Missouri jumped out of the gates on fire, and put the game over by halftime in a surprisingly easy win down in Nashville.
Missouri scored 17 points in the first 7 minutes, 11 seconds and opened up a 20-0 first quarter lead before Vanderbilt had even picked up a first down, never looking back in opening up a 30-7 halftime lead in the dominating 51-28 win Saturday night, improving to 5-0 (1-0 SEC) – the Tigers first time ever having a winning record in the SEC.
“I’m so happy with our team,” Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel said. “It was kind of a dominating performance.”
“High-energy,” he added. “We really talked about starting fast and coming out of the blocks.”
That, they certainly did.
Missouri scored on their first eight drives, minus a kneel out the clock possession to end the first half, rolling up 523 yards – led by senior QB James Franklin’s 343 total yards and four TD’s.
Missouri converted a third-and-5 speed option with a 20-yard Henry Josey run on the game’s opening drive, then scored two plays later on a Franklin to L’Damain Washington 26-yard TD down the sideline at front pylon, capping off a quick 1:17 drive, forced a three-and-out, kicked a FG, picked off a pass (Kentrell Brothers) and scored one-play later (Franklin 11-yard pass to WIDE OPEN TE Eric Waters on a fake zone read), another three and out and another FG and it was 20-0, still in the first quarter, with Missouri having 179 yards, while Vandy had ran just nine plays and without a first down.
Vandy cut it to 20-7 after a long 15-play drive, but Missouri answered with a 7-play, 75-yard drive – six runs, three options that gashed up the D (one Franklin keeper), finished by a Josey 1-yard TD.
And that was really it for Vandy, who after Missouri ended the half with another Andrew Baggett FG for a 30-7 lead, never got any closer than 16 the rest of the way.
Franklin started the game 9-for-9 for 101 yards and two scores and completed 11 of his first 12 passes en route to a 19-28-279 yards and four touchdowns – tying a career-high. He added some tough Frank the Tank runs (12-63) and had another TD called back on the final possession of the first half that ended as Baggett FG.
“There’s some great quarterbacks out there,” Pinkel said. “ He is playing with the best of them. That is fair to say.”
Franklin, who now has 13 TD and 3 INT on the season with 1,408 yards (281.6 yards per game), is now just 154 yards shy from last season’s total. He needed nine games for that and threw just 10 TD with seven picks.
Franklin, in addition to his good numbers, had great pocket presence and escaped some pressure a few times to keep plays alive – finding wide open receivers. He completed 15-of-18 passes in the first half, before a relatively quiet 4-of-10 performance in the second half. But, two of them were touchdowns – one of those completions, was a perfect 18-yard TD pass, low over the middle between two defenders to Marcus Lucas to make it 44-21. Franklin’s final pass of the game was a 42-yard TD pass to Washington – a quick response following a Vandy onside kick to make it 51-28. Vandy turned Missouri’s first punt into points – going 80 yards in two plays and 35 seconds.
Missouri entered tonight leading the SEC with 219 yards rushing per game. They added to that with 245 yards. The Tigers are the only team in the nation with four players averaging 50 yards a game. Hansbrough, the leader of that bunch, rushed for 44 yards on nine carries and did not get his second carry until the fourth quarter. Henry Josey had three runs of 10 yards or more and he and Marcus Murphy both rushed for 69 yards on a combined 16 carries (Murphy, just 4).
Josey scored twice – the second a 1-yard plunge to answer Vandy’s half-opening score, to make it 37-14. Murphy, for the first game this year, did not find the endzone. Hansbrough had a TD called back via penalty on Missouri’s final drive.
Again, what is better than two good backs? Three.
Nothing to complain about here. Washington had two TD’s totaling 68 yards and had another called back on the final possession of the first half. DGB, though, caught just two balls for 30 yards. Oh well, because Marcus Lucas hauled in his first TD of the year and led the team in catches (6) and Jimmie Hunt had himself a nice night. This group is so consistent and rarely is there a drop. Tight end Eric Waters, who had just one catch for 13 yards on the season, hauled in three for 39 yards, an added bonus to the passing game. The tight ends only had two catches for 17 yards this season prior to tonight.
