Game Week Preview: Tigers Head To Ames

We take a close look at the football Tigers as they hit the road to take on the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday

On Saturday evening (6:00 P.M., FSN), the #15 Missouri Tigers (8-2, 4-2) travel to Ames, IA to take on the Iowa State Cyclones (5-6, 3-4). The Tigers are coming off of a 38-28 Senior Day win over Kansas State.

Earlier, Missouri Head coach Gary Pinkel talked about his team, as the Tigers head into this week's game at Iowa State.

"Looking at our football team," said Coach Pinkel. "I think we played better (last week), but we've still got to play more consistent(ly). So, that's what we're going to work on this week. Hopefully, we'll have a great week of practice."

For Missouri, this game is an opportunity for this year's senior class to surpass the school record win total established by last year's seniors. This current senior class has been a part of 38 wins over the last four years, equaling the school record which was established last year. With another Missouri victory this season, that record will have been re-established for the third consecutive year!

Another win will give Missouri just it's 6th 9-win season in school history: 1899 (9-2), 1960 (11-0), 1969 (9-2), 2007 (12-2), 2008 (10-4). This season's strength of schedule is currently rated by the NCAA as the nation's 2nd strongest schedule. Missouri's opponents have a combined .658 winning percentage. By any measure, Missouri has played one of the toughest schedules in the country.

Missouri junior QB Blaine Gabbert is on the verge of moving into elite company on Missouri's list for passing yards in a single season. With 63 yards through the air, Gabbert will move ahead of Jeff Handy to establish his 2010 season as the 5th most prolific in school history. Gabbert's 2009 season is already in the top five (3rd) for the most passing yards in a single season. The other three top seasons on that list belong to former Tiger great, Chase Daniel. For his career at Missouri, Gabbert ranks second, behind Daniel, on Mizzou's career list for passing efficiency (133.4).

This year, Gabbert has completed 62.3% of his pass attempts (228-366-5), for 2401 yards (10.5 yards/reception), 14 TDs, and a passer efficiency rating of 127.3. Last week, the Missouri coaching staff re-inserted Gabbert into the equation in the Tigers' running game, and the big QB responded with nearly 100 yards on the ground. That will be an interesting aspect of this week's game, to see if Gabbert will continue to burn defenses for not taking him into account. Also, look for freshman QB James Franklin to take a few snaps this week.

Missouri is averaging 160.3 yards/game on the ground. Most of that is the product of the Tigers' running-back-by-commitee, which includes junior De'Vion Moore (5.7 yards/carry, 5 TDs), sophomore Kendial Lawrence (5.9 yards/carry, 3 TDs), and freshmen Henry Josey (5.8 yards/carry, 4 TDs) and Marcus Murphy (9.4 yards/carry, 2 TDs). The four of them have combined for 1243 yards rushing, 14 TDs and an average of 6.1 yards/carry.

Two of Missouri's receivers, junior TE Michael Egnew, with 71 receptions and 586 receiving yards, and sophomore slot receiver, T.J. Moe, with 70 receptions and 794 receiving yards, are having great seasons. But, it's the two outside receivers, juniors Jerrell Jackson (3.8 receptions/game, 13.5 yards/reception, 3 TDs) and Wes Kemp (3 receptions/game, 11.3 yards/reception, 3 TDs), who really complete the Missouri passing game. When Jackson and Kemp are catching the ball, and that has usually coincided with Blaine Gabbert playing well, Missouri's offense has gone to another level. And, when that complete passing attack is integrated with Missouri's run game, the Tigers' offense is prolific.

Missouri's defense has taken some big hits in the middle, due to injury; none bigger than the loss of junior DT Dominique Hamilton. But, the Tiger defense remains solid, and is currently tied with Nebraska as the number one scoring defense in the Big 12, surrendering just 17.5 points/game. The Tigers rank 2nd in the NCAA in red zone defense, and lead the Big 12 with 3 sacks/game.

Sophomore DE Aldon Smith is nearly 100%, and is back to wreaking havoc on opposing QBs. The Tigers are still getting great production from all of their DEs. Sophomore DE Brad Madison's 6.5 sacks leads the conference, and junior DE Jacquies Smith, and RSF DE Michael Sam, just continue to make plays all over the field.

Sophomore LB Zaviar Gooden gets better every week, and he's become a significant force on the football field. Much like Gooden, senior LB Andrew Gachkar has been flying around the football. Junior LB Will Ebner has been playing hurt, and it's not clear if he'll be able to play this Saturday. RSF Andrew Wilson has stepped in for Ebner in the middle, and is rapidly improving. By playing senior safety Jarrell Harrison at the SLB position, and moving Gachkar inside, the Missouri staff has created some additional depth from within it's depleted linebacking core. This move allows Missouri to get all three of their top safeties on the field for most of the game, and that's just good utilization of their personnel.

Senior CB Kevin Rutland's been banged up, and freshman CB E.J. Gaines has performed very well, in his stead. Heading into the season, Missouri had pretty good depth on defense, at every position except DT, so the Tigers were vulnerable to the loss of Hamilton. The Tigers have had season-ending injuries to 4 of their MLB candidates, not including Ebner, whose effectiveness has been reduced, even when he has been able to play.

One by-product of the Tigers' offensive inconsistency this season has been a reduction in opportunities for PATs and FGAs for Missouri's junior PK, Grant Ressel. Heading into Iowa State, Ressel is 16-18 on FGs, and 35-37 on PATs for the season. With another season of eligibility remaining, barring injury, Ressel is almost assured of moving into 2nd place, behind Jeff Wolfert, on Missouri's career scoring list, and could even surpass Wolfert's school record of 59 career FGs.

Senior punter Matt Grabner currently ranks 8th in the country in net punting, with an average of 39.98 net yards/punt.

"We've got to go up and play our best," concluded Coach Pinkel. "Hopefully, we can improve on the things we need to, and play a good football game."

Missouri Overall Team Statistics (as of Nov 14, 2010) All games

Team Statistics MU OPP

SCORING 315 175

Points Per Game 31.5 17.5

FIRST DOWNS 217 200

Rushing 77 77

Passing 126 106

Penalty 14 17

RUSHING YARDAGE 1603 1515

Yards gained rushing 1838 1821

Yards lost rushing 235 306

Rushing Attempts 323 367

Average Per Rush 5.0 4.1

Average Per Game 160.3 151.5

TDs Rushing 20 9

PASSING YARDAGE 2507 2220

Comp-Att-Int 239-381-6 217-364-13

Average Per Pass 6.6 6.1

Average Per Catch 10.5 10.2

Average Per Game 250.7 222.0

TDs Passing 15 13

TOTAL OFFENSE 4110 3735

Total Plays 704 731

Average Per Play 5.8 5.1

Average Per Game 411.0 373.5

TIME OF POSSESSION/Game 28:26 31:34

3RD-DOWN Conversions 47/135 62/158

3rd-Down Pct 35% 39%

4TH-DOWN Conversions 4/9 7/17

4th-Down Pct 44% 41%SACKS BY-Yards 30-190 16-117

TOUCHDOWNS SCORED 38 22

FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS 16-18 8-15

RED-ZONE SCORES (37-41) 90% (16-28) 57%

RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS (23-41) 56% (12-28) 43%

PAT-ATTEMPTS (35-37) 95% (17-18) 94%

Score by Quarters 1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Total

Missouri 84 94 87 50 0 315

Opponents 44 48 34 49 0 175


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