On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers (4-4, 1-4) celebrated their 101st Homecoming with their first Southeastern Conference win, by the final score of 33-10 over the Kentucky Wildcats (1-8, 0-6).
Kendial Lawrence rushed for 108 yards and 2 TDs, James Franklin reappeared, and the Missouri defense held Kentucky scoreless for the game's final 42:17.
The game began with Kentucky moving the football at will on their first possession until Sheldon Richardson stripped the ball carrier near Missouri's 15-yard line. Big Shel scooped up the football and returned it to the Kentucky 25-yard line. From there, Kendial Lawrence went to work, and 4 plays later, he ran it in from the 5-yard line to put Missouri ahead 7-0.
Kentucky answered with a kickoff return to midfield, followed by a 4-play drive that resulted in a 1-yard TD plunge by Raymond Sanders to tie the score at 8:01 of the first quarter.
Red-shirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser hit Marcus Lucas right in the hands down the middle of the field with a potential TD pass, but Lucas dropped the football. So Missouri settled for a go-ahead 44-yard Andrew Baggett FG.
Then, Marcus Murphy muffed a punt, his second muff of the day, and Kentucky recovered at the Missouri 33-yard line. But the Missouri defense stiffened, and Kentucky settled for a game-tying 43-yard FG at 12:17 of the second quarter.
A fumbled center-QB exchange on third and short between Berkstresser and Mitch Morse stalled a promising drive for Missouri, forcing the Tigers to punt. But from this point on, the Missouri defense would hold Kentucky to just 26 total yards on 32 plays throughout the final two-thirds of the game.
Missouri took over with 5:49 left in the first half and Berkstresser and the Tigers put together their best drive of the half, with a good mix of run and pass, including two Berkstresser completions to Dorial Green-Beckham. Lawrence closed out the 11-play, 52-yard drive with his second rushing TD of the game, this one from 2 yards out, to put Missouri ahead to stay at 17-10 heading into intermission.
The second half was all Missouri, but not before Franklin was called upon in relief with about 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Berkstresser had started the second half with a pair of interceptions, and Franklin had his helmet on and was warming up on the sidelines.
Afterwards, Coach Pinkel said that they had to be careful with Franklin's knee, but that his experience was needed, as Berkstresser was "struggling".
Franklin came in and executed a conservative offensive approach, mostly just handing the ball off and hitting a few short passes. He moved the Tigers 34 yards on 9 plays into position for a 31-yard Baggett FG near the end of the third quarter.
The Tigers took over on the Kentucky 12-yard line following a sack and strip of freshman QB Patrick Towles by the Missouri defense. This time, Murphy started up inside on second and nine, and cut it to the outside to the right pylon to put Missouri ahead 26-10 early in the fourth quarter.
Later in the fourth quarter, E.J. Gaines scooped up a fumble and tight-roped the right sideline 13 yards for a TD to complete the scoring.
In a classy move, Coach Pinkel had his offense kneel down inside Kentucky's 5-yard line to run out the clock at game's end.
Berkstresser finished the game 10-18-2 for 71 yards passing. Franklin was 6-9-0 for 16 yards passing. In the game's final quarter, Missouri was able to run the football effectively to protect their lead, and the Tigers finished with 186 yards and 3 TDs rushing on 47 carries.
Coach Pinkel emphasized the impact that turnovers can have on a game. And, he was pleased with how the Tigers finished the game.
"It was nice to see us be able to run the football there at the end," said Coach Pinkel. "And, not have to put our defense back on the field."
With his team sitting at 4-4, Coach Pinkel briefly looked ahead.
"Those who win in November will be remembered," stated Coach Pinkel.