PHOTOS: Mizzou over Truman State 82-54 in first exhibition

Christine Flores led the Missouri Tigers women’s team to a 82-54 victory over Truman State Tuesday night. Flores poured in 17 points and junior transfer Liene Priede had 16 total points in the season opener.

Mizzou started returners BreAnna Brock, Christine Flores, Bailey Gee and Sydney Crafton. New in the starting five was freshman Kyley Simmons, who had five points, five rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes of play.

Mizzou’s next game is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at home against Missouri-St. Louis.

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No excuses for the Mizzou Tigers after loss to Kansas State

Story by Darren Hellwege
Photos by Nick Gerhardt

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There are a lot of clichés about excuses, most of which are inappropriate for a family website. Let’s say they all stink and leave it at that. Mizzou doesn’t get to make excuses after the football team lost 24-17 to No. 20 Kansas State at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday.

No excuses. The Tigers just plain blew it.

There will be those who disagree, but the better team did not win on Saturday. Mizzou should have won this game. They were and are a better football team. But, time and time again, opportunities were thrown away and numerous mistakes sabotaged what might have been a winning effort.

It all started virtually the moment the Tigers stepped off the bus. Coach Gary Pinkel said throughout the week that the Tigers had to get the ball to All-American tight end Michael Egnew more. In Mizzou’s first four games he had only eight catches. But, Pinkel quickly added, they couldn’t force the ball to Egnew.

On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback James Franklin tried to force the ball to Egnew. Kansas State’s Ty Zimmerman intercepted the pass and the Wildcats’ offense turned it into a touchdown. Before the game was five minutes old the Tigers were down 7-0.

Both Egnew and Franklin said the interception was their fault. “The read was there. I should have gone underneath the defender instead of on top,” Egnew explained. Franklin’s explanation was even more technical. They stood up like men. No excuses.

After the first quarter Missouri — a team with an All-American tight end, a talented young quarterback, several strong receivers and a new-found star at running back — had a total of zero yards of offense.

After that, MU became perhaps even more exasperating. While the defense tightened up, the offense moved the ball. Henry Josey made some nice runs and Franklin started hitting on some passes. But nothing much came of it. A 12-play, 58-yard drive ended with a field goal. Another stalled at the Kansas State 35 and ended with a punt.

The final drive of the half saw the Tigers move 57 yards before ending with one of the great mysteries of this entirely baffling season: a missed field goal by Grant Ressel.

It was only the third time in the last five seasons the Tigers have scored as little as three points in the first half.  But even then, trailing 10-3, the Tigers had to feel like they had a good chance to win the game.

The second half started in a positive way as MU intercepted K-State quarterback Collin Klein on just the second play from scrimmage. New life, new momentum?

Nope.

Instead, the Tigers teased fans once again with a long drive that finished with another missed field goal. After having missed three field goals in his first two years combined, Ressel has now missed six in the first five games of the 2011 season.

“It’s like Tiger Woods,” Ressel said. “He’s in a slump, you know? Eventually he’s going to figure it out, he’s going to be great again. He’s Tiger Woods. He’s the best golfer there is. I’m a pretty good kicker and eventually I’ve got to get back into my swing.”

From there the game, with the teams still just a touchdown apart, went from bad to worse for MU. After a defensive stand that looked to give the momentum back to the Tigers, along with the ball, freshman linebacker Darvin Ruise committed a roughing the punter penalty on Ryan Doerr. The 15-yard penalty sent the Mizzou defense back onto the field.

“It’s always tough when you have to go back on the field after you think it’s done,” defensive end Brad Madison said. Seven plays later Klein scored from three yards out and put the ‘Cats on top 17-3.

In the fourth the Tigers, as they’ve done in all three losses this season, put a late rally together to pull tantalizingly close. Down 21 points with more than 11 minutes left, Franklin engineered an impressive drive, covering 79 yards in 12 plays. Josey scored the first touchdown of the day for Mizzou and it was 24-10.

After going nowhere on three plays Kansas State punted back to Mizzou, who proceeded to put another scoring drive together. When Franklin scored from the 1, suddenly it was 24-17.
But it was too little, too late. KSU got the ball with 5:30 left and was able to get key first downs before running out the clock. Missouri never had possession again.

With the loss, the Tigers fall to 2-3 on the season.

“We just are not playing very good football right now,” Pinkel said. “It starts with me. I’m not doing a good enough job coaching these guys. I made a lot of mistakes, this does not look like a very well-coached team.”

