October 27, 2012: the date of Mizzou’s first SEC football win.
For Missouri fans, it has been a long time coming. The question is, will anyone remember it?
If you saw the game, you might want to forget it. TEN fumbles. Yes 10!…two interceptions, one missed field goal, one blocked extra point, one defensive TD, five different QB’s and 165 combined passing yards. Let me repeat that. TEN fumbles, two interceptions, one missed field goal, one blocked extra point, one defensive TD, five different QB’s and 165 combined passing yards. Let that soak in for a little bit.
The first SEC win came much later than most anticipated. Many thought Mizzou would win their first-ever SEC game when Georgia came calling Sept. 8 in an electric, memorable atmosphere. Nope. Well, then surely against a bad Vanderbilt team in Columbia Oct. 6, right? Wrong again. It wasn’t happening against Alabama no matter what, so this was it. The last very-winnable game on the SEC slate for the Tigers.
And, the Tigers prevailed, moving to 4-4 (1-4 SEC), getting their first October win on the last game of the month. And, it was not pretty, but that is par for the course this year for Mizzou when redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser is taking the snaps. In fact, he was so bad today that an injured James Franklin, who was playing at about 75% and was nowhere near healthy, came in to finish the game.
The turnovers were a major factor in the game – along with Kentucky gaining just 24 yards in the second half as Mizzou’s D slammed the door shut. Mizzou committed three turnovers – all in their own territory, including back-to-back interceptions on the first two offensive plays of the second half for the Tigers – but the Tigers defense (or the Kentucky offense, really) allowed just three points. Missouri on the other hand, scored off all three Kentucky turnovers. Sheldon Richardson’s strip, recovery and 50-yard return when Kentucky was in the redzone, set-up Mizzou’s 4-play – all Kendial Lawrence runs – TD drive to put the Tigers up 7-0 early. This was huge for Mizzou, as the Kentucky scored on the ensuing possession in just four plays. The Tigers were lucky they were not down 10 or 14-0. A third quarter Andrew Baggett field goal made it 20-10 after a fumble recovery on a third down sack deep in Kentucky’s own territory and EJ Gaines returned a fumble 13 yards for a score to close out the scoring late in the fourth quarter.
Asked about the significance of winning the program’s first-ever SEC game, Pinkel answered, “It doesn’t mean a lot to me. I just want to win.”
He continued: “We are used to winning around here, so this has been tough…I don’t care who we were playing, we needed a win.
“It feels good to win.”
This game was just about as bad as Kentucky is than anything else. My God, they are bad. Real bad. The fact that they blewout a 6-1 Kent St. team 49-14, or played Georgia to a 29-24 loss last week or led South Carolina at half is beyond me. It is shocking really. I have no idea how it is even possible.
Now, to the grades.
Quarterback – D: Berkstresser was so bad that the James Franklin emergency plan had to be implemented. Berkstresser is no threat to run and after interceptions in the offense’s first two plays of the second half, he was no longer a threat to pass. It is hard to run the spread offense when your QB is not a threat to run and the team doesn’t trust you to pass…Pinkel says the spread offense requires: 1) a great, dominant passer (like Chase Daniel), 2) a great, dominant runner (like Brad Smith) and/or 3) someone who is good at both (ala James Franklin). Berkstresser is nowhere close to any of the criteria. I feel bad for him. He is a local kid and has been a life long Tigers fan, but he is not a Division 1 QB, and may not ever be. After starting as a freshman (and going 2-1, mind you), he may not ever start a game at Mizzou again, and rightfully so. Next year Maty Mauk will be the backup and Berkstresser will be the third teamer, and Mauk will take over the starting reigns in 2014. It is pretty bad when you have to bring an injured QB in to finish a game because you can’t even trust a guy to even throw a pass.
“We needed a play. With great restriction, we got the OK from the medical staff,” head coach Gary Pinkel said. “Corbin (Berkstresser) was struggling. He’s not the first quarterback to ever struggle at all and won’t be the last. I got on the phone with Coach Yost, and we talked about it in our Thursday staff meeting that if we got in that situation that we would most likely put James in and let him know the series before we would do it. We also were very, very controlled in what we had in the run and the pass. And then we decided to just keep him in even though the score was the way it was just to get some reps and get some confidence back. I think any time you get a veteran player that comes in, who was the MVP of the bowl last year and had great success as a sophomore and plays the position and knows it well, I think that gives our offense a little bit of a lift. It’s natural. It’s nothing against Corbin (Berkstresser), it’s just natural.”
