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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.

/sports

Area Scoreboard

Football

Week 10 Schedule Playoff Round 1

Friday, Oct. 24

Washington at Battle    7 p.m.

Kennedy at Borgia    7 p.m.

Pacific at Union    7 p.m.

Priory at Sullivan    7 p.m.

Salem at St. James    7 p.m.

Southern Boone at Owensville    7 p.m.

Transportation and Law at Hermann    7 p.m.

Moberly at Warrenton    7 p.m.

Wright City at O’Fallon Christian    7 p.m.

Jefferson at Cuba    7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 25

St. Clair at Westminster    2:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 17

Francis Howell N 24, Washington 20

Westminster 35, Borgia 14

*Union 35, Hermann 32

*St. Clair 26, Owensville 12

*Pacific 34, St. James 22

Helias 56, Sullivan 3

Ft. Zumwalt East 42, Warrenton 0

*Clopton-Elsberry 20, Wright City 0

Saturday, Oct. 18

Hogan Prep 49, Cuba 6

Friday, Oct. 10

Holt 21, Washington 14

Borgia 42, St. Clair 7

Union 68, St. James 20

Hermann 32, Pacific 24 (OT)

Sullivan 38, Owensville 12

Orchard Farm 28, Warrenton 3

Wright City 22, North Callaway 18

Father Tolton 35, Cuba 0

Friday, Oct. 3

*Ft. Zumwalt East 62, Washington 35

*Borgia 49, St. Mary's 11

*Union 56, Owensville 16

*Hermann 38, St. Clair 0

Festus 39, Pacific 14

*Sullivan 40, St. James 10

Cuba 46, Lincoln 38

*Warrenton 47, Winfield 6

*Van-Far 24, Wright City 18

Friday, Sept. 26

Union 54, Washington 14

*Borgia 45, Duchesne 7

*St. Clair 57, St. James 55 (2 OT)

*Pacific 40, Owensville 34

*Hermann 24, Sullivan 12

Cuba 74, Liberty Wentzville 7

Parkway West 20, Warrenton 7

Mark Twain 32, Wright City 18

Softball

Sectional Games

Wednesday, Oct. 15

Bolivar 17, Sullivan 2

Mexico 5, Warrenton 4

Thursday, Oct. 16

Pacific 12, Rosati-Kain 0

Saturday, Oct. 18

Quarterfinal — De Soto 5, Pacific 2

District Tournaments

Softball

Class 4 District 4

Wednesday, Oct. 8

(4) Northwest 11, (5) Rolla 3

Saturday, Oct. 11

(1) Lafayette 3, Northwest 1

(2) Eureka 4, (3) Washington 0

Monday, Oct. 13

Championship — Eureka 5, Lafayette 0

Class 3 District 3

At Lutheran South

Wednesday, Oct. 8

(4) Affton 3, (5) Bishop DuBourg 2

(3) Pacific 21, (6) Bayless 0

Sunday, Oct. 12

(1) Lutheran South 11, Affton 1

Pacific 1, (2) Notre Dame 0

Championship — Pacific 2, Lutheran South 1

Class 3 District 7

At St. Dominic

Wednesday, Oct. 8

(4) Borgia 9, (5) Wentzville Liberty 8

(3) Winfield 15, (6) O’Fallon Christian 1

Saturday, Oct. 11

At Borgia

(1) St. Dominic 12, Borgia 3

(2) Warrenton 11, Winfield 2

Championship — Warrenton 1, St. Dominic 0

Class 3 District 9

At Sullivan

Wednesday, Oct. 8

(4) St. James 12, (5) Owensville 3

(3) Sullivan 11, (6) St. Clair 1

Saturday, Oct. 11

At Union High School

St. James 10, (1) Union 5

Sullivan 5 (2) Salem 4 (8 innings)

Championship — Sullivan 11, St. James 6

Class 2 District 10

At New Bloomfield

Wednesday, Oct. 8

(4) New Bloomfield 5, (5) Belle 0

(3) South Callaway 9, (6) Hermann 0

Saturday, Oct. 11

South Callaway 7, (2) Linn 2

(1) Fatima 6, New Bloomfield 1

Championship — Fatima 7, South Callaway 4

Class 1 District 4

At Community R6, Laddonia

Wednesday, Oct. 8

(4) Wellsville-Middletown 8, (5) New Haven 2

(3) Van-Far 4, (6) Community R6 2

Saturday, Oct. 11

(1) Clopton 13, Wellsville 0

(2) Silex 10, Van-Far 0

Championship — Silex 3, Clopton 0

Volleyball

Monday, Oct. 13

De Soto def. St. Clair, 25-20, 25-14

Warrenton at Union    5:30 p.m.