Missouri continued its best in the SEC rushing behind an offensive line that is very good at plowing running holes. Franklin was sacked twice, but had plenty of time to throw the ball.
Missouri’s best two defensive efforts against FCS competition have come in their two road games against the best teams they have played. Much like Indiana two weeks ago, the Missouri defense did its job and took care of business in the first half before giving up meaningless yards in the second half. Vandy gained 375 yards in the second half as the Tigers played a very soft zone defense as the game was over at halftime. But, the Commodores (3-3, 0-3) gained just 93 yards in 36 plays in the first half with four three and outs, a third-down INT from Brothers that set-up the Waters TD and the 15-play scoring drive. In the second half, Vandy racked up some yards, but had four more empty drives – one punt, two failed fourth down attempts and time ran out on them at the end of the game. The second half was frustrating, but the defense was great in the first half.
With this “bend but don’t break” keep everything in front of you zone defense Missouri generally plays, it is going to be as good as it its pass rush and ability to create turnovers most nights. They were good in this area tonight, forcing a turnover – the Brothers INT extended an already NCAA (FBS) record: 35 consecutive games with a forced turnover – and registered seven sacks: three from Michael Sam and two from Markus Golden and Kony Ealy.
Through five games, Missouri leads the SEC in sacks (15) – 12 the last two weeks – and Sam’s six (consecutive three sacks games) leads the league. Last year, Sam tied for the team-high in sacks with 4.5.
“Respect is earned, not given,” Sam said. “We are going out and earning ours.”
“He’s had high energy,” Gary Pinkel said about Sam. “He’s a very good athlete. He can run, he’s quick. He goes, man. His motor goes. And it’s exciting to see. It gets contagious for those guys.”
Andrew Wilson made a few huge hits, but the linebacking core was led by Donovan Bonner, who registered a career-high 10 tackles and the secondary was lockdown in the first half. Granted, they were torched a few times in the second half, but…
Baggett, who has been shaky this year with three misses already, connected on three field goals – and his 44-yarder had PLENTY of leg on it – in three tries. Punter Christian Brisner saw the field one time and was said to be “bored” on the sideline. That is always good.
Missouri had 20 points for Vanderbilt had its first down as the Tigers came out of the gates on FIRE – offense, defense, special teams, everything. I think the Tigers were more than ready to play. That’s on the coaches, although, it couldn’t have been that hard for the players to get up for this one considering the 19-15 home loss last year.
“We really came to play,” Pinkel said. “We were ready in all phases of the game. We executed. I’m real proud of our football team.”
Barring a complete meltdown, Missouri will finish the year with a winning record and Gary Pinkel’s seat will no longer be “hot.”
“I think I’ve got some special guys here,” Pinkel said. “What does that mean? I don’t know. We’re gonna try to win every game. I like this team. I liked it before.”
“I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet and I think they know that. We can certainly improve as a team.”
Bottom Line/Next Week
Missouri scored on its first eight possessions that they didn’t kneel away, punted one time and at no time after that first quarter, was the game ever in doubt because even as Missouri played “score for score” in the second half, I knew Vanderbilt wouldn’t be able to stop Missouri. Now, Missouri is 5-0 for the first time since 2010, when they opened 7-0, James Franklin is playing great in driving the bus and the defense is doing enough. Next up? A once seemingly unwinnable road game at Top 10 Georgia, which now all of a sudden doesn’t seen impossible. I was rooting hard for Georgia to pull out that win at Tennessee today because frankly, I did not want to play them in Athens after that loss. But, the Vols could have served a wake-up call to the Dawgs (4-1, 3-0), who have played three Top 10 teams and a roadie at Knoxville so far, so they are tested. Missouri is going to have to score 40 to win this one. That may be the case for most games. But, the good thing about a really good offense is it keeps you in games. Missouri is going to be in a lot of games this year.