Pinkel wasn’t the only one pointing fingers at himself.

“I might have played my worst game as a Missouri Tiger,” T.J. Moe said.

“We cannot win games like that,” Jacquies Smith said. “We cannot wait until the last minute to try to make these runs.”
“I think everybody’s angry on this team,” said defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton. “We just got to stick together.”

So, the Tigers are 2-3. Can they pull it together?

This writer has absolutely no idea. Missouri came within a whisker of beating a strong Arizona State team. They played the No. 1 team in America very closely. And on this day, they outplayed Kansas State, when not beating themselves. Unlike many observers, I think Missouri is still a very talented team. The Tigers should be 4-1, and with a few breaks even 5-0. Instead, they have a losing record for the first time since 2004.

Maybe Grant Ressel will find his swing this week in practice. Maybe the linemen will stop jumping offsides, the personal fouls and the turnovers will stop. Maybe whatever appears to be bewitching this team when the game is on the line will fix itself. There is exactly one team left on the schedule (Oklahoma State) that I think Missouri has very little chance of beating. They could end up 8-4.

Or, they can keep playing as they did today at Kansas State. If that happens, this season could end up in a place Tiger fans haven’t been in a long time during the bowl season. At home, watching on TV.

And making excuses.

Report says Mizzou to receive conditional invite to SEC if Big 12 falls; SEC says no invite extended. (Updated)

UPDATE: SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom stated that “The SEC has not extended an invitation to any school beyond Texas A&M since it extended invitations to Arkansas and South Carolina.

A public denial does not necessarily indicate that the story is untrue. It was reported to be a conditional invite.   But consider this: because the story leaked today, Mizzou’s opportunity to join the SEC in the future could decrease significantly. If the report proves to be true, the SEC could be perceived as an active participant in the dismantling of the Big 12 conference.

The Southeastern Conference has publicly stated their desire to stay out of the politics of other conferences. The caveat in the proposal originally reported by the Kansas City Star, which would have given the Big 12 a chance to recover before giving Mizzou a conference in which to land in the possible aftermath,  seems to support this conclusion.

In a correspondence with KBIA Sports, Clay Travis  of OutKicktheCoverage.com and 104.5 The Zone in Nashville said it was extremely likely  that this information did not come from anyone within the SEC–that the conference absolutely did not want this information to hit the public sphere.

Travis does believe that Missouri would be the best fit for the SEC, thanks in large part to Mizzou’s strong academic track record. MU would likely be rated the fifth or sixth best school if they joined the SEC, behind the likes of Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Alabama, according to rankings published by the US News in 2010.

Listen to the full interview between Clay Travis and Darren Hellwege

According to a report by Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star, the Southeastern Conference has an offer on the table for Mizzou to join the SEC ranks. However, the conference would not expect an answer from Mizzou until the fate of the Big 12 is decided. The conference would presumably absorb Mizzou if the Big 12 fell, and not otherwise.

The report cites a Missouri booster who allegedly spoke directly to a University of Missouri official, and a source who spoke with an Oklahoma official who also said the SEC is interested in Missouri.

KBIA Sports spoke with one Missouri booster who had no knowledge of the most recent development. He added that he has not spoken to anyone within the program today, and had heard nothing of the development as of Monday, Sept. 19.

“They’re running a tight ship over there. I wouldn’t expect to hear anything about it. Brady [Deaton] wouldn’t have it,” he said.

MU chancellor Brady Deaton is currently the chairman of the Big 12’s Board of Directors, tasked with keeping the conference together after the departure of three teams in two years: Colorado to the newly-formed Pac 12, Nebraska to the 12-team Big ten, and the possible departure of Texas A&M to the SEC.Deaton has never strayed from his public espousal of maintaining the Big 12.

The athletic department could not be reached for comment as of this posting. Don’t expect that to change. Given the possibility for legal recourse from conference members like Baylor, who stand a decent chance of landing outside the four projected super conferences, Missouri has a significant vested interest in keeping any developments under wraps.

Last year, Mizzou said they “would listen” if they received an offer from the Big Ten, but the offer never came. The university has since pledged their commitment to the preservation of the Big 12, but a source told KBIA Sports that Missouri “would have to be crazy not to at least think about it,” if the Big 12 cannot be preserved.

All teams in the Big 12 made that same commitment, but Texas A&M explored other options in the wake of the creation of the University of Texas’ Longhorn Network, a joint venture with ESPN that some believe would give Texas an unfair recruiting advantage in the conference. Texas and Oklahoma have also begun to explore other options.

