Story by Pete Marek
Photos by Joe Vozzelli
Defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson (34) and Kony Ealy (47) pursue Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly (10) on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Faurot Field. Richardson and Ealy combined for 13 tackles in Missouri’s 24-20 victory. Photo by Joe Vozzelli.
The Tigers’ defensive line had been putting heavy pressure on Arizona State’s quarterback, Taylor Kelly, all night and were not going to stop now. After the defensive line disrupted the offense on back-to-back plays, Kelly dropped back into the pocket and went for the end zone. Unfortunately for Kelly, Kenronte Walker, a Missouri safety, was on the other end of the pass.
“They had great pressure, always making the quarterback roll out,” Walker said referring to the defensive line.
After allowing Georgia to come into Columbia and put up 41 points in last week’s loss against the Bulldogs, head coach Gary Pinkel thought the Tigers’ defense came ready to play tonight against the Arizona State Sun Devils and adjusted his strategy accordingly.
“We felt we were going to need to win with our defense, and that’s why we made decisions from that standpoint,” Pinkel said.
Besides Walker’s game-winning interception, the Tiger’s defense made another fourth quarter stand to help preserve a 24-20 victory over the Sun Devils.
The Arizona State offense was held to only seven points until the fourth quarter. However, the Sun Devils scored the first of two fourth quarter touchdowns following a muffed punt by Tigers punt Trey Barrow. Then, after the Tigers offense failed to move the ball and kill the clock, the Sun Devils scored another touchdown. Sun Devils running back Marion Grice scored both times.
After Grice rushed for his second touchdown, however, Arizona State was not able to convert the extra point because of a bad snap. Thus, Missouri maintained its four point lead causing the Sun Devils to need a touchdown to win instead of a field goal to tie.
The Sun Devils took over the ball with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and drove ball all the way down to the Missouri 1-yard-line. Not being aided by a field goal, Arizona State had four opportunities to score the go-ahead touchdown. However, Kelly’s pass fell incomplete and Missouri took over the ball on downs.
Missouri’s defense had to play with added pressure following an announcement that quarterback James Franklin would not be the starting quarterback on Saturday. The decision was made at game time, but Franklin did not feel that he was healthy enough to play.
“He has an irritation/inflammation in his shoulder. There are no structural problems at all, absolutely none. It was just too painful for him, and he didn’t want to play,” Pinkel said.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser was able to record his first win as the starter going 21 of 41 passing for 198 yards and an interception.
“I thought he did a lot of great things. It was a tough environment and we watched what we did with him,“ Pinkel said.
Berkstresser got Missouri’s first touchdown of the game after linebacker Andrew Wilson forced a fumble on an Arizona State punt return in the first quarter. Starting at the Sun Devils
Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (15) receives a handoff from redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser (13) on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Faurot Field. Green-Beckham had 19 yards on four rushing attempts and one reception for two yards in Missouri’s 24-20 victory over Arizona State. Photo by Joe Vozzelli.
18-yard-line, Berkstresser used four plays before running the ball into the endzone himself to record his second touchdown of the season.
Missouri’s second touchdown was set up by a huge punt return. Pinkel decided to take a play from his bag of tricks and run a reverse on a punt return. Usual punt returner Marcus Murphy caught the punt and, as he began to burst down the field, pitched the ball back to his defensive back E.J. Gaines. Gaines was finally forced out of bounds at the Arizona State 18-yard-line. Gaines may play defensive back for the Tigers, but he is no stranger to running with the ball.
“I ran out of gas, but I saw my running back days come back from high school,” Gaines said.
From there, the Tiger’s took only four plays to score as running back Kendial Lawrence rushed the ball in from seven yards away. Lawrence added another touchdown in the third quarter, this time from 1-yard away, to give the Tiger’s a 24-7 lead at the time.
Missouri is now 2-1 for the season. Next week they head to South Carolina for their first away game of the year and a battle with the Gamecocks and head coach Steve Spurrier.