Ft. Zumwalt North def.  Pacific, 25-19, 25-21 

Fatima at New Haven    5:30 p.m.

Owensville at Cuba    5:30 p.m.

Borgia def. Hermann, 25-15, 25-11

Tuesday, Oct. 14

Panthers Home School at Crosspoint    4:30 p.m.

*Washington def. Ft. Zumwalt East, 25-23, 25-10

*Pacific def. St. Clair, 25-20, 25-20

*Sullivan def. Union, 25-14, 25-22

*St. James at Hermann    5:30 p.m.

*New Havent def. Owensville

*Rosati-Kain def. Borgia, 25-22, 25-21

Wednesday, Oct. 15

ECC at Culver-Stockton JV    6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 16

*Washington def. Ft. Zumwalt S, 25-10, 25-12

Hillsboro def. St. Clair, 25-12, 25-21

Villa Duchesne def. Borgia, 23-25, 25-13, 26-24

Friday, Oct. 17

ECC at Illinois Central Tny    TBA

Saturday, Oct. 18

Crosspoint at MAC All-Star Match    TBA

ECC at Illinois Central Tny    TBA

District Tournaments

Class 4 District 3

At Rockwood Summit

Monday, Oct. 20

(4) Eureka def. (5) Pacific 25-9, 25-16

(2) Northwest def. (7) Parkway South, 25-18, 25-12

(3) Washington def. (6) Rockwood Summit, 25-21, 25-15

Tuesday, Oct. 21

(1) Lafayette vs. Eureka, 5 p.m.

Northwest vs. Washington, 6:15 p.m.

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

Class 3 District 8

At Union

Monday, Oct. 20

(5) St. Clair def. (4) Union, 25-20, 25-22

(2) Sullivan def. (7) Salem, 25-7, 25-8

(3) Owensville def. (6) St. James, 14-25, 25-16, 25-19

Tuesday, Oct. 21

(1) Borgia vs. St. Clair, 5 p.m.

Sullivan vs. Owensville, 6:15 p.m.

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

Class 2 District 6

At Lutheran St. Charles

Monday, Oct. 20

(4) Barat def. (5) Wright City, 25-16, 24-26, 25-22

(2) Hermann def. (7) Bowling Green, 25-12, 25-18

(3) Whitfield def. (6) Montgomery County, 25-23, 25-17

Tuesday, Oct. 21

(1) Lutheran St. Charles vs. Barat, 5 p.m.

Hermann vs. Whitfield, 6:30 p.m.

Championship, 8 p.m.

Class 1 District 9

At Calvary Lutheran, Jefferson City

Monday, Oct. 20

(4) Smithton def. (5) Otterville, 25-12, 25-10

(3) Chamois def. (6) Bunceton, 25-23, 25-18

Tuesday, Oct. 21

(1) New Haven vs. Smithton, 6 p.m.

(2) Calvary Lutheran vs. Chamois, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 23

Championship, 7 p.m.

Boys Soccer

Saturday, Oct. 18

Washington 1, Borgia 0 (Penalty kicks)

District Tournaments

Class 4 District 8

At Washington

Monday, Oct. 27

(1) Timberland vs. (4) Washington, 5 p.m.

(2) Troy vs. (3) Holt, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 29

Championship, 5 p.m.

Class 3 District 3

At Rockwood Summit

Monday, Oct. 27

(2) Rockwood Summit vs. (3) Pacific, 5 p.m.

(1) Webster Groves vs. (4) Windsor, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 29

Championship, 6 p.m.

Class 3 District 9

At Union

Monday, Oct. 27

(1) Camdenton vs. (4) Union, 5 p.m.

(2) Helias vs. (3) Rolla, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 29

Championship, 6 p.m.

Class 2 District 7

At Winfield

Tuesday, Oct. 28

(1) Borgia vs. (4) Winfield, 4:30 p.m.

(2) O’Fallon Christian vs. (3) Elsberry, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 29

Championship, 5 p.m.

Cross Country

Saturday, Oct. 18

Borgia Inv, 9 a.m. Varsity races at 9:45 a.m. (boys), 10:15 a.m. (girls)

Boys Swimming

Friday, Oct. 17

Borgia at Ft. Zumwalt N    3:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 18

Borgia at Ft. Zumwalt W Inv    10:30 a.m.

*Conference Games

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