Story by Joe Vozzelli
Photos by Peter Marek
MIssouri defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson drags Jordan Rodgers to the ground for his only sack of the night on Oct. 6, 2012 at Faurot Field. The sack was a lone bright spot in the 19-15 Missouri loss. Photo by Peter Marek.
For the second straight time in a home Southeastern Conference game, Missouri’s players listened as the opposing teams’ fans serenaded them.
While Vanderbilt ran out the clock late in the fourth quarter to secure a 19-15 victory over Missouri, Commodores fans chanted “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C” to remind Missouri that the team has yet to record a conference win in its inaugural SEC season.
The barb was reminiscent of Georgia’s “old-man football” chant after beating the Tigers on September 8, turning lineman Sheldon Richardson’s comments into a derisive farewell.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said it’s hard to formulate a message for his players after a tough loss.
“It’s just difficult. I don’t think there’s any magic (answer) to it there,” he said. “Our guys are very competitive and they want to win and be successful. I’ve been here before and we don’t like it.”
Missouri defensive back Kip Edwards didn’t shy away from being honest about scene in the Tigers’ locker room after the game.
“It’s quiet, you don’t hear anybody talking. It hurts,” he said.
Edwards had an interesting reaction, though, when he was asked if this loss to the Commodores has led to frustration within the locker room.
“Frustration? No, I don’t think there’s any frustration when we’ve got a game next week,” he said.
Pinkel saw a combination of emotions from his players after they walked back to the locker room following the game.
“They’re frustrated, they’re angry and they should be,” he said.
Part of the dismay had to stem from Missouri’s offensive woes after quarterback James Franklin suffered a knee injury. Franklin appeared to suffer the injury on a 23-yard run in the first quarter, receiving a helmet-to-knee hit from Commodores safety Eric Samuels. Franklin stayed in the game for the remainder of Missouri’s offensive series, which resulted in a 28-yard Andrew Baggett field goal to give Missouri a 6-0 lead.
The injury forced Franklin into the Missouri locker room. He emerged later, wearing sweatpants and a black baseball hat. Franklin has a strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, Pinkel said, and will miss “a few weeks.” The coach doesn’t expect Missouri’s starting quarterback to play against Alabama next Saturday.
Franklin also missed Missouri’s game against Arizona State on September 15 because of an inflamed bursa sac in his right throwing shoulder.
Pinkel said this season has been tough on Franklin.
“James was really playing good. So I feel bad for him. Seems like, for some reason, the injury bug has hit him,” Pinkel said.
Franklin wasn’t the only Missouri player to leave the game with an injury. Tailback/punt returner Marcus Murphy left with a dislocated ring finger and starting center Mitch Morse came out with a knee injury. Pinkel doesn’t expect Morse to play against Alabama either. The Tigers also missed linebacker Will Ebner, the team’s leading tackler, who sat out the contest with an injured hamstring.
Also missing from the game was freshman Dorial Green-Beckham, who was suspended from the game after being arrested earlier in the week on a drug charge.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser, who took over for Franklin, struggled for much of the game, going 9-for-30 with 189 yards and a touchdown.
Most of Berkstresser’s passing yards happened on an 85-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Bud Sasser. The touchdown reception was Missouri’s longest pass completion since a 98-yard hookup between quarterback Pete Woods and tailback Joe Stewart against Nebraska in October 1976.
Sasser wasn’t sure if the pass was intended for him, or wide receiver Gahn McGaffie, who jumped for the ball, as well.
The long touchdown closed Missouri’s deficit to 16-15 with an extra point left but the Tigers weren’t able to tie the game, bobbling the point after snap.
Sasser said mistakes like those can be “game changers.”
Defensive end Kony Ealy said Missouri’s struggles on offense didn’t cause the Missouri defense to become frustrated, even though the defense held the Commodores to 295 total offense yards.
“We’ve got to execute our plays. You can’t get frustrated with anybody else. You’ve got to do your job,” he said.
Missouri (3-3) will need to execute on a high level next week when it faces No. 1 Alabama (5-0). The Tigers will play host to the Crimson Tide at 2:30 p.m. at Faurot Field on CBS.
Edwards was blunt about how the team should approach the week leading up to the Alabama game.
“It’s time for our leaders to lead and our captains to lead as well,” he said.