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No. 5 Missouri Reaching New Heights

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Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 4:30 pm

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Few outside of the Missouri locker room expected the Tigers to compete in the Southeastern Conference in just their second season in the league.

Predicted to finish sixth in the SEC East, the team is now ranked fifth in the country and holds a two-game lead in the division.

The Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) remained healthy until quarterback James Franklin and cornerback E.J. Gaines sustained injuries Oct. 12 at Georgia. But they won again Saturday, beating Florida at home and now are preparing to face No. 20 South Carolina with a chance to practically wrap up the division.

Though the goals are getting much bigger.

“We’d be dumb if our goal wasn’t to go to a national championship,” left tackle Justin Britt said.

Coming off one of the “most difficult up-and-down” years he’s had as a coach, Gary Pinkel said he didn’t do a good job of managing his team’s emotions when it went 5-7 last season.

This year’s group has more fun, he said, citing an example of how his players participate in sing-a-longs before Wednesday practices.

“That doesn’t mean that you’re going to win all your games, either,” Pinkel said. “What it means is you’re going to have a group of guys who care about each other. . It’s just the chemistry that happens for teams. It’s really cool to see it.”

On the field, the 13th-year Missouri coach eliminated two-a-day practices in August in part to show his players that the staff cared about their health.

When Franklin and Gaines went down, their substitutes step in and stepped up.

Quarterback Maty Mauk led eight scoring drives and cornerback Aarion Penton nabbed his first interception in a 36-17 win against Florida.

“You came to perform at the college level,” Mauk said. “It kind of is nerve-wracking, but at the same time, it’s what you’re here to do.”

Now the team’s challenge is to focus on South Carolina (5-2, 3-2) and not its status in the polls. In 2008, the Tigers lost consecutive games after opening the season 5-0 and reaching No. 3 in the country. Two years later, following a 36-27 win over No. 3 Oklahoma to start 7-0, they again lost their next two contests.

Pinkel recalled talking to the late Don James after defeating the Sooners, listening impatiently as his mentor and former coach told him the next game would be even more difficult as he needed to keep his team grounded. But now Pinkel’s thankful for that lesson, and preaches it to his team.

“I don’t think we’ve accomplished much,” receiver L’Damian Washington said. “Georgia, last week, you’d have thought, ‘OK, that’s a big win.’ After the game, we were like, ‘OK, that’s just step six.’ And this was step seven, and next week is step eight.”

Winning its first seven games by at least 15 points apiece, Missouri has rediscovered the potent offense it employed from 2007-11 when it went 48-19 and averaged 34.9 points per game.

Under new coordinator Josh Henson, this year’s team has bumped that number to 44.3, thanks to 279 yards per game through the air and another 234.4 on the ground.

Defensively, Missouri has limited opponents to 22.1 points and 381 yards per game, including just 116.6 rushing yards. The Tigers lead the SEC with 23 sacks, and end Michael Sam is tied for first nationally with nine.

The gaudy numbers don’t necessarily translate into wins, but they explain why Missouri is in the driver’s seat in the SEC East. If they win their next two games at home against the Gamecocks and Tennessee, the Tigers will clinch a berth in the conference championship game Dec. 7 in Atlanta.

“Personally, I like being the underdog, because not a lot of people were expecting us to do the things that we’re doing right now,” center Evan Boehm said. “And we’re out there to create those big eyes and say, ‘Holy cow, where did Mizzou come from?’”

