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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

Boys Basketball

Friday, Jan. 2

Sullivan at Washington    7 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 6

Community Christian at Fulton SA    5:30 p.m.

Cardinal Ritter at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

*Crosspoint at Liberty Christian    7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 8

Fulton SA at Bethel    6:30 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 9

*Borgia at St. Dominic    6:45 p.m.

*Ft. Zumwalt S at Washington    7 p.m.

*Crosspoint at Eagle Ridge    7:45 p.m.

Fulton SA at Calvary Lutheran Tny    TBA

Saturday, Jan. 10

&Borgia vs. Lutheran N    TBA

Fulton SA at Calvary Lutheran Tny    TBA

Monday, Jan. 12

%St. Charles vs. Bayless    6 p.m.

%Westminster vs. Washington    7:30 p.m.

Fulton SA at Providence    7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 13

%Borgia vs. St. Clair    6 p.m.

#South Callaway vs. North Callaway    6 p.m.

#Hermann vs. Russellville    6 p.m.

Heritage Classical at Crosspoint    7 p.m.

%Francis Howell Central vs. Union    7:30 p.m.

#Montgomery Co vs. New Bloomfield    7:30 p.m.

#Harrisburg vs. New Haven    7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 15

#South Callaway-North Callaway loser vs. Montgomery Co-New Bloomfield loser    6 p.m.

#South Callaway-North Callaway winner vs. Montgomery Co-New Bloomfield winner    6 p.m.

Bethel at Fulton SA    6:30 p.m.

#Hermann-Russellville loser vs. Harrisburg-New Haven loser    7:30 p.m.

#Hermann-Russellville winner vs. Harrisburg-New Haven winner    7:30 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 16

%St. Charles-Bayless loser vs. Westminster-Washington loser    4 p.m.

%Borgia-St. Clair loser vs. Francis Howell Central-Union loser    5:30 p.m.

*Crosspoint at Community Christian    6:30 p.m.

%St. Charles-Bayless winner vs. Westminster-Washington winner    7 p.m.

Providence at Fulton SA    7 pm.

#Seventh-place game    7:30 p.m.

Consolation game    7:30 p.m.

%Borgia-St. Clair winner vs. Francis Howell Central-Union winner    8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 17

%Seventh-place game    2:30 p.m.

#Third-place game    3:30 p.m.

%Consolation game    4 p.m.

%Third-place game    5:30 p.m.

#Championship game    6:30 p.m.

%Championship game    7 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Fulton SA at Liberty Christian    6:30 p.m.

Crosspoint at CAGSL    7:30 p.m.

%Washington Tournament

#South Callaway Tournament

Girls Basketball

Friday, Dec. 26

Seckman Tournament

Northwest 43, Mehlville 42

Festus 58, Patriettes 13

Seckman 36, Oakville 28

Pacific 73, Carnahan 38

Saturday, Dec. 27

Seckman Tournament

Mehlville 39, Patriettes 35

Oakville 73, Carnahan 38

Festus 47, Northwest 30

Pacific 51, Seckman 33

Monday, Dec. 29

Seckman Tournament

Seventh-place game—Carnahan vs. Patriettes    1:30 p.m.

Third-place game—Seckman vs. Northwest    1:30 p.m.

Consolation game—Oakville vs. Mehlville    3 p.m.

Championship game—Pacific vs. Festus   3 p.m.

Rolla Tournament

St. Clair vs. Waynesville    3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 30

Rolla Tournament

St. James-Sedalia loser vs. Waynesville-St.Clair loser    2 p.m.

St. James-Sedalia winner vs. Waynesville-St. Clair winner    5 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 31

Rolla Tournament

Consolation game    9 a.m.

Seventh-place game    9 a.m. at MS&T

Third-place game    12 p.m.

Championship game    3 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 2

Hermann at Washington    5:30 p.m.

New Haven at Bourbon    6 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 5

*Union at New Haven    6 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 6

*Holt at Washington    5:30 p.m.

*Crosspoint at Liberty Christian    5:30 p.m.

*Borgia at St. Dominic    6:45 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 7

Borgia at St. Clair    7 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 8

Fulton SA at Bethel    5 p.m.

Park Hills Central at Pacific    5:30 p.m.

Cuba at New Haven    6 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 9

*Ft. Zumwalt South at Washington    6 p.m.