- Markus Golden is a stud. Everytime the DE is in the game, the dude makes plays. That is all he does. Markus Golden being Markus Golden. “Me, Michael Sam, Kony and Shane (Ray)? C’mon now.” Golden said. “If we’re going 100-percent, we’re gonna get sacks.” I agree.
- The speed option has worked all year – and accounted for three Missouri TD’s in the first four games and a late fourth down conversion against Toledo. Missouri ran that play, by my count, eight times and seven of them worked very well. That play has been money for the Tigers so far this year. The only time it did not work Saturday, Franklin got too close to the sideline and basically pitched it out of bounds.
- Brothers pick was the difference maker. Leading 10-0, on a third and six at the 19, Vandy QB Austin Carta-Samuels forced a throw, Brothers picked it off and returned it 15 yards to the 11, setting up the TD pass to Waters the next play…. “They were running a little play action pass and I turned around and looked for somebody to match and there was nobody behind me,” Brothers said. “I turned around and looked at the quarterback and I saw the running back in there so I just tried to bait him to throw it right to me and he did. A couple linemen tried to get me, I guess I was too slow, I couldn’t take it to the end zone.”
- The pick was Missouri’s 11th of the season, putting the Tigers into a three-way tie for second nationally. Virginia Tech leads way with 13. All of last season, Mizzou intercepted just seven passes. That pick was Brothers second.
- Mizzou was averaging 10 plays per play through the first four drives. Wow.
- Missouri out-gained Vandy 171-39 in the first quarter.
- Penalties hurt Missouri. Two personal fouls aided Vandy’s 15-play, 2nd quarter scoring drive. First, a late hit out of bounds on the first play of the drive, and then a Kony Ealy hands to the face turned a would-be FG attempt into an automatic first down, and then Vandy scored two plays later. That’s 30 yards of penalties on that drive. Later, Missouri had a Franklin-to-Washington TD pass called back because of a DGB “illegal shift” penalty – which was complete shit. He was set. On Missouri’s final drive, Russell Hansbrough scored on a short run that he bounced outside after being clogged up in the middle, but it was called back because of an Evan Boehm hold. Missouri ended up not scoring as Pinkel refused to score on a team to avoid “running it up.” So, that’s 15 points Missouri left on the board.
- The last time Jordan Matthews, who had 2-8 receiving in the first half, was held to less than 10 yards in a half was October 20, 2010. He is on pace to end his career as SEC’s all-time leading receiver. He had a huge second half, finishing 7-123-1 TD.
- Mizzou has three SEC defensive lineman of the week honors in four weeks and I expect a fourth this week.
- Missouri entered the game eighth in the nation in scoring (45.1), and did its best to up that – now averaging 47 points per game.
- Missouri is just six sacks shy of their entire 2012 total (21).
- Carta-Samuels finished with 338 yards passing on 29-of-41 passing with two touchdowns to go with the one interception.
- At one point in the fourth quarter, Missouri’s leading receiver (Dorial Green-Beckham) and leading rusher (Hansbrough) entering Saturday combined for five touches and 46 yards. At the same time, the Tigers had 455 yards and 44 points.
- The 38,000+ crowd was over 1/3 Mizzou fans – and they were loud, as evidenced by the “Home of the CHIEFS” during the national anthem and the “MIZ-ZOU” chants in final moments of the win.
- Oh, Pinkel. Why did you purposely try NOT to score inside the 20 on the offense’s final drive? That drives Missouri fans nuts, but, they shouldn’t be surprised anymore when you do it.
- A great quote from Washington, the senior WR for Louisiana: “Seems like we’re the underdog every week, but we embrace it. We love it. At the end of the day, predictions really mean nothing. If predictions meant anything you wouldn’t have to play the game on Saturday.”