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Area Scoreboard

Area Sports Schedule

American Legion Baseball

Ninth District Senior Legion Tournament

Thursday, July 17

At Westhoff Park

G1 (1) West 11, (8) Pacific 1

G2 (4) St. Charles 17, (5) Elsberry 2

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G3 (3) Washington 4, (6) Wentzville 0

G4 (2) Daniel Boone 8, (7) St. Peters 2

Friday, July 18

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G5 Elsberry 8, Pacific 3

G6 St. Peters 9, Wentzville 1

At Westhoff Park

G7 St. Charles 4, West 1

G8 Daniel Boone 7, Washington 4

Saturday, July 19

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G9 Washington 9, Elsberry 4

G10 West 9, St. Peters 6

G12 West 14, Washington 1

At Westhoff Park

G11 St. Charles def. Daniel Boone (fft)

Sunday, July 20

Rest at Westhoff Park

G13 Championship — West 2, St. Charles 1 (13 innings)

Monday, July 21

G14 If-Needed Game — St. Charles 13, West 11

Zone 1 Senior Legion Tournament

At Lindenwood University, St. Charles

Thursday, July 24

G1 West 13, Daniel Boone Post 262 8

G2 Jefferson City Post 5 11, Hannibal Post 55 2

Friday, July 25

G3 West 11, St. Charles Post 312 1

G4 Daniel Boone 10, Hannibal 2

Saturday, July 26

G5 Jefferson City 9, West 2

G6 St. Charles 11, Daniel Boone 10

G7 West 6, St. Charles 2

Sunday, July 27

G8 Championship — West 11, Jefferson City 0

G9 If-Needed Game — Jefferson City 14, West 12

Jefferson City advances to state tournament in Sedalia.

Senior Legion State Tournament

At Liberty Park, Sedalia

Thursday, July 31

G1 Jefferson City Post 5 11, Lee’s Summit Post 189 Aux. Outlaws 2

G2 Festus Post 253 9, Joplin Miners 2

Friday, Aug. 1

G3 Jefferson City vs. Festus, noon

G4 Lee’s Summit vs. Joplin, 3 p.m.

G5 G3 loser vs. G4 winner, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 2

G6 Championship — G3 winner vs. G5 winner, 1 p.m.

G7 If-needed game — G6 winner vs. G6 loser, 4 p.m.

Ninth District Junior Legion Tournament

Tuesday, July 8

At Union High School

G1 (1) Elsberry 3, (8) New Haven 0

At Ronsick Field

G4 (3) Washington 7, (6) Wentzville 1

G4 (2) Union 8, (7) Hannibal 1

At St. Peters Rec-Plex

G2 (5) St. Peters 8, (4) St. Charles 6

Wednesday, July 9

At New Haven

G5 Wentzville 4, New Haven 0

G6 St. Charles 8, Hannibal 7 (9 innings)

At Ronsick Field

G7 St. Peters 5, Elsberry 2

G8 Washington 2, Union 1

Remainder at Ronsick Field

Thursday, July 10

G9 Union 7, Wentzville 1

G10 Elsberry 3, St. Charles 2

Friday, July 11

G11 Washington 12, St. Peters 11 (10 innings)

G12 Elsberry 6, Union 3

Saturday, July 12

G13 Elsberry 4, St. Peters 3

G14 Championship — Washington 3, Elsberry 1

Washington wins district, to host Zone 1 Tournament at Borgia. Schedule below.

Junior Legion Zone 1 Tournament

At Borgia

Thursday, June 17

G1 Elsberry Post 226 10, Chillicothe Post 25 2

Friday, June 18

G2 Washington Post 218 5, Elsberry 1

G3 Chillicothe 5, Elsberry 4

Saturday, June 19

G4 Championship — Washington 16, Chillicothe 0 (5 innings)

Washington advances to State Tournament in Jackson.

Junior Legion State Tournament

At Jackson

Thursday, July 24

G1 Jackson 3, Springfield Glendale 2

G2 Eureka 7, Sedalia 0

Friday, June 25

G3 Jackson 8, Washington 3

G4 Springfield Glendale 8, Sedalia 3

G5 Jackson 4, Eureka 2

G6 Washington 8, Springfield Glendale 0

Saturday, June 26

G7 Eureka 11, Washington 10 (9 innings)

G8 Championship — Jackson 7, Eureka 6

Jackson advances to Regional Tournament in Leavenworth, Kan.

