its end of the bargain so far, when compared to FBS opponents updated offensive averages thus far:
Current vs. Current vs. Current vs. Current vs.
Opponent Rush Avg. MU Pass Avg. MU Tot. Off. Avg. MU Pts. Avg. MU
Georgia 250.40 113 285.60 242 536.00 355 48.20 41
Arizona State 173.20 113 283.00 183 456.20 296 38.40 20
at S. Carolina 171.80 144 237.20 252 409.00 396 36.60 31
at UCF 151.75 128 239.25 267 391.00 395 30.25 16
defense clamping down out of the lockerroom
Mizzou's defense, which enters Saturday's game against Vanderbilt ranked 30th in the NCAA in total defense (333.00 avg. yds. allowed), has been outstanding thru five games coming out of the lockerroom.  Not only have MU's five opponents not scored on their initial series of the 1st half and 2nd half, in those 10 initial series, MU foes have a grand total of just 9 1st downs, and a net total of 133 yards!  Here's a look:
• 1st Q vs. SELA – 2 plays, (-2 yds), 0:38 TOP (Ended w/MU interception)
• 3rd Q vs. SELA – 2 plays, 2 yds, 0:17 TOP (Ended w/MU fumble recovery)
• 1st Q vs. Georgia – 3 plays, (-12 yds), 2:17 TOP (Ended w/punt)
• NOTE - This UGA possession started on the MU 37-yardline
• 3rd Q vs. Georgia – 3 plays, (-7 yds), 2:24 TOP (Ended w/punt)
• 1st Q vs. ASU – 4 plays, 28 yds, 1:21 TOP (Ended w/punt)
• 3rd Q vs. ASU – 6 plays, 20 yds, 3:07 TOP (Ended w/punt)
• 1st Q at S. Carolina – 4 plays, 27 yds, 1:50 TOP (Ended w/punt)
• 3rd Q at S. Carolina – 6 plays, 53 yds, 3:22 TOP (Ended w/fumble recovery)
• 1st Q at UCF – 7 plays, 25 yds, 4:10 TOP (Ended w/punt)
• 3rd Q at UCF – 3 plays, (-1 yd), 1:26 TOP (Ended w/punt)
The Tiger defense's stingy play hasn't been limited to just opening drives.  Opponents had not scored at all in the 1st quarter until UCF's field goal late in the 1st quarter Saturday.  That marked the first points scored by opponents in the opening quarter against Mizzou in 2012.  MU has outscored foes by a 38-3 margin in the 1st quarter through 5 games.
tigers have quick-strike ability
Mizzou's #1 offense hasn't been clicking on all cylinders this season (injuries and youth up front have certainly played a factor, as have some pretty good opposing defenses), but when it works, it works at lightning-fast pace.
The Tiger #1 offense has turned in 14 scoring drives through 5 games in 2012.  Only 4 of those have taken longer than 2:02 of clock time, as the Tigers have been quick about their business offensively.  
Of those 14 scoring drives, 10 of them have produced TDs.  The average time it has taken in those 10 drives?  A mere 1:11 (71 seconds).
This past Saturday at UCF was a prime example.  Mizzou's offense was held to 14 points and 346 yards (the other 7 came on a Marcus Murphy 66-yard punt return score), but those two scores were quick and efficient.  The first was an 80-yard TD pass from QB James Franklin to WR Dorial Green-Beckham early in the 2nd quarter which put the Tigers on top, 7-3.  The second score came with 9:31 to play in the game, when TB Kendial Lawrence scored on a 10-yard run to make it 21-10.  That capped a quick 3-play, 43-yard TD drive which consumed just :40 seconds in all.
The first scoring drive of the season, which was the season-opening possession in the first game against SE Louisiana, went 11 plays, 75 yards and took 3:52 of clock time (culminating in a James Franklin-to-T.J. Moe TD pass).  The next "long" scoring drive by MU was a 13-play, 63-yard drive against Georgia which took 4:41 of possession time, and ended in an Andrew Baggett field goal with 2:39 left in the 3rd quarter which gave MU a 20-17 lead at the time.  The next one was the game-opening drive last Saturday against Arizona State, which saw MU take 3:35 to move 29 yards for a 46-yard field goal by Baggett for a 3-0 lead, and the last was a 12-play, 76-yard drive taking 4:42 off the clock as MU got a 22-yard Baggett field goal at South Carolina.  
The average time of the #1 offense's 14 scoring drives so far has been just 1:50, and they had a stretch where 5 straight scores against SELA and Georgia consumed a grand total of 189 seconds, or an average of :37 seconds.  
