Mizzou’s focus on rushing attack leads to dominant win over Iowa State

Story by Jason Brynsvold
Photos by Kelsey Alumbaugh

Apparently, Mizzou only had to do one thing to get back to its winning ways: run the ball.

Henry Josey (20) runs toward the end zone while fending off an Iowa State defender.

A 52-17 win by the Tigers over Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday featured 58 rushing plays and 29 pass plays—this coming from a Mizzou spread offense that usually works off the pass.

Even though Mizzou wasn’t running the type offense they have become accustomed to in the Gary Pinkel era, the Tigers moved the ball extremely effectively by working off an impressive and balanced rushing attack.

Even with the balance in carries, one running back stood above the rest, just has he has every week this season: Henry Josey. Could Josey be seeing an even more increased workload in the coming weeks?

“I would suggest that I listen to you guys more and make sure he touches it more,” Pinkel quipped after Saturday’s win.

While Pinkel was clearly poking fun at media members and fans that have continuously asked whether putting more focus on Josey would be beneficial to the team, it was obvious that the adjustment many had been clamoring for finally came Saturday, with excellent results.

Josey continued the excellent start to his year while seeing an increased workload, tallying 19 carries for 129 yards and one touchdown against Iowa State.

“I don’t know about anyone stopping me, but my offensive line is doing an amazing job,” Josey said. “As long as they keep doing their job, it’s going to be great for me.”

The second week of Kendial Lawrence’s return helped the rushing attack as well. After only carrying the ball six times against Kansas State, Lawrence’s improved health was important for the Tigers on Saturday as he carried the ball 16 times for 78 yards and one touchdown.

“It just comes down to executing the game plan,” Lawrence said. “Our offensive line did an amazing job today, just coming out, blocking really hard and moving us up the field and getting us through the holes. It made it a lot easier on us.”

The offensive line returned the praise they received from their running backs.

“They make us look great. Even when we might mess something up, they find a hole and they go with it,” center Travis Ruth said.

Don’t think that this Mizzou coaching staff is just going to change their entire offensive style because of one successful game, though. Pinkel and most other offensive players called the focus on the run an adjustment during Saturday’s game and emphasized that this is still a quarterback-driven offense.

“In our offense your quarterback’s got to play well,” Pinkel said. “It’s just one football game. You learn and you grow from it.”

The impressive offensive performance came against an Iowa State defense that ranked 98th in the country in scoring defense coming into the game, but this was a team that was 3-2 coming into the game and the Mizzou basically scored at will against the Cyclones.

The rushing attack was extremely potent, but the passing game also performed nicely Saturday. With the exception of two second-quarter interceptions, James Franklin was as effective as he has been all season, going 20-for-28 for 289 yards and three touchdowns. Franklin also rushed for two scores.

As a team that was in desperate need of an impressive performance, Mizzou got a complete performance on every side of the ball.

One problem that had continued to plague the team was penalties, even though week after week the coaching staff has said that it was focusing intensely on fixing that issue. Something obviously clicked this week, as Missouri went the entire game without committing a penalty.

“That’s coaching. That’s focus and attention to detail,” Pinkel said. “I just know our football team, if we are very focused we can be pretty good. If we’re not focused, we can be very average.”

The Tigers celebrated their centennial Homecoming with a dominant win, but one complete performance does not make a season. Missouri will try to keep things rolling when No. 6 Oklahoma State comes to Columbia on Saturday, Oct. 22. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m.

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