That is just how bad CB struggled today; where a guy at 70-75% health is a better option. Hell, JF at 50% would have been better.
But, hey look at the bright side. Missouri won a game with just 87 passing yards (Berkstresser: 10-18-70 yards-2 picks; Franklin: 6-9-17 yards). Amazing, it is the fourth time this year an SEC team has won a game with less than 100 passing yards. It is also the second time in the SEC this year, that both teams had less than 100 yards passing (the other was last week’s Florida-South Carolina, which the Gators won 44-11).
Hopefully Franklin is much closer to 100% next week, when the Tigers travel to Florida. Franklin was not asked to do much, and Mizzou’s offense was certainly predictable with him in the game, but the rest did its job. Mizzou’s next nine carries went for 47 yards, and Mizzou was able to stretch a seven-point lead to 16. But, most importantly, the psyche of the team changed when Franklin came into the game, and it gave the Tigers a boost. It goes without saying that James Franklin will be asked to do more next week — if he isn’t, Mizzou is going to average about 1.0 yards per play in Gainesville; but on about 1.5 legs, he gave the Tigers exactly what they needed today.
He may not have played up to what he did last year, but the offense is much better, flows better and just looks better when he is in. He also would have connected on that first down play in the second quarter when Berkstresser, who had a season-high 55% completion percentage, but had a woeful four yards per attempt, overshot a WIDE OPEN TJ Moe streaking down the middle of the field in the endzone – a play that Franklin excels at. He will start regardless, at this point, but he is much better when he is a threat to run, which he was not today as he was restricted by Pinkel and the medical staff.
“I’m 100 percent sure – unless I am hit by a car or something – that I will play next week,” Franklin declared.
God, I hope so. Healthy or not.
Running Backs – A: Kendial Lawrence had his third 100-yard game this year and third two TD game with 108 yards on 23 carries. I don’t think there is any coincidence that it has taken place in Missouri’s four wins, do you? Lawrence has been the bright spot this season and is averaging 79 yards a game, which over 12 games, will get him close to a 1,000-yard season. His 632 yards are a career-high. It was mystifying why Marcus Murphy, who is so dangerous with the ball in his hands, has had so few touches on offense (besides the Jet Sweep). He looked good with 43 yards on eight carries and his first rushing TD of the season. Russel Hansbrough, the third-team true frosh RB, tallied another 37 yards on seven carries.
Receivers – C: Marcus Lucas dropped a pass on the opening possession on a slant that was good enough for a first down and could have went all the way. TJ Moe dropped a catchable ball on a crossing route that was a tad low and behind him and caught just one pass for eight yards. He could have had a TD on the Berkstresser over throw. I probably over-graded this position, but did so because Dorial Green-Beckham was target seven times for 21 yards (albeit five of them were screens, but who cares, AT LEAST they threw it too him). The WR’s continue to battle the drops. The one receiver that I can’t remember doing it yet this year is Gahn McGaffie, who led the team with 40 yards (on 4 catches).
Offensive Line – A: I stated after the ‘Bama game that Missouri would have a good run-blocking line if Missouri committed to it, and the results were great. Missouri ran, ran and ran some more in the second half. Everyone knew it was coming and Kentucky (1-8, 0-5 SEC) could not stop it was the Mizzou o-line dominated the line of scrimmage as Mizzou ran it 48 times for 187 yards. Also, no bad snaps. All in all, the best effort all season by the big hefties up front.
Defense – A: Kentucky gashed Mizzou on the first two drives of the game for 115 yards and could have had 10-14 points, not seven, if it were not for Big ‘Shel making a play. After that, it was lockdown time, as the Wildcats gained just 64 yards the rest of the game…24 yards in the second half. The defense forced three turnovers and scored a TD of their own, an EJ Gaines 13-yard fumble return to put the Tigers up 33-10. Richardson was all over again and Matt Hoch registered his first sack – by a shoelace – since pushing Aaron Murray out of bounds in week 2, LB Will Ebner posted six tackles – 3.5 for a loss and now quietly leads all SEC defensive players in TFL’s. In the secondary, Kenronte Walker had his best game since Arizona St, leading the team in tackles, Gaines and Edwards were great on the outside and coming up to stop the run and third corner Randy Ponder had three huge hits. Kentucky’s three QB rotation did not work and none of them would have done anything had they played the whole game.