Here's a look at the #1 offense's scoring drives so far in 2012:
• vs. SELA – 11 plays, 75 yds, 3:52 TOP (Moe 2-yd TD reception)
• vs. SELA – 1 play, 76 yds, 0:14 TOP (Lawrence 76-yd TD run)
• vs. SELA – 3 plays, 25 yds, 0:39 TOP (Lawrence 1-yd TD run)
• vs. Georgia – 4 plays, 5 yds, 0:59 TOP (Baggett 38 FG)
• vs. Georgia – 3 plays, 63 yds, 0:31 TOP (Lucas 41-yd TD reception)
• vs. Georgia – 3 plays, 70 yds, 0:46 TOP (Washington 69-yd TD reception)
• vs. Georgia – 13 plays, 63 yds, 4:41 TOP (Baggett 25 FG)
• vs. ASU – 9 plays, 29 yds, 3:35 TOP (Baggett 46 FG)
• vs. ASU – 4 plays, 18 yds, 1:35 TOP (Berkstresser 6 TD run)
• vs. ASU – 4 plays, 18 yds, 1:25 TOP (Lawrence 7 TD run)
• vs. ASU – 6 plays, 33 yds, 2:02 TOP (Lawrence 1 TD run)
• at S.Carolina – 12 plays, 76 yards, 4:42 TOP (Baggett 22 FG)
• at UCF – 1 play, 80 yards, 0:11 TOP (Green-Beckham 80-yd TD reception)
• at UCF – 3 plays, 43 yards, 0:40 TOP (Lawrence 10-yd TD run)
gary pinkel is 9th-winningest active fbs coach with 161 wins
Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel stands ranked as the 9th-winningest active coach in the NCAA FBS ranks, with his 161 career wins (161-93-3 overall).  Pinkel, in his 12th season at Mizzou, stands 88-56 overall at MU, while he went 73-37-3 in 10 seasons at Toledo (1991-2000).  Here's a rundown of the winningest active coaches, based on win totals (through games of Sept. 29th)...
Coach, School Yrs. W L              T Pct.
1. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech 31 254 122 4 .674
2. Mack Brown, Texas 29 231 113 1 .671
3. Chris Ault, Nevada 27 229 104 1 .687
4. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina 23 202  75 2 .728
5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame 22 191  67 2 .739
6. Mike Price, UTEP 31 175 178 0 .496
7. Larry Blakeney, Troy 22 167  92 1 .644
8. Bill Snyder, Kansas State 21 162  83 1 .661
9. Gary Pinkel, Mizzou 22 161  93 3 .632
10.Paul Pasqualoni, UCONN 21 149  84 1 .639
pinkel has third-most wins in mizzou history
Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel is in his 12th season at MU (22nd overall as a head coach) and touts a career record of 161-93-3 (63.2%).  
Pinkel, who has led MU to a combined record of 66-31 (68.0%) over the past 7+ seasons, and to bowl games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, has a 12-year record in Columbia of 88-56 (61.1%).  Dating back to the 2005 Independence Bowl win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, Pinkel has gone 60-26 in his last 85 games overall (69.8%).  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 88.  The win over Kansas in 2010 was the 150th of his career.
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...
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 87 12 (2001-Present) 88-56 .611 8
Warren Powers 46 7 (1978-84) 46-33-3 .580 5
In 2007, Pinkel guided the Tigers from unranked in the pre-season to a team which won a school-record 12 games and a final ranking of #4 in the Associated Press Top-25.  Mizzou ascended to #1 in the BCS rankings following the regular season, and stood just one half away from playing in the BCS National Championship Game (before Oklahoma pulled away from a halftime tie to win the Big 12 title game).  For his 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, and his 7 bowl games is an MU record
Pinkel has directed Mizzou to 8 winning seasons (8-5 in 2003, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 12-2 in 2007, 10-4 in 2008, 8-5 in 2009, 10-3 in 2010 and 8-5 in 2011), with those representing 8 of MU's 10 winning campaigns dating back to the 1983 season.
The Big 12 North Division titles won by Mizzou in 2007, 2008 and 2010 represent the only football conference titles of any kind Mizzou has won since 1969 – the last time it claimed a share of the old Big Eight Conference crown.  In April of 2011, Pinkel agreed to a two-year contract extension, meaning he'll patrol the Tiger sidelines through the 2017 season.
big shel among top d-line producers in the sec
Junior DT Sheldon Richardson was already playing at a high level this season, but he has seemingly taken his game to another level the last few weeks.  Richardson was a disruptive force last Saturday in Mizzou's 21-16 win at Central Florida, as he contributed 9 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss (15 yards), 1.0 QB sack (8 yards), 2 QB hurries, and to cap the day, he jumped on a UCF fumble near midfield with 2:29 to play to help preserve the victory.
With 33 tackles through 5 games, Richardson is amazingly Mizzou's 2nd-leading tackler, despite being a defensive tackle.  He also ranks 1st in the SEC among defensive linemen, with Damontre Moore of Texas A&M having the next most (27 tackles in 4 games).
The previous week at South Carolina, Richardson was in on virtually every defensive play in the 1st quarter.  First, he had a QB hurry which forced what proved to be the only pass incompletion of the day by Carolina's Connor Shaw.  Then he sacked Shaw, and on the very next play forced a fumble after a completed pass to give the Tigers the ball back on their own 16-yardline.  He added another tackle in the quarter, and ended the day with a 7-tackle outing.
That was a follow-up performance to a big game Richardson had the previous week against Arizona State, when he was a big part of Mizzou's solid defensive effort in a 24-20 win over the Sun Devils.  In that game, Richardson notched a career-high 9 tackles, with 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-QB sack thrown in the mix, to go with 1 QB hurry as well on a night when it seemed he was either in on, or influenced every play.