*Crosspoint at Eagle Ridge    6:15 p.m.

Fulton SA at Calvary Lutheran Tny    TBA

Saturday, Jan. 10

Borgia vs. MICDS (St. Joseph’s Academy Shootout)    12:30 p.m.

Fulton SA at Calvary Lutheran Tny    TBA

Monday, Jan. 12

Lutheran South at St Clair    5:30 p.m.

Lindbergh at Pacific    5:30 p.m.

@Washington vs. Patriettes    5:30 p.m.

#Harrisburg vs. Russellville    6 p.m.

#New Bloomfield vs. Montgomery Co    6 p.m.

Fulton SA at Providence    6 p.m.

@Helias vs. Sullivan    7 p.m.

#North Callaway vs. New Haven    7:30 p.m.

#Hermann vs. South Callaway    7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 13

Pacific at Ursuline    4:30 p.m.

Ft. Zumwalt East at St. Clair    5:30 p.m.

Heritage Classical at Crosspoint    5:30 p.m.

@St. Charles West vs. Union    5:30 p.m.

@Borgia vs. Eureka    7 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 14

#Harrisburg-Russellville loser vs. North Callaway-New Haven loser    6 p.m.

#Harrisburg-Russellville winner vs. North Callaway-New Haven winner    6 p.m.

#New Bloomfield-Montgomery Co loser vs. Hermann-South Callaway loser    6 p.m.

#New Bloomfield-Montgomery Co winner vs. Hermann-South Callaway winner    6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 15

Bethel at Fulton SA    5 p.m.

Northwest at St. Clair    5:30 p.m.

@Washington-Patriettes loser vs. Helias-Sullivan loser    5:30 p.m.

@St. Charles West-Union loser vs. Borgia-Eureka loser    7 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 16

@Washington-Patriettes winner vs. Helias-Sullivan winner    5:30 p.m.

Providence at Fulton SA    5:30 p.m.

#Seventh-place game    6 p.m.

#Consolation game    6 p.m.

@St. Charles West-Union winner vs. Borgia-Eureka winner    7 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 17

@Seventh-place game    1 p.m.

#Third-place game    2 p.m.

@Consolation game    2:30 p.m.

@Third-place game    4 p.m.

#Championship    5 p.m.

@Championship    5:30 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 19

*Owensville at St. Clair    5:30 p.m.

Union at Warrenton    6 p.m.

Montgomery Co at New Haven    6 p.m.

*Duchesne at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Fulton SA at Liberty Christian    5 p.m.

Parkway West at Pacific    5:30 p.m.

New Haven at Wellsville    5:30 p.m.

Crosspoint at CAGSL    6 p.m.

O’Fallon Christian at Borgia    6:45 p.m.

@Union Tournament

#South Callaway Tournament

Wrestling

Friday, Dec. 26

Union, Pacific at Hillsboro Tny    TBA

Saturday, Dec. 27

Union, Pacific at Hillsboro Tny    TBA

Monday, Dec. 29

Washington at Lindbergh Tny    TBA

Tuesday, Dec. 30

Washington at Lindbergh Tny    TBA

Wednesday, Jan. 7

*Ft. Zumwalt South at Washington     6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 8

Washington at Granite City    4:30 p.m.

Borgia at Hancock Tri-Meet    5 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 9

Washington at GAC Championships    TBA

Saturday, Jan. 10

Washington at GAC Championships    TBA

Tuesday, Jan. 13

Union at Liberty Quad    5 p.m.

Washington at Warrenton    6 p.m.

*Sullivan at Pacific    6 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 14

*Washington at Holt/Ft. Zumwalt East    6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 15

Westminster at Pacific    6 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 16

Union at Branson    5 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 17

Borgia at Owensville Tny    9 a.m.

Washington, Pacific at 141 Rumble    TBA

Union at Branson Tny    TBA

Tuesday, Jan. 20

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt North    6 p.m.

Union at Sullivan/St. James/Warrenton    5 p.m.

Girls Swimming

Wednesday, Jan. 7

Borgia at Kennedy    6:30 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 9

Borgia/Washington at MICDS    4:15 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 12

Borgia at DuBourg    6 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 15

Washington at Clayton    4:15 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 16

Washington at Ft. Zumwalt West    3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Washington at Ft. Zumwalt East/Timberland    3:30 p.m.

*Conference Games

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