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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

Friday, Sept. 12

*Ft. Zumwalt North 49, Washington 0

*Borgia 35, St. Dominic 0

*Union 27, Pacific 19

*Sullivan 47, St. Clair 21

Hermann 65, Wentzville Liberty 7

*Owensville 29, St. James 28 (OT)

Cuba 22, Windsor 6

*Warrenton 14, St. Charles 6

*Bowling Green 55, Wright City 0

Friday, Sept. 5

Warrenton 14, Washington 6

Borgia 13, Maplewood-Richmond Heights 0 (forfeit)

*Union 32, Sullivan 19

*Pacific 20, St. Clair 18

*Hermann 52, St. James 20

Owensville 35, Cuba 8

*Wright City 36, Montgomery Co. 0

Friday, Aug. 29

Sullivan 30, Washington 8

Borgia 56, Union 13

Ozark 41, St. Clair 0

Potosi 34, Pacific 13

Hermann 54, Cuba 12

Blair Oaks 42, Owensville 0

St. James 36, Houston 18

Warrenton 28, Troy 0

Orchard Farm 36, Wright City 18

Friday, Aug. 22

Washington 26, St. Clair 21

Borgia 48, Owensville 12

Parkway West 49, Union 39

Pacific 28, De Soto 20

Park Hills Central 34, Sullivan 27

St. James 12, Cuba 6

Hermann 61, Montgomery Co 12

Warrenton 26, St. Dominic 23

Trinity 28, Wright City 24

Softball

Monday, Sept. 8

O’Fallon Christian at Borgia    4:30 p.m.

St. Clair at Windsor    4:30 p.m.

Hermann at Van-Far    4:30 p.m.

*Union at New Haven, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt E    4:30 p.m.

*St. James at Union    4:30 p.m.

*St. Clair at Hermann    4:30 p.m.

*Pacific at Owensville    4:30 p.m.

*New Haven at Sullivan    4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

Borgia at Trinity    4:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 11

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt S    4:30 p.m.

*Union at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Sullivan at Pacific    4:30 p.m.

*New Haven at St. James    4:30 p.m.

*Owensville at Hermann    4:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 12

Washington at Howell C Tny    TBA

Saturday, Sept. 13

Cuba Tournament    TBA

Washington at Howell C Tny    TBA

Pacific at Seckman Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 15

Silex at Union    4:30 p.m.

Potosi at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Wellsville at Hermann    4:30 p.m.

Newburg at Owensville    5 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

*Borgia at Notre Dame    4:30 p.m.

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt N    4:30 p.m.

*Union at Owensville    4:30 p.m.

*Pacific at New Haven    4:30 p.m.

*St. James at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Hermann at Sullivan    4:30 p.m.

Volleyball

Saturday, Sept. 6

Borgia Tournament

Blue Pool

Parkway West def. Hickman, 25-8, 25-12

Borgia def. Washington, 25-6, 25-15

Parkway West def. Washington, 25-19, 25-16

Borgia def. Hickman, 25-21, 25-10

Washington def. Hickman, 25-19, 25-11

Parkway West tied Borgia, 25-15, 22-25

Gold Pool

St. Dominic def. Francis Howell North, 25-14, 25-16

Lutheran South tied Jefferson City, 25-9, 22-25

St. Dominic def. Jefferson City, 25-7, 26-24

Lutheran South tied Francis Howell North, 24-26, 25-18

Jefferson City def. Francis Howell North, 25-9, 25-17

St. Dominic tied Lutheran South, 25-20, 22-25

Seventh Place - Francis Howell North def. Hickman, 25-15, 25-23

Fifth Place - Jefferson City def. Washington, 25-12, 25-20

Semifinal 1 - Lutheran South def. Parkway West, 25-22, 25-20

Semifinal 2 - Borgia def. St. Dominic, 26-24, 23-25, 25-22

Third Place - Parkway West def. St. Dominic, 25-17, 25-9

Championship - Borgia def. Lutheran South, 25-20, 23-25, 25-15

Owensville at Fulton Tny    8:30 a.m.

#ECC vs. Independence    9 a.m.

#ECC vs. Southeast    1 p.m.

St. Clair, Pacific, Sullivan at North County Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 8

Warrenton at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Fox at Pacific    5:30 p.m.