Mizzou's defense held Arizona State to 236 yards and 34 points below their average offensive output, as the Sun Devils entered the game averaging 532.0 yards and 54.0 points a contest.  Richardson's effort was a big reason why the Tigers held ASU to just 296 yards of total offense and 20 points.
wilson 2nd in ncaa in forced fumbles
Take a poll among members of the Missouri Tiger team, and you'll likely get a near unanimous vote that says junior LB Andrew Wilson is the hardest hitter on the team.  Wilson has been especially good at popping the ball loose against opposing ball carriers, as he forced a fumble in each of Mizzou's first four games of the 2012 season, and his per-game average of 0.80 forced fumbles per game is currently 2nd-best in the nation.  Here's a look at that category:
1. Nate Smith, Temple 1.00
2. Andrew Wilson, Mizzou  .80
3. Adam Davis, Kansas St.  .75
Jarvis Jones, Georgia  .75
Austin Niklas, Air Force  .75
Phillip Steward, Houston  .75
Wilson couldn't knock a ball out last Saturday at UCF, but he still contributed to the cause with 6 tackles to help Mizzou in its 21-16 road win.  That broke a personal string dating back to last season, which had seen him force a fumble in five consecutive games.  Through 5 games in 2012, Wilson ranks 4th on the squad with 28 tackles.  
Against Arizona State, Wilson tied for the team lead with 9 tackles, including 8 of the solo variety.  He also forced a fumble which was recovered by the Tigers.  Wilson, who was MU's leading tackler in 2011 (98 tackles in 13 games), is the son of former Tiger standout LB Jay Wilson, who lettered from 1980-83 (All-Big Eight in ‘83), and who left MU holding the school's career tackles record, with 323 (he now ranks 12th on the list). 
franklin back for the attack
Junior QB James Franklin is back under center to lead the Missouri spread offensive attack.  In his first year as a starter, Franklin helped lead the Tigers to an 8-5 season in 2011, and he did it dynamically, establishing himself as one of the nation's top dual-threat QBs.  Franklin finished his initial year as a starter ranked 15th in the NCAA in total offense with just under 4,000 yards (3,846 for an average of 295.85 per game).  He accounted for 36 touchdowns (21 passing / 15 rushing), which ranked as the 3rd-best season in MU history.  He just missed out on the rare 3,000/1,000 achievement in 2011, as he threw for 2,865 yards and ran for 981 more.  Despite a shoulder injury in the spring (labrum tear) which required surgery, Franklin showed no ill effects once fall camp rolled around this August, as he was 18-of-22 passing for 228 yards in the first major fall scrimmage.
After being held in check at South Carolina, Franklin bounced back with his best performance of the young season, as he threw for 257 yards (on 19-of-30 passing), with 1 TD (1 INT) in MU's 21-16 win at Central Florida.  Franklin's completion rate of 63.3% and his QB rating of 139.63 represented season highs.  His 80-yard TD pass to freshman WR Dorial Green-Beckham in the 2nd quarter which gave Mizzou a 7-3 lead also represented a career long.
Franklin had a solid, if unspectacular, 2012 debut, as he helped lead the Tigers to a 62-10 win over Southeastern Louisiana.  His numbers weren't eye-popping, but he still took care of business in the process, as he accounted for 170 yards of total offense (131 passing / 39 rushing) on the night.  Franklin ended 13-of-21 passing with 1 TD and no turnovers.
Against Georgia, MU saw 294 yards of total offense in production by Franklin in the 41-20 loss to Georgia that was deceptive in the final margin.  Franklin threw for 269 yards, on 25-of-41 passing, and had two long TD passes, of 41 yards to WR Marcus Lucas, and another covering 69 yards to WR L'Damian Washington, the latter of which gave MU a 17-9 lead in the 4th quarter.  
According to resident MU historian Tom Orf, the pair of 40-yard TD passes marked only the 12th time in MU history that a Tiger QB has achieved such a feat.  The last time was in 2009 (Blaine Gabbert at Iowa State).  Gabbert has the most of any Tiger QB, with 3 games of 2 TD passes of 40 yards or more.  Chase Daniel and Paul Christman both did the feat twice in their illustrious careers.
Franklin was unable to play in MU's 24-20 win over Arizona State, due to an inflamed bursa sac in his right shoulder, something which happened in the Georgia contest.  He had hoped to play versus the Sun Devils, and went through pre-game warm ups, but determined the shoulder was too painful to play.  
He returned to the lineup at #7 South Carolina, and the stingy Gamecock defense held him to just 98 yards of total offense (a career low as a starting QB), as he finished the game 11-of-18 passing for 92 yards, while he was held to just 6 net rushing yards on 15 attempts.
After winning 10 games 3 times in 4 seasons from 2007-10, expectations coming into the 2011 season were understandably very high for the Missouri Tigers, despite an offense which featured a 1st-year starting quarterback in true sophomore James Franklin.  While each of MU's previous 3 starting quarterbacks are now playing in the NFL, it is interesting to take a look at comparisons of Franklin's 1st year to the likes of Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert.  The numbers show that he stacked up very well, indeed.
