On Saturday night, the Missouri Tigers (4-0) moved to 4-0 on the season, and secured Head Coach Gary Pinkel’s 94th career win at Mizzou, which moved Coach Pinkel into sole possession of second place on Missouri’s all-time wins list, with a 41-19 win over the Arkansas State Red Wolves (2-3).
“We’re excited that we’re 4-0, and we can get better,” explained Coach Pinkel. “It’s just all about getting better as a football team,”
The two-time defending Sun Belt Champions came to play for real, and the game was more closely contested than the final score would suggest. First-year Head Coach Bryan Harsin’s Red Wolves played their best game of the season, led by 6’5” 224-pound senior QB Adam Kennedy, who hung tough against Missouri’s relentless defensive pressure, and posted a career passing game, 37-46-1 for 308 yards and 1 TD. His favorite target on the night was 5’11” 193-pound sophomore receiver/return man J.D. McKissic, who also had a big game, with 15 receptions for 117 yards. In addition, 6’0” 202-pound senior WR Julian Jones had 10 receptions for 136 yards and 1 TD.
But Missouri held Arkansas State to just 117 yards rushing on 41 carries (2.9 yards/carry), sacked Kennedy five times, and intercepted him once.
Kennedy’s big night was more than off-set by Missouri’s senior QB, James Franklin, who engineered a Missouri offense that sputtered early before getting untracked in the second half. On the night, Franklin was 20-29-0 for 255 yards and 3 TDs. He also ran for 1 TD, and was instrumental in setting up rushing TDs for Marcus Murphy and Henry Josey on the pitch option.
Dorial Green-Beckham led Missouri with 4 receptions for 95 yards and 2 TDs. Seven different receivers caught passes for Mizzou, as Franklin once again distributed the ball effectively.
Missouri rushed for 239 yards on 28 carries, and amassed 495 yards of total offense.
A late 2nd-quarter goal line defensive stop preserved a 14-13 half-time lead for the Tigers, who fell behind 14-16 early in the 3rd quarter when Arkansas State’s Brian Davis made good on the third of his four field goals for the night.
“It was a great job by our football team of finishing,” said Coach Pinkel. “Sometimes you don’t like it, but you’re faced with some tough situations. At halftime, we were not playing real well as a football team. And, we did the things necessary in the second half (to win).”
After Missouri fell behind 14-16 with 11:31 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Franklin drove the Tigers 94 yards in 9 plays and found L’Damian Washington in the right front corner of the end zone to put Missouri ahead to stay. Then, the Tigers owned the 4th quarter, scoring touchdowns on their final four possessions, before taking a knee on first and goal to run out the clock at game’s end.
“It’s about finishing,” explained Coach Pinkel. “But you know obviously, there’s a lot of things we need to do to get better…………………………………… There’s good things to take from (this game), and obviously, there’s things to improve on. We’re excited about getting into the SEC, and getting going.”