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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

62nd Annual Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament

Blue Division

Pool 1

McCluer North

Normandy

Carnahan

Pool 2

Cardinal Ritter

Pacific

Rockwood Summit

Gold Division

Pool 1

CBC

Soldan

Washington

Pool 2

Borgia

North Tech

Union

Monday, Nov. 24

CBC 77, Washington 52

Tuesday, Nov. 25

Cardinal Ritter vs. Rockwood Summit, PPD

Washington 63, Soldan 62

Borgia 83, Union 50

Wednesday, Nov. 26

Carnahan 71, Normandy 46

Pacific 64, Rockwood Summit 22

North Tech 67, Union 37

Thursday, Nov. 27

McCluer North 95 Carnahan 68

CBC 82, Soldan 55

Borgia 50, North Tech 45

Friday, Nov. 28

McCluer North 93, Normandy 39

Pacific 70, Cardinal Ritter 57

Saturday, Nov. 29

Blue Consolation — Rockwood Summit 47, Normandy 38

Gold Consolation — Soldan 78, Union 59

Gold Third Place — North Tech 63, Washington 57

Blue Third Place — Cardinal Ritter 71, Carnahan 46

Blue Championship — McCluer North 64, Pacific 58 (OT)

Gold Championship — CBC 67, Borgia 66

Boys Basketball

Monday, Dec. 8

Lutheran S 64, St. Clair 48

Borgia 61, Carnahan 51

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Lafayette 44, Washington 35

Friday, Dec. 12

Potosi 72, St. Clair 45

*Washington 69, Ft. Zumwalt North 65

Montgomery Co 62, New Haven 61

*St. Mary’s at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

Bourbon 75, Union 74

Glendale 63, Pacific 46

Saturday, Dec. 13

New Haven 46, Barat 40

Nixa 56, Pacific 46

Tuesday, Dec. 16

*Pacific 70, New Haven 35

*Hermann 67, St. Clair 49

*Ft. Zumwalt South 61, Washington 50

*Union 81, St. James 74

Friday, Dec. 19

*Owensville at St. Clair    4 p.m.

Washington vs. Parkway Central, GAC/Suburban Shootout, St. Charles Family Arena, 5:30 p.m.

*St. James at New Haven    6 p.m.

*Pacific at Union    7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20

Sullivan Shootout

Owensville vs. Rockwood Summit, 11:30 a.m.

St. Clair vs. Lindbergh, 1 p.m.

Jefferson City vs. Jackson, 2:30 p.m.

Washington vs. Lutheran South, 4 p.m.

Borgia vs. Poplar Bluff, 5:30 p.m.

Sullivan vs. Affton, 7 p.m.

Girls Basketball

Saturday, Dec. 6

Cor Jesu 63, Borgia 60

New Haven 46, Moberly 39

Monday, Dec. 8

Pacific 73, Rolla 40

St. Clair 68, Dixon 37

Washington 54, New Haven 15

Tuesday, Dec. 9

*Borgia 59, Rosati-Kain 38

Union 53, Northwest 44

Thursday, Dec. 11

*Borgia 60, Notre Dame 53

Union 81, Bourbon 53

Friday, Dec. 12

New Haven 45, Principia 30

*Washington 59, Ft. Zumwalt North 32

Saturday, Dec. 13

West Plains 76, Pacific 37

Monday, Dec. 15

*Pacific 46, New Haven 28

*St. Clair 59, Hermann 50

*St. James 64, Union 37

Sullivan Tournament

Cuba 48, Principia 27

Borgia 68, Patriettes 29

Sullivan 56, Pattonville 43

Owensville 78, Farmington 54

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Sullivan Tournament

Farmington 61, Pattonville 39

Sullivan 68, Owensville 64

Principia 55, St. Louis Patriettes 42

Borgia 56, Cuba 38

Thursday, Dec. 18

*St. James 72, New Haven 21

*Union 49, Pacific 48

Friday, Dec. 19

Washington at Francis Howell    7 p.m.

Sullivan Tournament

Seventh Place — Pattonville vs. St. Louis Patriettes, 4 p.m.

Consolation — Farmington vs. Principia, 5:30 p.m.

Third Place — Owensville vs. Cuba, 7 p.m.

Championship — Borgia vs. Sullivan, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20

Union at Waynesville    5 p.m.

Wrestling

Monday, Dec. 8

Maplewood 48, Borgia 30

Brentwood 47, Borgia 36

Winfield 48, St. Clair 36

St. Clair 42, St. James 40

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Pacific 55, North County 10

Jackson 63, Washington 12

Farmington 63, Washington 6

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Borgia 36, Lutheran St. Charles 34

Winfield 54, Borgia 30

Thursday, Dec. 11

Union 72, Ft. Zumwalt East 9

Union 52, Principia 30

Union 54, Winfield 27

Saturday, Dec. 13

Union Tournament    9 a.m.

Borgia at McCluer S-Berkeley Tny    9 a.m.

Pacific at Farmington Tny    9 a.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 16

Owensville 61, St. Clair 16

Union 48, Owensville 27

Union 65, St. Clair 18

Friday, Dec. 19

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Saturday, Dec. 20

Washington at Raytown S Tny    TBA

Union at Cape Central Tny    TBA

Pacific at Ft. Zumwalt E Tny    TBA

Girls Swimming

Monday, Dec. 8

Washington at Eureka    4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 9

Washington at Nerinx Hall    4 p.m.

LSC/OFC 134, Borgia 101, St. Dominic 83

Monday, Dec. 15

Borgia at Notre Dame (Forest Park)    4 p.m.

Kennedy 88, Washington 84

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Lindbergh 128, Washington 48

*Conference Games

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