Here's the rundown:
Tiger Record C-A-Int. Pct. Yds. TD Effic. Rush-Yds. (TDs)
Brad Smith (2002) 5-7 196-366-6 53.6 2,333 15 117.34 193-1,029 (7)
Chase Daniel (2006) 8-5 287-452-10 63.5 3,527 28 145.06 147-379 (4)
Blaine Gabbert (2009) 8-5 262-445-9 58.9 3,593 24 140.45 103-204 (3)
James Franklin (2011) 8-5 238-376-11 63.3 2,865 21 139.88 217-981 (15)
Franklin was responsible for 36 TDs, which was the most of the group.  He's also the only one of the group to guide the Tigers to a win over a ranked team (winning each of his last 2 against ranked foes) in his first year as a starter.  Were it not for a missed field goal at the end of regulation at Arizona State, Franklin would have been 3-3 against ranked opponents last year.
Moving forward, Tiger coaches and fans are hoping that Franklin can emulate a career arc that his predecessors achieved – an improved win total in his 2nd year as a starter.  
Here's that look:
Wins in 1st Two Years as a Starter at Mizzou:
Tiger 1st Year 2nd Year
Brad Smith 5-7 8-5
Chase Daniel 8-5 12-2
Blaine Gabbert 8-5 10-3
James Franklin 8-5 2-2
tiger linebackers are a veteran, experienced group
Mizzou expects big things from a talented and experienced front line of linebackers in 2012.  The trio of senior Zaviar Gooden, senior Will Ebner and junior Andrew Wilson combine to give the Tigers what has to be one of the most seasoned trios in the nation.  Oddly enough, these three might be the three quietest people on the football team, but they are likely the three hardest hitters.
Take a look at the combined career stats for the Gooden/Ebner/Wilson trio:
Games/Starts: 115-67
Tackles: 568
Tackles for Loss: 49.0
Sacks: 9.5
Gooden is arguably pound-for-pound the best pure athlete on the team, and he had an 80-tackle season in 2011 (2nd-best on the team), a year after he registered a team-high 85 tackles in 2010.  Gooden, who earned his undergraduate degree in business administration this past May, had a string of 28 consecutive starts broken Sept. 15th when he missed the Arizona State game due to a hamstring injury sustained the previous week against Georgia.  He returned to the starting lineup at South Carolina, and made 1 tackle before leaving in the first half after aggravating his hamstring injury.  He was unable to play at UCF last week, and his status for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt is uncertain.  Gooden has 210 career tackles (the most of any current Tiger) with 5 career interceptions.  He had 6 tackles in the 2012 opener vs. SELA, including 2.0 TFLs, plus he grabbed a 1st-quarter interception and returned it 20 yards for the first score of his career.  He followed with an 8-tackle outing against Georgia, before leaving the game late with a hamstring injury.
Wilson, who has the unofficial title of hardest hitter on the team, is coming off an outstanding sophomore season that saw him lead Mizzou with 98 tackles – more than double from his freshman total of 42 in 2010.  Wilson, the son of former Tiger linebacker standout Jay Wilson (1980-83, he left holding MU's career tackles record at the time, with 323), was 2nd on the team with 9.5 tackles for loss a year ago, despite making just 9 starts in all.  He tied Gooden for the team lead with 6 tackles against SE Louisiana, and he forced a fumble which led to an eventual Tiger score on offense.  Wilson was credited with only 3 tackles against Georgia, but he was still impactful, as he forced a fumble, broke up a pass and added a QB hurry to his ledger.  He followed with a big game against Arizona State, when he tied for the team lead with 9 tackles, including 8 solo stops, while forcing a fumble as well.  He made 4 stops at #7 South Carolina, and forced a fumble again, which gave him a nation-leading 4th forced fumble on the season.  Wilson made 6 tackles last Saturday in MU's win at Central Florida, and his 28 stops through 5 games ranks as 4th-best on the team so far.
Ebner is getting a second chance at a senior season, thanks to being awarded a 5th year by the NCAA, after he missed all but the first game of 2011 due to injuries (concussion, hamstring).  In 2009, Ebner won honorable-mention All-Big 12 status when he racked up 78 tackles (3rd on the team) as a sophomore, before fighting through an injury-plagued 2010 season that saw him limited to just 9 games.  He's made 21 career starts and has 42 games of experience under his belt, to go with 190 career tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss.  The past two weeks has seen Ebner register 26 tackles, including 12 in Saturday's win at UCF, which included 3.0 tackles for loss, 2 QB hurries and a pass break up.  That followed a career-high 14-tackle performance at #7 South Carolina.  Through 5 games, Ebner is in the team lead for tackles on the season, and he enters the Vandy game with a team-high 41 stops and 7.0 TFLs.
Gamecocks use field position edge, stingy defense to key 31-10 win
COLUMBIA, S.C. - A huge field position disadvantage spelled too much to overcome, as the Missouri Tigers fell Saturday at 7th-ranked South Carolina, 31-10, to drop to 2-2 on the season, and 0-2 in SEC play.
