Missouri’s regular season recap: Respect was earned in 2013

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SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:

Missouri Tigers

Final Record: 11-2 overall, 7-1 SEC

2013 was all about proving everyone wrong and earning respect in college football’s toughest conference. Finishing 5-7 and 2-6 in SEC play last season wasn’t the kind of entrance the Tigers wanted to have in their inaugural season in the SEC. The No. 1 goal during preseason camp this year was to stay healthy after last year’s myriad of injuries that saw three offensive linemen and James Franklin all missing time because of injuries – not to mention RB Henry Josey didn’t play because of an injury suffered in 2011.

Related: Final SEC regular season standings

And respect was earned. The Tigers had one of the biggest turnarounds in college football and finished the regular season 11-1 and 7-1 in conference play, earning a championship berth in just their second SEC season.

Several point out the fact that Mizzou beat a battered Georgia and Florida, but I’ll say that college football is all about timing. And what teams do with that timing is what matters most. Did they catch them at a good time? Yes. Would it have mattered had both teams been healthy? Probably not. Still, Mizzou had to beat good Ole Miss and Texas A&M teams to even get to Atlanta, and neither of those two was injury riddled. Missouri was the most consistent SEC East team this season, and they actually should have been undefeated if not for a fourth-quarter letdown and missed field goal in overtime against South Carolina.

The Tigers’ offense was explosive again, led by a healthy offensive line and skill position players. James Franklin had a much better year, throwing for 2,255 yards and combining for 23 touchdowns and just five INTs. Maty Mauk played well in Franklin’s four-game absence, and he could be a darkhorse Heisman pick in 2014. He threw for 1,039 yards, 10 touchdowns and just two INTs during that stretch.

The backfield was a monster for the Tigers, and they finished second in the SEC in rushing. Henry Josey rushed for 1,074 yards and 13 touchdowns, and his recovery has been miraculous from a total knee reconstruction to one of the SEC’s best. Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy both rushed for over 500 yards and combined for 13 touchdowns.

The best aspect of the offense was the receiving corps, which you could argue was the best in college football. L’Damian Washington caught 47 passes for 853 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas both caught 55 passes, but DGB added 830 yards and 12 touchdowns. Lucas recorded 646 yards and two touchdowns. All three looked like NBA power forwards for the Tigers and all are 6-5 and taller.

The offensive line was anchored by tackle Justin Britt and center Evan Boehm. Britt was solid the entire season, and Boehm looked like the best center in the SEC not named Travis Swanson. He’s going to be a player!

While the offense was explosive, the defense continued to impress everyone, led by senior Michael Sam. Sam led the SEC in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18), and Mizzou led the SEC with 38 sacks, with 30 of them in SEC play. That’s impressive.

Michael Sam was great, but fellow DE Kony Ealy was so strong, along with OLB/DE Markus Golden. Ealy recorded 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, and Golden notched 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. There wasn’t another trio in the SEC as dominant as Sam, Ealy and Golden. Lineman Shane Ray also added nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

Related: Mizzou defenders put up serious numbers against conference competition

Kentrell Brothers and Andrew Wilson held down the linebacking unit, and Brothers recorded 65 tackles and three INTs, while Wilson led the team with 98 tackles and added six of them for loss. Up until the SEC Championship, the secondary was the unit teams wanted to attack. EJ Gaines was arguably the top corner in the league, but Randy Ponder, Braylon Webb and Matt White certainly held their own. The defense led the SEC with 18 INTs and forced a conference-leading 29 turnovers.

Andrew Baggett will be remembered for his missed field goal against South Carolina, and he finished 11th in the SEC, making 69.6 percent of his field goals. Punter Christian Brinser finished eighth in league punting, averaging 41.03 yards per punt.

Here’s a look at the team stats:

Category (SEC rank)
Scoring Offense 39 PPG (3rd)
Rushing Offense 236.46 YPG (2nd)
Passing Offense 256.5 YPG (5th)
Total Offense 492.9 YPG (3rd)
Scoring Defense 22.5 PPG (4th)
Rushing Defense 151.85 YPG (8th)
Passing Defense 256 YPG (13th)
Total Defense 407.8 YPG (9th)

One that got away: Obviously, the biggest regular season game that got away was the overtime loss to South Carolina, but it didn’t matter nearly as much as the SEC Championship. Mizzou’s defense had been so strong throughout the season, and they were widely considered the second or third best unit in the SEC. But they were dismantled by Auburn’s rushing attack, as the Tigers mounted 677 total yards and 545 rushing yards. No matter what they tried, Auburn ran right through it. Missouri took the third quarter 34-31 lead, but Auburn was just too strong to finish the game. They scored 14 unanswered points to put up an amazing 59 points.

Related: What Mizzou fans need to know about 2013 Oklahoma State

Offensive Stud: I could go a number of directions with Mizzou’s top offensive player, but Henry Josey would be my MVP. To overcome so much and play such an integral part of the offense makes you an MVP. He was the heart and soul of an explosive offense, rushing for 1,074 yards and 13 touchdowns. Yes, James Franklin was good, and Dorial Green-Beckham flashed amazing potential, but Josey was the lifeblood of the SEC’s second-best rushing attack. And, in turn, he made the passing game that much more potent.

Defensive Stud: Michael Sam was the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, and he was an All-American. He epitomizes the job Gary Pinkel and his staff have done throughout his tenure. It’s all about development. Sam was a two-star nobody out of high school, but he was one of the SEC’s most explosive defensive players in 2013. That doesn’t happen by accident. Credit his coaching staff and teammates, too.

What’s Next: The immediate focus is Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. It’s all about conference bragging rights, and beating OSU would go a long way in offseason momentum. The long-term future in 2014 and 2015 is bright on both sides of the ball, depending on how bad the NFL Draft wipes this team out. Mizzou isn’t going away anytime soon, and they could enter 2014 as the favorite in the SEC East.

Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

COMMENTS

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  • Go Tigers! Lets take care of OK State to end the season on a good note!

  • very nice Jon. very very nice. you know this team inside and out and as well as anyone. I can see us competing next year but if our recruiting doesn’t pick up after that then I don’t know. Andrew Wilson is going to be a find for somebody in the NFL. he’s led Missouri in tackles for 3 year straight. I’m looking Duron Singleton to be huge on defense next year.