If the Big 12 successfully adds extra institutions to keep the conference intact, conventional logic would seem to indicate that Missouri would stay where they are, regardless of the invite to the SEC. Joining a new conference proposes a litany of unforeseeable consequences: would Mizzou lose their ability to successfully recruit out of the state of Texas? Would the team flourish or flounder in the smash-mouth style of play typical of the SEC?

Exactly who would be making the final call for a possible move to the SEC is unclear–most believe it would fall to Deaton or the Missouri Board of Curators, as reported by the Kansas City Star. A Sporting News source indicated that the SEC would only want to expand to 14 teams, with Mizzou being one of them. But according to the Star’s source, the SEC “apparently came to” Missouri with the proposal, and not the other way around.

Stay with KBIA Sports for additional updates. Follow us on Twitter, @KBIASportsExtra and @KBIASports.

Tough first week for former Mizzou Tigers in the NFL

By Nick Gerhardt

With 15 players playing for 10 NFL teams, Mizzou has finally established a verifiable presence on rosters across the NFL. Yet the former Tigers didn’t fare much better than the 2011 Tiger team did against Arizona State on Friday.  Sean Weatherspoon and Martin Rucker earned media attention for gaffes on key plays, and most of their former teammates scarcely saw the field, if at all.

Weatherspoon, Atlanta’s starting linebacker, led the Falcon’s in tackles on Sunday in a 30-12 loss to the Chicago Bears. Despite his statistically significant performance, coach Mike Smith berated “Spoon” on the sidelines after the linebacker failed to tackle Chicago running back Matt Forte during a 56-yard touchdown reception.

Weatherspoon went for the glory shot, lowering his shoulder pads into Forte’s chest instead of tackling the running back conventionally.

“I had some steam and thought I could just knock him over,” Weatherspoon told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s a good back. That’s where I have to be smarter and wrap him up.”

No one else touched Forte after Weatherspoon missed.

Mizzou alumnus and Falcon’s safety William Moore had three tackles in the loss.

Down by the bay, the 49ers’ two Smiths, defensive linemen Justin Smith and rookie Aldon Smith, took to the field for the first time in 2011. Justin Smith, a savvy 11-year veteran, sacked Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson twice and had four tackles overall. Aldon Smith entered the game for the first time on the third defensive play from scrimmage. He had no tackles, but he did bat down one of Jackson’s passes at the line. He replaced starter Parys Haralson whenever San Francisco lined up in the nickel package.

Former Mizzou quarterback and current Buffalo Bill’s wide receiver Brad Smith returned to the state of Missouri to face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills rolled the Chiefs 41-7, but Smith didn’t have much to do with it. He rushed three times for six yards, returned a kickoff 21 yards and threw an interception to Chiefs’ cornerback Brandon Flowers.

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin logged only one catch, for 20 yards, in the Eagle’s debut victory over former teammate Danario Alexander’s St. Louis Rams.
St. Louis deactivated Alexander, a wide receiver for the Rams as he was at Mizzou, for the contest.

Cowboy’s tight end Martin Rucker’s name never appears on the stat sheet after a Dallas loss to the New York Jets, but he still had an impact–albeit a negative one. After his teammate cornerback Bryan McCann steadied a punted ball on the opponent’s 1-yard line, Rucker swooped in and got his hands on the football. The tight end lost track of his feet, however, and when his toe touched the end zone chalk, Rucker essentially handed the Jets an extra 19 yards of valuable field position. It was the only time the announcers called Rucker’s name on Sunday.

San Diego Chargers’ reserve linebacker Andrew Gachkar recorded one assisted tackle, an unspectacular first stop for his NFL career.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Ziggy Hood had no tackles in the Steelers’ blowout loss to the Ravens, but make no mistake about it–Hood has established a place in defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defense. In a LeBeau “D,” though, the defensive tackles make fewer “stat” plays (tackles, forced fumbles, etc) because LeBeau predominately uses them to fill space in the trenches to open up the field for the linebacking corps. Hood subbed in frequently for starter Aaron Smith.

The Jaguars’ have the most Tigers on their roster of any NFL team, with backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, reserve cornerback Kevin Rutland, and the throwback–seven year veteran C.J. Mosley. Gabbert, a rookie, watched from the sidelines as Luke McCown led the Jags to a 16-14 finish over the Tennessee Titans. Fellow rookie Kevin Rutland was inactive for the game, and C.J. Mosley made no perceptible impact on the final outcome, statistically or otherwise.