The Gamecocks had seven first-half possessions, and four of them started at midfield or better, including three in the second quarter that they cashed in for touchdowns and a 21-3 halftime lead.
South Carolina QB Connor Shaw was virtually flawless, as he completed 20-of-21 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown, while the stout Gamecock defense held Mizzou to just 255 yards of offense, and kept the Tigers out of the endzone until just :17 seconds remained in the game, when backup QB Corbin Berkstresser hit WR Marcus Lucas on a 1-yard touchdown pass.
Mizzou's defense staved off the first threat of the day, as Sheldon Richardson forced a fumble that Kenronte Walker covered on the Tiger 16-yardline in the first quarter.  But the Tiger offense couldn't get any momentum going, running just 9 plays in the quarter, which ended in a scoreless tie.
The second quarter began with Mizzou's defense holding one more time with its backs against the wall.  South Carolina had a 3rd-and-goal from the Tiger 1-yardline, but LB Donovan Bonner stopped Gamecock QB Connor Shaw for no gain, and on 4th-and-goal, Shaw was dropped for a loss of one yard by DE Kony Ealy.
A three-and-out ensued, however, and SC's Ace Sanders broke several tackles on a 49-yard punt return which took the ball to the Tiger 4-yardline.  Two plays later, RB Marcus Lattimore scored from 2 yards out for a 7-0 Gamecock lead at the 11:08 mark.  Less than one minute later, it stood 14-0, as South Carolina knocked the ball out of freshman TB Russell Hansbrough's grasp, with the Gamecocks recovering on the Tiger 37-yardline.  A 36-yard pass on the first play took it to the Mizzou 1-yardline, and Lattimore plunged in for his second short TD run.
Mizzou quickened the pace offensively, going to its fastball attack, and finally got some traction.  Late in the quarter, the Tigers drove from their 20-yardline to a 1st-and-goal at the Carolina 3.  But the drive stalled, and MU had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett with just 1:20 left.
Just when it seemed like the Tigers had some momentum, a big special teams play by South Carolina struck again, as SC's Bruce Ellington returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to midfield.  The Gamecocks converted the opportunity, as Shaw hit Sanders on a 23-yard TD pass with :24 seconds left for a deflating score which made it 21-3 at half.
Mizzou's offense started the second half slow, and eventually it was field position that proved troublesome again, as South Carolina took over midway through the quarter after a punt at the Tiger 47-yardline.  Shaw led a 10-play drive which ended in his 2nd TD pass of the day and a 28-3 lead with 2:17 left in the third.
The Tigers drove to the Carolina 31-yardline early in the fourth quarter, but a 4th-and-1 attempt went awry when QB James Franklin bobbled the snap and got stuffed for no gain.  The Gamecocks drove the other way for a field goal and a 31-3 lead.
With the outcome in hand, redshirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser came off the bench for MU's last drive, and he promptly led the Tigers downfield on an 11-play, 75-yard drive which ended in his 1-yard TD pass to WR Marcus Lucas (who ended with a career-high 9 catches for 78 yards) with :17 seconds left to account for the final score.
South Carolina's five scoring drives on the day covered only 4, 37, 50, 47, and 48 yards.
field position has been key indicator of success
It's certainly only one facet of the game, but it's been a very key factor in a three-game stretch – field position.  There has been a very distinct winner in the field position battle against Georgia, Arizona State and South Carolina, and the team which won that battle has gone on to win the game.  
Each of #7 South Carolina's four TD drives two weeks ago started at midfield or better, including at the Tiger 4, 37, 50 and 47 yardlines.  By contrast, Mizzou's first three drives of the game started at its own 14, 16 and 2 yardlines.  The Tiger offense struggled against the stout Carolina defense to flip the field, and while the first quarter ended up scoreless thanks to a some great defensive play by Mizzou, the dam broke in the second quarter, when SC's average starting point on four possessions was the Mizzou 39-yardline (while Mizzou's was its own 17).
In its previous outing, Mizzou won the field position battle against Arizona State, as it converted five drives which began at midfield or better into 21 points, while the Sun Devils had only two drives start at midfield or better (turning those into 7 points).
The previous week saw Georgia own the high land, as the Bulldogs scored 20 of their 41 points off of five possessions which started at midfield or better (including TD drives of only 5 yards and 1 yard in the 4th quarter after Tiger turnovers), while the Tigers had only two drives start at midfield or better, and they were able to convert those into just three points.
Field position ended up a relative non-factor this past Saturday at Central Florida, as neither team had a decided advantage – average starting point for Mizzou was its own 28-yardline, while UCF's average starting point was its own 23-yardline.  Only one possession by either team started in opponent territory, and it was a 4th-quarter series for Mizzou that began at the UCF 43-yardline.  The Tigers converted it into a TD (on a Kendial Lawrence 10-yard run) to extend the lead to 21-10.