Special Teams – C: Again, hit and miss here. Baggett hit two field goals and has now hit eight in a row and is 10-for-14 on the season, but he had an extra point blocked and Marcus Murphy – everyone’s midseason All-American return man – muffed not one – but two – punts. Luckily Missouri survived the mistakes.
“Does anybody have any idea how hard we work on the kicking game?” – Pinkel
Coaching – B+: Mizzou looked to be sleep-walking at the start, but the staff made great adjustments as the game went on – especially D-Coordinator Dave Steckel, who is by far the best one at doing so on the staff. But, also, kudos to Pinkel for going to James Franklin when it appeared Berkstresser being in the game gave the Tigers a worse chance to win than having a nowhere near healthy James Franklin playing. It was the first time in 12 years as Mizzou head man that Pinkel has ever made a QB change in-game without their being an injury or the game not already being all but official. Also, the staff made the decision to simply run the ball and get out with a win, and it paid dividends.
Final Thoughts: Mizzou led 7-0 and 10-7 but were tied, surprisingly to this awful team to 10-10 after just 20 minutes. Kentucky never scored again, and never really threatened despite starting three drives inside the Mizzou 50. It was not pretty, but Mizzou keeps their chances at an eighth straight bowl game, needing one road win in trips to Florida (highly unlikely), Tennessee (very possible) and Texas A&M (Mizzou has won there two years in a row, although no team has ever won there three trips in a row). The Tigers will be favored in a Nov. 17 home game against Syracuse. Can the Tigers get to six wins? Man, that Vanderbilt loss is costly. The Tigers could not afford to lose a game they were “supposed to win” this year. Now, they have to win one they shouldn’t. Tennessee has lost 12 of their last 13 conference games, maybe it’ll be in Knoxville. I was also very impressed with the crowd of 67,000-plus on a cold morning to support a team that had not won a game in October.
Next Week: This week the Tigers head to Florida (7-1, 4-1 SEC), who will likely be angry after losing for the first time all season today in the World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, 17-9 to Georgia, missing a chance to clinch the SEC East Division. Now, they are tied and have the tie-breaker to Georgia and have to win out. The Tigers open as a 16-point dog. I’ll take that. The Tigers one chance to be in this game in the fourth quarter is Florida’s offense is very pedestrian. Their defense, on the other hand, is NFL-like. Look for a low-scoring game. Hey, and the Tigers are undefeated this year (2-0) in 11 am starts, so lets hope that is a trend.
KC Star: MU gets first SEC win, beats Kentucky 33-10
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou wins first SEC game 33-10
The Maneater: Tigers surge for first SEC win with 33-10 victory over Kentucky
Team Speed Kills: The Tigers Get Their First SEC Win, If Kentucky Still Counts
QB No. 1 James Franklin’s surprise appearance
MUtigers.com: Mizzou/Kentucky Post-Game Quotes
The Trib: Franklin returns as Tigers collect first SEC win
The Missourian: Franklin helps Missouri in first SEC win
Post-Dispatch: Franklin spurs Tigers offense
PowerMizzou: Franklin brings comfort in win
Fox Sports MW: Franklin’s surprise return gives Mizzou a lift
KBIA Sports: Missouri quarterback James Franklin helps Missouri earn first SEC win
The Missourian: Sheldon Richardson’s recovery turns the tide
Post-Dispatch: Richardson sets tone in Mizzou win
The Trib: Baggett becoming automatic
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou kicker finds redemption
The Trib (Joe Walljasper): Tigers finally find their footing
KC Star: DGB is targeted often
The Trib: Game Notes
The Trib: Lawrence grinds out yardage
PowerMizzou: The Sideline View
The Other Side
A Sea Of Blue: Kentucky at Missouri: Postmortem
John Clay: Missouri is happy to have Kentucky in the SEC
John Clay: VIDEO: Joker Phillips after loss at Missouri
John Clay: VIDEO: Randy Sanders says offense better than it showed
John Clay: VIDEO: Rick Minter looks for some bright spots
John Clay: VIDEO: It was not Patrick Towles’ day
John Clay: VIDEO: Jalen Whitlow disappointed in loss
John Clay: VIDEO: Avery Williamson says Cats just have to keep going
John Clay: VIDEO: J.D. Harmon on his two interceptions