Chase Daniel rocked the clipboard in New Orlean’s Thursday loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel has clearly expanded the program’s visibility on the professional level. Now, the waiting game begins. Will the influx or young former Missouri players make a major impact on the NFL this year?

Stay with KBIA Sports for more news on all the Tigers in the NFL.

Previewing Arizona State’s “Blackout” uniforms

The Sun Devils steal a page from Mizzou’s playbook tonight, hosting their inaugural “blackout” game Friday night at 9:30 pm. ASU players will wear the new all-black uniform, and fans have been asked to wear black to the game.

For Mizzou fans, the uniform ensemble may look familiar: black helmet, black jerseys, and black pants. Nike provided the uniform redesign, a complete departure from the Arizona State uniforms of the past. KBIA outlines the primary changes below.

Arizona State Sundevils' new black uniforms against Mizzou

Produced by Nick Gerhardt

Jacksonville releases starting QB David Garrard–so why isn’t Gabbert starting?

When Jacksonville used their No. 10 overrall draft pick on Missouri quarterbacking specimen Blaine Gabbert, football fans knew incumbent Jaguars’ starter David Garrard was playing on borrowed time. Today, after a full preseason, the Jags released Garrard, leaving that starting spot wide open.

Gabbert won’t get it, not now. 30-year-old Luke McCown, a reserve quarterback for the Jags in 2009 and 2010, steps in to the vacated spot.

Why not Gabbert?

For starters, Gabbert was the team’s third-string quarterback, and his performance this preseason did little to earn him a starting spot. He completed exactly half of his 70 passes and threw as many touchdowns (one) as he did interceptions.

ProFootballTalk.com talked to insiders who watched Gabbert practice in Jacksonville and attended every game he played; those insiders said Gabbert looked the part in practice, but could not efficiently run the cats’ offense.

From the outset, the young quarterback with flowing blonde locks had less time to adjust to the professional style of offense thanks to the NFL lockout. Without those extra reps, and with the questions about his intangibles still lingering from his playing days at Mizzou, Gabbert hardly seems like the kind of guy coach Jack Del Rio wants starting right now.

Still, the general sentiment among those in the media is that Gabbert will start by the end of the season. ESPN’s John Clayton pointed to week nine, when the Jaguars have a bye, as the ideal time to make the switch from McCown to Gabbert.

If you want my opinion, Gabbert will start sooner than he should. He looked solid at Missouri, maybe even better than solid, until then-Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh broke him in October of 2009. A fear of contact has followed Gabbert since high school, where he sat out the majority of his senior year with what teammates and their parents termed a “phantom injury” during his senior season at Parkway West (Ballwin, Mo.) High School.

Here’s a guy who has been groomed to play in the NFL since before he could drive. He left Mizzou a year early, may have checked-out of high school football before the end of his senior year, and now he may start early in the NFL.

Why isn’t he starting now? Because he probably shouldn’t be. So why would he start by the end of the season?

Because he plays in the perennially undersold EverBank Field in Jacksonville, where a lack of sellout crowds forces many of the Jags’ home games not to be broadcast locally per the league’s blackout policy. New quarterbacks, especially those with the size and arm strength Gabbert possesses, sell tickets.

McCown theoretically gives the Jaguars the best chance to fill those teal seats, because he gives them the best shot to win, according to Del Rio. At 6-foot-4, and just less than 220 pounds, McCown is an inch shorter, 15 pounds lighter, and nine years older than Gabbert. Those nine years of experience alone, even if McCown qualifies as little more than a journeyman, make him the better choice behind center.

By contrast, Gabbert has skipped several steps to find the most efficient path to the NFL. He has never played anything close to four years of consecutive football, in high school or college.

For his sake, and for the Jaguars, let’s hope he takes it slow for once

The incomparably calm James Franklin

James Franklin listens to John Mayer

James Franklin likes a dose of John Mayer before games. (Photo by Nick Gerhardt)

Starting quarterback James Franklin has not yet begun to establish his legacy on the field, but this much is already clear: Missouri football has never seen a gentleman quite like him. 

While his teammates’ pregame playlists include hip-hop and heavy rock, Franklin plugs in to some tunes with a little less pop.

“I don’t really listen to fast tempo music,” Franklin said.

“I kind of like to listen more to John Mayer, something like that.”

John Mayer? 

That’s right. Before willingly subjecting himself to full speed, bone-rattling collisions with 300 pound men, Mizzou’s starting quarterback warms up with something to the tune of, “Your body is a wonderland.”