Here's a recap of the field position in the 3-game stretch vs. UGA, ASU & S.Carolina:
• – Sept. 8 vs. #7 Georgia UGA MU
# of drives started at 50 or better:    5    2
# of points those drives converted to:  20    3
Avg. starting point, 2nd half: GA-48 MU-26
2nd half scoring:  32  10
• – Sept. 15 vs. Arizona State ASU MU
# of drives started at 50 or better:    2    5
# of points those drives converted to:    7  21
Avg. starting point, 1st half: ASU-24 MU-45
1st half scoring:    7  17
• – Sept. 22 at #7 South Carolina SC MU
# of drives started at 50 or better:    5    0
# of points those drives converted to:  28    0
Avg. starting point, 2nd quarter: MU-39 MU-17
2nd quarter scoring:  21    3
mizzou holds off late sun devil rally
Mizzou improved to 2-1 on the season Sept. 15th, thanks to a 24-20 win over previously unbeaten Arizona State.  The Tigers got some late heroics from its defense, who twice turned ASU away in the final four minutes in the MU endzone while clinging to a 24-20 lead – one on a 4th-&-goal pass that was batted away with 3:36 left, and next on an interception in the endzone with :36 seconds left to preserve the win.  Both of those game-savers were made by senior SS Kenronte Walker.
In a continuing show of enthusiasm by Tiger fans for Mizzou's move to the Southeastern Conference, the ASU game was played before a second-straight sellout crowd of 71,004 – that marked the first sellout for a non-conference game at MU's Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field since 1984 (Notre Dame).
It appeared early on that Mizzou might enjoy a more comfortable win against the Sun Devils, as the Tigers scored twice in their first three possessions on the way to a quick 10-0 lead.  The edge grew to 17-0 late in the 2nd quarter before ASU got on the scoreboard with a TD just before half to cut into the Tiger lead.  Mizzou would go on to post a 24-7 lead, which held until the 4th quarter, when the Sun Devils mounted a rally.
The Tigers' win over ASU was even more impressive given the fact that they were playing without starting QB James Franklin, who was unable to play due to soreness in his right (throwing) shoulder.  Franklin sustained an inflamed bursa sac in his shoulder in the previous week's game against Georgia, and was a game-time decision against ASU.  After going through pre-game warmups, it was decided that he couldn't go, and that thrust redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser into his first collegiate start.
walker preserves ASU win with late heroics - wins sec defensive award
Senior SS Kenronte Walker cemented his name in the hearts of Tiger fans late in the Arizona State game, when he made two of the biggest defensive plays possible in MU's own endzone, on consecutive late-game possessions to preserve Mizzou's 24-20 win over previously unbeaten ASU.  His first big play came when he broke up a 4th-down pass in the endzone with 3:36 to play to deny the Sun Devils the lead after they drove to Tiger 1-yardline.  His deflection on 4th down in the endzone came on a 4th-and-goal from the MU 3-yardline.
Next, after Mizzou was forced to punt clinging to its 24-20 lead, the Sun Devils took over on the Tiger 21-yardline with just 1:58 to play.  On 3rd-and-9 from the MU 20-yardline, Walker broke to the right and snagged Taylor Kelly's pass in the MU endzone for his first career interception with :38 seconds left.  He returned the ball 49 yards before going out of bounds, and the Tigers ran out the clock on , offense to lock up the victory.
Walker ended the night with 2 tackles, in addition to his endzone heroics, and on the following Monday morning, he was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.  After a 5-tackle game at South Carolina (with 1 TFL and a fumble recovery), he's got 15 tackles through 4 games this season, after he posted 44 tackles in 13 games (4 starts) a year ago in his first year on the field for the Tigers.
With a tip of the proverbial cap to resident MU historian Tom Orf, Walker's game-clinching INT against ASU was the 7th time in the Pinkel era a Tiger has intercepted a pass to effectively end a game in the 4th quarter with MU holding a 7-point lead or less.
the o-line isn't exactly who we thought they'd be
To borrow liberally from one of the great sports quotes/rants of alltime, the Tiger offensive line isn't exactly who we thought they'd be going into the season.  With senior co-captain LT Elvis Fisher out for several weeks due to a sprained right knee (sustained against Georgia), that prompted some wholesale changes in the trenches.
In addition to missing starting QB James Franklin against Arizona State (the first time a Tiger starting QB has missed a game since 2001), the Tiger offensive line was a reshuffled unit, as only two starters took the field who were expected to be starters in the pre-season – and they were both at a positions they originally weren't slated to play!.  With Fisher out, and with senior Jack Meiners questionable due to a sprained knee, redshirt freshman Brad McNulty made his first career start at center against ASU.  That kicked Mitch Morse out to RT, where he replaced Justin Britt, who slid to LT to replace the absent Fisher.  Meiners was able to return to the lineup last Saturday at S. Carolina...  
o MU's offensive line was supposed to look like this coming into the year:
• LT – Elvis Fisher – 6th-year senior, 40 career starts (OUT – knee)
• LG – Travis Ruth – 5th-year senior, 7 career starts (OUT – tricep)
• C – Mitch Morse – Redshirt soph., 0 career starts
• RG – Jack Meiners – 4th-year senior, 6 career starts (Injured – knee)
• RT – Justin Britt – 4th-year junior, 13 career starts
o The Tiger starting line looked like this last Saturday at UCF (starting numbers coming into the year):
• LT – Justin Britt – 4th-year junior, 13 career starts
• LG – Evan Boehm – True freshman, 0 career starts
• C – Mitch Morse – Redshirt soph., 0 career starts
• RG – Max Copeland – Redshirt junior, former walk-on, 0 career starts
• RT – Jack Meiners – 4th-year senior, 6 career starts
Fisher has missed action since the 2nd quarter of game #2 against Georgia, but the hope is that he could be available to see action this Saturday against Vanderbilt.
