Thursday, October 17, 2013

Missouri routs Vanderbilt in SEC opener, trip to No. 7 Georgia next

Missouri punter Christian Brinser did indeed make the trip to Nashville for Missouri’s SEC opener, but fans watching on TV didn’t have visual proof of that until the fourth quarter, when Brinser trotted onto the field for his first and only punt of the night.

It’s usually a good night when your punter largely has the game off, and last Saturday’s 51-28 win at Vanderbilt was most definitely a good night for the Tigers. Missouri (5-0, 1-0 in SEC play) scored on a touchdown pass from James Franklin to L’Damian Washington just 1:17 into the game, and the Tigers kept pouring it on from there, burying the Commodores (3-3, 0-3 in SEC play) in an avalanche of scores.

Not counting a quarterback kneel to kill the clock with 21 seconds left in the first half, here are Missouri’s first eight drives, spanning the first three quarters: touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown.

That’ll do.

Missouri followed each of Vanderbilt’s four touchdowns with a touchdown of its own, ensuring the Commodores never got any real momentum going.

This was Missouri’s biggest test to date, and the Tigers aced it. The offense rolled up 523 total yards. Franklin threw for 278 yards and rushed for 63 with no turnovers. The Tigers churned out 245 yards on the ground.

The Tiger defense also made some big plays, starting the game with a three-and-out, an interception and another three-and-out to help Missouri jump ahead early.

After the win, Missouri is now No. 25 in the AP poll, the first time Missouri has been ranked since the second week of the 2011 season.

Next comes a huge game this Saturday (11 a.m. on ESPN) at No. 7 Georgia, widely considered the favorite to win the SEC East title. Last week, Georgia gutted out an overtime win on the road against a feisty Tennessee team.

However, Georgia running back Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley suffered season-ending ACL tears in the game. Georgia’s other outstanding running back, Todd Gurley, didn’t play due to an ankle sprain and is an unknown for the Missouri game.

Obviously, whether Gurley can play or not will have a huge impact on the game. Either way, Georgia still has senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who became the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards last week.

Georgia (4-1, 3-0) has a prolific offense, at least before all the injuries hit. But the Bulldogs’ defense has struggled against good offenses.

Missouri is a solid underdog here. That said, I could see Missouri winning, and that says a lot about how good the Tigers have looked so far. Missouri has a lot to gain and little to lose on Saturday, a chance to go from impressing the SEC to shocking it, a chance to grab control of the SEC East race and earn Pinkel’s first road win over a top-10 team.

In any event, Missouri heads to Georgia’s massive Sanford Stadium, “Between the Hedges,” playing some very good football.

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