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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

Senior Legion

Tuesday, July 1

*Daniel Boone 14, Pacific 3

*Washington 20, Sullivan 5

Wednesday, July 2

*Daniel Boone 8, Pacific 2

*Washington 11, St. Peters 1

Thursday, July 3

*Washington 11, St. Charles 0

Friday, July 4

*Pacific at St. Peters    1:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 5

*Washington 20, Pacific 1

Sunday, July 6

*Washington 11, Warrenton 2

Monday, July 7

Washington 9, Creve Coeur 7

Blue Springs Wood Bat Tournament

Wednesday, July 9

Washington 7, Gravette Lions 0

Thursday, July 10

Washington vs. Post 339 West (Bellevue, Neb.), Blue Springs South High School, 2 p.m.

Friday, July 11

Washington vs. Geiger Redi-Mix (Leavenworth, Kan.), Hidden Valley No. 1, 11:30 a.m.

Washington vs. Hawthorne Outlaws (Lee's Summit), Jim Moran Field (Hidden Valley), 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 12

Washington vs. TBA, TBA

Sunday, July 13

Semifinal Games, 11 a.m.

Championship, 2 p.m.

Junior Legion

Tuesday, July 1

*Union 5, New Haven 0

*Union 7, New Haven 4

*St. Charles 12, Pacific 5

Thursday, July 3

*Union 13, Hannibal 2

*Union 10, Hannibal 3

*Elsberry at Pacific    7 p.m.

Saturday, July 5

*Daniel Boone at Pacific (DH)    10 a.m.

Union 6, Crocker 5

Union 13, Crocker 7

Freshman Legion

Tuesday, July 1

*Washington 16, Pacific 1

Wednesday, July 2

*Washington 11, St. Peters 0

Ninth District Tournament Schedules

Junior Legion

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 vs. Wentzville, 6 p.m.

G10 Elsberry vs. St. Charles, 8:30 p.m.

Friday, July 11

G11 St. Peters vs. Washington, 6 p.m.

G12 G9 winner vs. G10 winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 12

G13 G11 loser vs. G12 winner, 2 p.m.

G14 Championship — G11 winner vs. G13 winner, 5 p.m.

Sunday, July 13

G15 If-Needed Game — G14 winner vs. G14 loser, 2 p.m.

Ninth District Tournament Schedules

Freshman Legion

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 Hannibal vs. St. Peters, 6 p.m.

G10 Elsberry-Winfield vs. Wentzville, 8:30 p.m.

Friday, July 11

G12 G9 winner vs. G10 winner, 6 p.m.

G11 St. Charles vs. Washington, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 12

G13 G11 loser vs. G12 winner, 1 p.m.

G14 Championship — G11 winner vs. G13 winner, 4 p.m.

Sunday, July 13

G15 If-Needed Game — G14 winner vs. G14 loser, 1 p.m.

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

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    8 a.m.

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    6 p.m.

7-12    at Division Meet, Pacific    8 a.m.

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.

Great Midwest Football League

July 5

Missouri Cyclones 22, Midwest Chargers 14

Ninth District Standings

July 1, 2014

District Games Only

Senior Legion

Team    Wins    Losses

West    11    2

Daniel Boone 262    9    3

Washington 218    11    5

St. Charles 312    9    5

Elsberry 226    8    5

Wentzville 323    5    5

St. Peters 313    7    7

Pacific 320    3    10

Warrenton 122    0    10

Sullivan 18    1    12

2014 Final Standings

Junior Legion

Team    Wins    Losses

Elsberry 226    20    2

Union 297    19    3

Washington 218    18    4

St. Charles 312    14    8

St. Peters 313    12    10

Wentzville 323    12    10

Hannibal 55    10    12

New Haven 366    9    13

Daniel Boone 262    5    14

Warrenton 122    3    16

Pacific 320    3    15

Sullivan 18    0    20

Freshman Legion

Team    Wins    Losses

St. Charles 312    20    0

Washington 218    17    3

Hannibal 55    16    4

Elsberry-Winfield 226    14    6

Wentzville 323    9    11

Warrenton 122    8    12

West    7    13

St. Peters 313    6    14

New Haven 366    5    15

Pacific 320    4    16

Elsberry 226    4    16

*Indicates League Games

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