tigers went toe-to-toe with #7 georgia; late mistakes prove costly
Sept. 8th was an historic occasion, as the Missouri Tigers played host to the 7th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in what was Mizzou's first-ever SEC conference game.  A frenzied sellout crowd of 71,004 at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field was on hand and provided an energy perhaps never seen in Columbia, and they were treated to a heck of a ballgame, despite the final score that read Georgia 41, Mizzou 20.
Don't let the score fool you, the outcome of the game was in doubt until a pair of MU turnovers in the final 7:33 of the game (both caused by UGA's star LB Jarvis Jones) gave Georgia the ball at the MU 1-yardline and the MU 5-yardline.  Those miscues turned into a pair of short TD runs for the ‘Dawgs, and they stretched a tenuous 27-20 lead into the final margin.
Prior to that, the Tigers more than held their own, and appeared poised to make a big statement in their SEC debut.  Mizzou never trailed until the 0:51 mark of the third quarter, and had the ball three times in the 4th quarter while trailing by just one score.  After a scoreless opening period which saw both defenses clamp down, the Tigers drew first blood, converting a Donovan Bonner interception of Aaron Murray into a 38-yard Andrew Baggett field goal – his first career three-pointer – for a 3-0 lead at the 12:07 mark of the 2nd quarter.
Georgia wouldn't lead until only :51 seconds remained in the 3rd quarter, when Murray hit Marlon Brown for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 24-20 in favor of the ‘Dawgs.
In between, the Tigers traded blows, landing two big ones by QB James Franklin.  The junior signal caller found WR Marcus Lucas over the middle for a 41-yard TD pass with 1:31 left in the 2nd quarter to put the Tigers up, 10-3.  Mizzou's defense, which held Georgia off repeatedly in the first half, finally buckled a bit, as the Bulldogs got a quick score right back.  Murray hit Marlon Brown on a 2-yard TD pass with just 0:30 seconds left in the 1st half to draw UGA to within 10-9.  That's the way the score stayed at half, however, as Bulldog kicker Marshall Morgan was wide right with the point after try (just five minutes after he drilled a 52-yard field goal).
Things got even better for the Tigers early in the 2nd half, as the defense forced a punt on Georgia's initial series, followed by another long strike by the offense.  Franklin floated a perfectly-placed ball down the left seam to lanky speedster WR L'Damian Washington, and Washington caught the ball in stride behind the defense and raced untouched 69 yards for a touchdown which gave Mizzou a 17-9 lead with 11:48 left in the 3rd.
With Memorial Stadium about to explode in excitement, the veteran Bulldogs responded once again, as they took their ensuing series for a 12-play, 75-yard drive which culminated in the 2nd of Murray's 3 passing touchdowns, this one a 7-yard strike to Tavarres King with 7:27 left in the 3rd.  A successful 2-point conversion tied the game.
Franklin led the Tigers right back downfield, reaching the Bulldog 7-yardline, before the drive stalled.  Baggett nailed a 25-yard field goal with 2:39 left in the 3rd quarter to give MU back the lead, at 20-17.  For the third time on the night, however, Georgia's offense answered a Tiger score, and this one – Murray-to-Brown for 11 yards – gave them their first lead, at 24-20.
Mizzou tried some trickery after its next series stalled, but P Trey Barrow was stopped for a 3-yard gain on a fake punt on a 4th-and-11 from the MU 35, and the Bulldogs converted that into a field goal and a 27-20 lead.
After the teams traded punts, the Tigers took over on their 12-yardline with 8:23 to play, just one more long strike away from tying the game.  But it wasn't to be, as Georgia's Jones picked off Franklin over the middle, returning the interception to the Tiger 1-yardline.  After Georgia punched it in for a score and a 34-20 lead, Jones sacked Franklin on MU's ensuing possession, jarring the ball loose, with the Bulldogs taking over on the Tiger 5-yardline.  Three plays later, another short Georgia TD run sealed the deal.