Sunday, June 27

G9 If-Needed Game — G8 winner vs. G8 loser, 1 p.m.

Freshman Legion Ninth District Tournament

Tuesday, July 8

At Elsberry Legion Field

G1 (1) St. Charles 7, (8) St. Peters 0

G2 (4) Elsberry-Winfield 4, (5) Wentzville 3

At Elsberry Khoury League Field

G3 (3) Hannibal 3, (6) Warrenton 2

G4 (2) Washington 10, (7) West 1

Wednesday, July 9

At Elsberry Khoury League Field

G5 St. Peters 17, Warrenton 6

G6 Wentzville 5, West 4

At Elsberry Legion Field

G7 St. Charles 10, Elsberry-Winfield 2

G8 Washington 3, Hannibal 0

Remainder at Elsberry Legion Field

Thursday, July 10

G9 St. Peters 11, Hannibal 9

G10 Elsberry-Winfield 13, Wentzville 4

Friday, July 11

G12 Elsberry-Winfield 8, St. Peters 3

G11 Washington 6, St. Charles 0, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 12

G13 St. Charles 10, Elsberry-Winfield 1

G14 Championship — St. Charles 5, Washington 2

Sunday, July 13

G15 If-Needed Game — St. Charles 2, Washington 0

Missouri Freshman

Legion State Tournament

At Rotary Recreational

Complex - Ronsick Field

Wednesday, July 16

G1 Creve Coeur Post 397 16, St. Robert Post 331 2

G2 Ste. Genevieve Post 150 4, St. Charles Post 312 0

G3 Jackson Post 158 1, vs. Springfield Glendale Merchants 0

G4 Washington Post 218 9, Eureka Post 177 4

Thursday, July 17

G5 Springfield Glendale 11, St. Robert 1 (St. Robert eliminated)

G6 St. Charles 10, Eureka 2 (Eureka eliminated)

G7 Ste. Genevieve 4, Creve Coeur 2

G8 Washington 12, Jackson 10

Friday, July 18

G9 Jackson 12, Springfield Glendale 0 (Springfield Glendale eliminated)

G10 Creve Coeur 8, St. Charles 3 (St. Charles eliminated)

G11 Ste. Genevieve 3, Washington 2

G12 Creve Coeur 11, Jackson 7 (Jackson eliminated)

Saturday, July 19

G13 Washington 8, Creve Coeur 3 (Creve Coeur eliminated)

G14 Championship—Washington 5, Ste. Genevieve 2

Sunday, July 20

G15 Championship Game 2—Washington 3, Ste. Genevieve 0

Great Midwest Football League

July 19

Missouri Cyclones 34, Illinois Justice 0

Swim Team Schedules

Washington Swim Team

Date    Opponent    Time/Result

6-9    at Oaks Landing    Washington 192-100

6-16    Westglen    Washington 259-206

6-23    at Fox Creek    Washington 311-225

6-30    at Chadwick    Chadwick 264-258

7-7    Cherry Hills    Washington 291-140

7-11 at Division Meet, Westminster Christian First

Pacific Swim Team

Date    Opponent    Time/Result

6-9    Lake of the Woods    LOtW 176-130

6-16    at Union    Union 289-220

6-23    Bridle Creek    Pacific 371-124

6-30    at Arbor Oaks    Pacific 282-241

7-7    at Indian Hills    Cancelled, weather

7-12    Division Meet    First

Union Swim Team

Date    Opponent    Time/Result

6-9    at Arbor Oaks    Union 180-120

6-16    Pacific    Union 289-220

6-23    at Lake of the Woods    LoTW 312-201

6-30    Indian Hills    Union 322-275

7-7    Bridle Creek    PPD

7-12    at Division Meet, Pacific    Third

Pacific Diving Team

Date    Opponent    Time

6-14    at MAC West    MAC West 40-30

6-21    at Lindgate    Lindgate

6-28    at Cool Dell    9 a.m.

7-13    at Championships    8 a.m.

*Indicates League Games

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