Hillsboro at Sullivan    5:30 p.m.

Tolton at New Haven    6 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

Pacific at Rockwood Summit    4:15 p.m.

Crosspoint at Rivers of Life    5 p.m.

Washington at Owensville    5:30 p.m.

Montgomery Co at Union    5:30 p.m.

Rock Bridge at Hermann    5:30 p.m.

Sullivan at Belle    5:30 p.m.

St. Clair at Kingston    6 p.m.

Crosspoint vs. Community Christian    6 p.m.

*Duchesne at Borgia    6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

*ECC at Mineral Area    6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 11

Cuba at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Holt at Washington    5 p.m.

New Haven at Centralia    5 p.m.

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

Owensville at Fatima    5:30 p.m.

*Rosati-Kain at Borgia    6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 12

Liberty Christian at Crosspoint    5 p.m.

Rivers of Life at Crosspoint    7 p.m.

Hermann at Crossroads Inv    TBA

New Haven at SEMO Classic    TBA

Saturday, Sept. 13

Missouri Baptist JV at ECC    10 a.m.

Indian Hills at ECC    2 p.m.

Borgia at Springfield Classic    TBA

Union at Rockwood Summit Tny    TBA

Hermann at Crossroads Inv    TBA

New Haven at SEMO Classic    TBA

St. James at Cuba Tny    TBA

Monday, Sept. 15

Union at Cuba    5:30 p.m.

Hickman at Hermann    5:30 p.m.

Sullivan at Potosi    5:30 p.m.

Montgomery Co at Owensville    5:30 p.m.

St. James at Licking    6 p.m.

ECC at Missouri Baptist JV    6 p.m.

New Haven at Borgia    6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

*Sullivan at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

*Washington at Ft. Zumwalt E    5 p.m.

*New Haven at Union    5:30 p.m.

*Pacific at Hermann    5:30 p.m.

*Owensville at St. James    5:30 p.m.

Boys Soccer

Saturday, Sept. 6

St. Charles at Washington    11 a.m.

Borgia at St. Dominic Tny    TBA

Pacific Tournament    TBA

Sunday, Sept. 7

Blue River 3, East Central 1

Monday, Sept. 8

Christian Academy at Fulton SA    4:30 p.m.

Pacific at Washington    5 p.m.

*Sullivan at St. James    5 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

Sullivan at Valley Park    4 p.m.

*ECC at St. Charles    4 p.m.

Crosspoint at St. Louis United A    4:30 p.m.

*St. James at Union    5 p.m.

St. Clair at Belle    5 p.m.

Mehlville at Pacific    5 p.m.

*Borgia at Duchesne    6:15 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

Washington at Warrenton    5 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 11

*Washington at Holt    4 p.m.

Windsor at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Sullivan at Festus    4:30 p.m.

St. James at Calvery Lutheran    5 p.m.

Borgia at Pacific    6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 12

ECC at Oakton    4 p.m.

*Fulton SA at Eagle Ridge    4:30 p.m.

Dixon at St. James    5 p.m.

Crosspoint at Jefferson City Lightning    5 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 13

Washington at Helias    11 a.m.

Cape Central at Union    11 a.m.

ECC at Lake Co    3 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 15

*Sullivan at St. Clair    4:30 p.m.

Affton at Pacific    5 p.m.

St. James at Richland    5 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

Crosspoint at Fulton St. Albans    4:30 p.m.

Tolton Catholic at Borgia    5:30 p.m.

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

Cross Country

Tuesday, Sept. 9

Sullivan Invitational    4 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 11

Pacific, Sullivan at Steelville Inv    4 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 13

Forest Park Inv    9 a.m.

New Haven, Hermann, Owensville at Linn Inv    9 a.m.

Monday, Sept. 15

St. James at Bourbon    4 p.m.

Girls Golf

Monday, Sept. 8

Washington at Timberland    3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

*O’Fallon Christian at Borgia    3:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

Washington at Troy    3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

*Borgia at St. Dominic    3:30 p.m.

Boys Swimming

Friday, Sept. 5

Washington at Oakville/CBC    4:15 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

Washington at Kennedy    5:30 p.m.

*Conference Games

Racing News