The Tiger mistakes late in the game overshadowed what was a gritty performance in their first-ever SEC contest.  After Mizzou took its last lead at 20-17 late in the third, Georgia rode its offense and defense to 24 unanswered points to leave Columbia with the victory.
mizzou watch-listers in 2012
A quintet of Tigers find themselves on pre-season watch lists for various national awards.  Here's a quick look at what Tigers are drawing attention:
• – Elvis Fisher, OL (Sr.) – Senior Bowl
• – James Franklin, QB (Jr.) – Maxwell / Manning / Walter Camp / Davey O'Brien
• – Zaviar Gooden, LB (Sr.) – Butkus / Senior Bowl
• – Brad Madison, DE (Sr.) – Hendricks / Senior Bowl
• – T.J. Moe, WR (Sr.) – Biletnikoff / Hornung / Senior Bowl
tigers in the nfl
Nineteen former Tigers are currently on NFL rosters, here's a look at them:
Tim Barnes, C, St. Louis Rams Beau Brinkley, LS/TE, Tennessee Titans
Colin Brown, OT, Buffalo Bills &&&Chase Coffman, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Chase Daniel, QB, New Orleans Saints Michael Egnew, TE, Miami Dolphins
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars Andrew Gachkar, LB, San Diego Chargers
&&&Dominique Hamilton, Washington Redskins Ziggy Hood, DL, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles William Moore, S, Atlanta Falcons
C.J. Mosley, DL, Jacksonville Jaguars ***Martin Rucker, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Kevin Rutland, DB, Jacksonville Jaguars Aldon Smith, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Brad Smith, QB/WR, Buffalo Bills Justin Smith, DT, San Francisco 49ers
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons
&&&-Practice Squad ***-Reserve/Injured
mizzou is ncaa's alltime overtime king
If it seems like Mizzou has been involved in a lot of overtime games, well, you're not crazy, because the Tigers have played in more OT games than any school since the rule was put in place for the 1995 bowl season.
The Tigers played 2 overtime affairs in 2011, and after its thrilling comeback 38-31 OT win at #16 Texas A&M, Mizzou went 1-1 on the year in overtime games.  Coupled with Mizzou's OT game at Arizona State (won by the Sun Devils, 37-30), Mizzou has now played 14 overtime games, which is most in NCAA history, through games of Sept. 29th.  Schools next on the list with 13 overtime games include LSU (8-5), Fresno State (5-8), North Carolina State (8-5), Texas A&M (7-6), Pittsburgh (6-7), SMU (3-10) and Syracuse (7-6).
More importantly, when Mizzou goes to overtime, more often than not it comes out on the winning side.  Mizzou owns 10 OT wins alltime, which is the most in FBS history entering this weekend (tied with Tennessee, who is 10-2 alltime).  The Tigers had won five straight OT games until last year's OT defeat at Arizona State.  
Here's a quick glance at MU's overtime history:
Year Opponent (Rank) Result #OTs
1996 Oklahoma State W, 35-28 OT
1996 at Baylor W, 49-42 3-OT
1997 at Oklahoma State (12) W, 51-50 2-OT
1997 Nebraska (1) L, 45-38 OT
1999 at Colorado L, 46-39 OT
2001 at Oklahoma State W, 41-38 3-OT
2002 Colorado (18) L, 42-35 OT
2002 at Texas A&M W, 33-27 2-OT
2003 Middle Tennessee State W, 41-40 OT
2004 at Iowa State W, 17-14 OT
2005 Iowa State W, 27-24 OT
2008 Northwestern (22) W, 30-23 OT
2011 Arizona State (23) L, 37-30 OT
2011 at Texas A&M (16) W, 38-31 OT
Interestingly, MU Head Coach Gary Pinkel is credited with winning the very first overtime game ever played in Division I history, when his Toledo Rockets beat Nevada, 40-37, in the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl.  The overtime rule was put into effect for that bowl season, and has been in use ever since.
Pinkel is now 9-2 alltime in his career in overtime games, including 7-2 at Mizzou.
Thru Games of 9/29/12
Games Schools Record
14 Mizzou 10-4
13 LSU 8-5
13 North Carolina St. 8-5
13 Syracuse 7-6
13 Texas A&M 7-6
13 Pittsburgh 6-7
13 Fresno State 5-8
13 SMU 3-10
12 Tennessee 10-2
12 Arkansas 9-3
12 Oregon 8-4
12 Auburn 7-5
12 Utah 7-5
12 Mississippi 6-6
12 East Carolina 6-6
12 TCU 5-7
12 Alabama 4-8
12 Washington St. 4-8
berkstresser holds his own in first collegiate start
Redshirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser learned 30 minutes prior to kickoff on Sept. 15th against Arizona State that he'd be making his first collegiate start, and he helped lead Mizzou to a 24-20 win over a quality ASU team.  Berkstresser filled in for ailing QB James Franklin (shoulder, scratched after pre-game warmups) and performed well, as he threw for 198 yards (on 21-of-41 passing with 1 interception), while also running for 1 TD and a net of 25 yards (18 carries).
Berkstresser helped the Tiger offense convert 10 3rd-downs (in 22 attempts) and directed the show for an offense which owned the ball for 34:51 of clock time in the game.  Berkstresser was at his best on 3rd down, as he completed 9-of-17 passes for 121 yards and no interceptions, with 8 of those going for first downs.
Two weeks ago at #7 South Carolina, Franklin was able to return to the starting lineup, but Berkstresser did see some action, as he came off the bench to lead Mizzou to its only TD drive of the game.  With the Tigers trailing, 31-3, Berkstresser guided Mizzou on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with his 1-yard TD pass to WR Marcus Lucas with 0:17 seconds left to account for the final score of 31-10.  Berkstresser was 7-of-8 passing on the drive for 54 yards and he added 1 rush for 3 yards.