“I don’t necessarily like to get amped up,” Franklin said. “I like to think. I like to relax.”

Each successive quarterback in assistant coach David Yost’s system has been markedly different from the last. Yes, they all ran the spread offense, with the quarterback positioned several yards behind the center in the shotgun. The similarities really end there.

“He can do some things that Blaine couldn’t do and Chase couldn’t do,” coach Gary Pinkel said.

Blaine Gabbert had all the preferred physical qualities of an NFL quarterback, despite questions about his so-called intangibles. Chase Daniel was a winner–an undersized, stubborn competitor who threw a catchable ball. Brad Smith had the wheels.

“He’s not Brad Smith running the football,” Yost said, “as far as that elusive wide receiver playing quarterback, but he ran the ball in high school.

“He has a feel for cutting back; he has a feel for the line blocking scheme in front of him,” Yost said.

So he can run, but can he carry the team? Franklin hasn’t yet shown the same kind of momentum-feeding leadership flashed by Smith and Daniel. His throws lack the velocity Gabbert put on the ball. Still, he could be the calmest field general the Tigers have lined up behind center during Pinkel’s tenure.

Asked what he likes most out of his quarterback, senior wide receiver Wes Kemp pointed to Franklin’s composure.

“I don’t see him get rattled too much. He’s not a curser, so he doesn’t really get down on himself. He might throw a bad ball one play, and the next play, he can’t remember what he did,” Kemp said.

During coach Pinkel’s tenure, a lack of continuity at quarterback has never hindered the Tigers–at least not yet. But until 11 a.m. Saturday, when Mizzou kicks-off against Miami of Ohio, no one really knows if Franklin can keep that streak of success going.

Critics question his ability to play with passion and intensity. Yet if he plays smart football and develops his ability to make quick decisions in the pocket, Franklin appears to have the gifts to guide a sufficiently talented Mizzou football team to a solid finish.

PHOTOS: Mizzou gets volleyball win against Tulane in Tiger Invitational

by Andrew Wamboldt

The Missouri Tigers got another win Saturday at the Tiger Invitational over Tulane.  Missouri swept the match 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-14), and is now 3-0 in the Tiger Invitational, winning games two games on Friday.

PHOTOS: Mizzou upsets No. 7 Ohio State in soccer

by Andrew Wamboldt

The Missouri Tigers got a 1-0 upset victory over No. 7 Ohio State in soccer on Friday night.  Missouri midfielder Dominique Richardson scored the game’s only goal in the 50th minute. With the win, the Tigers improve to 2-1 on the young season.

Fall scrimmage: With emphasis on game-winning scenarios, defense triumphs again

DEFENSE 12-OFFENSE 8

Thursday’s Tiger football scrimmage didn’t look like a full-game simulation between the offense and defense. Instead Mizzou ran a combination of drills tailored towards finishing games.

Coach Gary Pinkel ran a “four minute drill” for the first time. It simulates the final four-to-five minute period of ball games. The defensive objective: to force the opposition off the field in three downs in order to get the ball back to its offense and to force the opposition to burn its timeouts before the offense takes the field. For the offense, they play as if the team has a small lead in the final minutes; they try to run as much time as possible off the clock while still making progress down the field.

DEFENSE

The starting defense allowed a sustained drive down the field, but prevented the offense from reaching the end zone, instead settling for a field goal.  For a unit expected to be one of the best in the Big 12, Pinkel wants to see more intensity.

“I think they’re doing some good things. That’s the message we’re sending to our football team:  we have to feel the urgency of getting better, because we’re running out of time.”

Trey Hobson (Photo by Nick Gerhardt)

Cornerback Trey Hobson showed off his nose for the ball. He intercepted Jimmy Costello against the No. 2 offense and returned the pick 12 yards for a touchdown. Later in practice he reeled in a poorly-thrown, deflected Corbin Berkstresser pass against the No. 4 offense. Back-up linebacker Tony Randolph–wearing No. 34, the same number as defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson–also had an interception.

Defensive linemen Michael Sam, a redshirt sophomore, and redshirt freshmen Kony Ealy stood out in the trenches, an encouraging sign for an already-stacked defensive line.  Ealy broke up two passes and constantly irritated the offensive line by finding ways into the backfield. Michael Sam recorded a sack, and like Ealy, found himself on the offense’s side of the ball often.

Both should be solid contributors to a sterling defense, either in their current back-up role or as starters if current starters Jacquies Smith or Brad Madison go down.

