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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

Football

Week 10 Schedule Playoff Round 1

Friday, Oct. 24

Battle 56, Washington 8

Borgia 42, Kennedy 6

Union 55, Pacific 7

Priory 49, Sullivan 17

Salem 50, St. James 27

Southern Boone 40, Owensville 24

Hermann 36, Transportation and Law 6

Moberly 42, Warrenton 0

O'Fallon Christian 50, Wright City 12

Cuba 30, Jefferson 0

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

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

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 def. Eureka, 17-25, 25-14, 25-19

Northwest def. Washington, 25-22, 25-18

Championship — Lafayette def. Northwest, 25-19, 25-20

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 def. St. Clair, 25-10, 25-6

Sullivan def. Owensville, 25-20, 20-25, 25-20

Championship — Borgia def. Sullivan, 25-7, 25-10

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 def. Barat, 25-10, 25-9

Whitfield def. Hermann, 23-25, 25-23, 25-15

Championship — Lutheran St. Charles def. Whitfield, 25-18, 25-14

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 def. Smithton, 25-5, 25-7

(2) Calvary Lutheran def. Chamois, 25-14, 25-11

Thursday, Oct. 23

Championship — New Haven def. Calvary Lutheran, 25-9, 25-16

Sectional Matches Saturday, Oct. 25

Class 3

At Villa Duchesne

Villa Duchesne vs. St. Dominic, 3 p.m.

Borgia vs. Duchesne, 4:30 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Class 1

At New Haven

New Haven vs. Liberal, 3 p.m.

Green Ridge vs. Osceola, 4:30 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Boys Soccer

Saturday, Oct. 18

Washington 1, Borgia 0 (Penalty kicks)

Monday, Oct. 20

Washington 3, Sullivan 0

Fatima 3, Union 0

Pacific 6, De Soto 1

Tuesday, Oct. 21

ECC 4, Central Methodist JV 1

Fulton SA at Calvary Lutheran    4:30 p.m.

Union 3, Warrenton 0

Hancock 7, St. Clair 0

Rockwood Summit 2, Pacific 1 (PKs)

Bayless 3, Borgia 2 (2OT)

Wednesday, Oct. 22

St. Clair 2, Valley Park 0

Lutheran S 2, Washington 0

Windsor 4, Union 1

*Pacific 2, St. James 0

Thursday, Oct. 23

Ft. Zumwalt W 2, Washington 0

Belle 1, St. James 0

Borgia 1, Fatima 0

Pacific 6, St. Clair 0

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. 25

Borgia at Clayton Inv    9 a.m.

Washington at Class 4 District, Parkway Central, TBA

Boys Swimming

Thursday, Oct. 23

Borgia 105, Trinity 105, Lutheran/Christian 42

Saturday, Oct. 25

Borgia at MICDS Inv    7 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 28

Washington at GAC Meet    TBA

Wednesday, Oct. 29

*Borgia at Trinity    TBA

Washington at GAC Meet    TBA

*Conference Games

Racing News