Story by Joe Vozzelli
Photos by Peter Marek
Missouri’s Michael Sam (52) runs past offensive lineman, Paul Roppolo to the end zone after picking up the fumble.
Kip Edwards (1) celebrates with Kony Ealy (47) after Ealy forced the fumble that led to Michael Sam’s touchdown.
Nathan Stanley couldn’t see Kony Ealy rushing toward him like a runway train.
But the crowd could.
As Ealy ran around the left edge of Southeastern Louisiana’s offensive line, the Missouri crowd yelled louder, almost anticipating a big hit.
The 6-foot-5-inch redshirt sophomore defensive lineman rammed into Stanley and unleashed every part of his 265-pound frame, causing the Lions’ quarterback to fumble the ball. After Ealy hit Stanley, the crowd at Faurot Field let out a collective “oooh” sound.
Defensive end Michael Sam picked up the ball and ran seven yards to score Missouri’s second defensive touchdown of the game. Earlier in the first quarter, Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden intercepted a Stanley pass and ran 20 yards for a touchdown in the 62-10 Missouri win.
The season-opening contest marked the first time Missouri had two defensive touchdowns in a game since 2006 against Texas Tech.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said defensive plays like the ones Ealy and Gooden made are good for momentum.
“Well as momentum goes, it’s massive. Defensive touchdowns are huge momentum. Oftentimes, field position flips,” he said.
Sam had an unexpected reaction to Ealy’s hit on Stanley.
“I felt sorry for that guy,” Sam said.
Sam added that Gooden’s interception, which happened before the Ealy hit, gave him extra incentive to make a similar play.
“I was so pumped up to see Gooden score his interception for a touchdown,” he said. “It just made me think I wish I can get one and it happened a couple of plays later.”
Ealy’s hit wasn’t the only impact he made on the game. He had four solo tackles and a sack to go with his forced fumble.
His teammates have taken notice. Sam had a bold prediction for what to expect out of Ealy this season.
“Kony is going to be a beast this year. Look out for No. 47 this year,” he said.
Sheldon Richardson had a different take on Ealy’s hit.
Richardson was happy Ealy forced a fumble but he joked about how the sophomore didn’t rap up Stanley and instead decided to level a big hit.
“I told him to lower his shoulder but he doesn’t know how to tackle. Now we have to do tackling drills in practice Tuesday,” he said.
Richardson was still complementary of Ealy’s play.
“But it was a good hit, though, he got a sack fumble out of it. So it was all a good play,” he said.
The Tigers received good games from other players, as well.
Senior tailback Kendial Lawrence continued his good form from fall camp with 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Pinkel lauded Lawrence’s form in camp.
“Kendial has had a great summer,” Pinkel said during Monday’s media day. “He looks as good as he’s ever looked here.”
Lawrence’s backup at tailback, Marcus Murphy, delivered in a different fashion. Murphy had two punt return touchdown for 72 and 70 yards.
The much-hyped debut of Dorial Green-Beckham, the No. 1 recruit for the 2012 class, had its high points.
Green-Beckham caught a James Franklin pass along the sideline where he had to stop and turn his body. That reception for 29 yards was his longest of the day.
“He got a chance to play at this level. It’s nice. He made that real nice play along the sideline. He made a real athletic move and play,” Pinkel said.
The Missouri football team will open up Southeastern Conference play on Sept. 8 against Georgia. Georgia (1-0) took care of Buffalo in its opener with a 45-23 win.
Richardson talked about Missouri’s transition to the SEC.
“If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period,” he said.