According to starting nose tackle Terrell Resonno, Ealy’s biggest hurdle isn’t opposing offense players. He can handle them; can he handle the heightened emotional atmosphere of college football?

“When he starts getting into game situations, playing will come easy,” Resonno said.

“That’s my roommate, and I talk to him a lot. I told him, just learn early that you have to be mentally tough. Because in a situation like (Ealy’s on-field confrontation with tackle Justin Britt last week), he has a chance to lose us the game.”

To his credit, Ealy kept his cool on Thursday.

Strong-side linebacker Andrew Wilson didn’t deliver one of his trademark big hits during the scrimmage, but he looked great pursuing the ball carrier. Speedy running back Kendial Lawrence had a wide open field in front of him on a sweep play to the outside, but Wilson tracked him down in the open field and held the running back to a gain of just two yards. Even the best defenses can’t stop the offense for no gain on every play. When the team’s defensive line and linebackers can keep explosive playmakers like Lawrence in check, it’s a good sign with the Tigers set to play each of the ten Big 12 teams at least once this season.

Nose guard Dominique Hamilton consistently popped up as the most impressive player on a given play. He swatted the ball down at the line of scrimmage; he sacked the quarterback; he made his presence known whenever he was the field. His season ended prematurely against Oklahoma last year. Now he’s primed for an elite return.

Back-up interior lineman Jimmy Burge dressed for the first time this week after suffering a concussion on August 13.

Jacquies Smith was seen on the sidelines with the medical staff, but Pinkel said he should be fine.

Overall, the defense has playmakers everywhere, from the starting 11  to the guys listed three or four spots below on the depth chart released in late July (the team promises to release a new depth chart in the next couple of days).

“We’re doing awesome in camps, getting better every day. This is giong to be a very good defense,” Andrew Wilson said.

 OFFENSE

Given the emphasis on clock management on Thursday, it should come as no surprise that the running backs stood out.

RB Kendial Lawrence runs past an offensive lineman in a running drill at Mizzou football practice.

Kendial Lawrence delivered another 60-yard touchdown run, but he wasn’t the most important running back on that play. Junior Jared Culver, a stocky back with a potential niche as a short-yardage runner, lined up at full back. When a defensive lineman broke free into the backfield, Culver delivered a devastating block as Lawrence cut back and hit the gap. Lawrence surely would have been tackled for a loss otherwise.

That scoring run masked an otherwise unimpressive day for Lawrence, who had just 16 yards on his other 10 carries. If he wants to be this team’s starting tailback, he will have to find a way to power through first contact. Otherwise, Lawrence will be a change-of-pace back–no matter how badly the coaching staff wants to avoid labels.

“We need big play guys,” head coach Gary Pinkel said. “But we’re going to play all three (Lawrence, De’Vion Moore, and Henry Josey) of the guys.”

Most of the credit  for that scoring run goes to the defensive secondary, which failed to stay back and keep the running back in front of them to make the tackle. Lawrence just had to do what he did best–accelerate and out-race everyone else on the field.

Freshman tailback Tyler Hunt left an impression. He scampered for 23 yards and a touchdown on four carries. His defining play of the afternoon came when he trucked freshman cornerback Earnest Payton (Payton redeemed himself on the next play, very nearly intercepting QB Corbin Berkstresser).

Speaking of Corbin–what happened? After a lot of hype early in fall practice, Corbin has struggled to run the offense at full speed. His proficiency in 7-on-7 drills remains, but with lineman and linebackers rushing in, his throws have been wildly inaccurate. On a more positive note, Berkstresser has phenomenal pocket presence for a true freshman. And check this stat out–with 22 yards on 5 attempts, he out-rushed starter James Franklin. This kid can run. When and if he assimilates into the college-level spread offense, he could give Franklin a serious push for playing time…in a year, or two.

Starter James Franklin accuracy has improved markedly, but he will need to find a way to come through on third down and red-zone situations. Blaine Gabbert never quite figured that element of the game out, but he bolted for the NFL thanks to his ideal build for a pro quarterback. If Franklin can find that “it” factor on make-or-break downs, Mizzou will be dangerous this year.

INJURIES: Defensive linemen Brad Madison, wide receiver Jerrell Jackson, center Travis Ruth, and safety Kenji Jackson—all starters—were in “no contact” red shirts on Thursday, but Pinkel targeted next Tuesday for their return.

Marcus Murphy and Elvis Fisher remain sidelined for the year.