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Time to recognize the greatness of Mizzou’s Pinkel

MU football coach Gary Pinkel holds 8-month-old Bristol Kennedy at the annual Fan Day event on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, at Memorial Stadium. Bristol is the daughter of Robert and Secley Kennedy of Columbia. Photo by Karen Mitchell

MU football coach Gary Pinkel holds 8-month-old Bristol Kennedy at the annual Fan Day event on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, at Memorial Stadium. Bristol is the daughter of Robert and Secley Kennedy of Columbia. Photo by Karen Mitchell

As Mizzou football prepares to start a new season, once again Tiger fans will expect big things of their team — and the rest of the football world will not. In spite of winning 12 games and the SEC East last year, nobody seems to respect the Tigers. The league’s Sports Information Directors pegged MU ninth best in the league in their preseason ratings, Read more of this post

Redshirt freshman quarterback Mauk to be tested for Mizzou against the Gators

By The Associated Press

Year 2 in the Southeastern Conference has been a huge success for Missouri, but a major hurdle awaits.

The 14th-ranked and undefeated Tigers will try to keep it up against one of the nation’s top defenses — minus their most indispensable player.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk makes his first career start in place of injured James Franklin Saturday against No. 22 Florida.

The Gators (4-2, 3-1 SEC) lost quarterback Jeff Driskel (broken leg) in mid-September, and three other starters are out for the season. The latest subtraction was running back Matt Jones, who underwent left knee surgery earlier this week.

Missouri (6-0, 2-0) is coming off the signature win in coach Gary Pinkel’s 13 seasons, an impressive 41-26 victory at Georgia that was the school’s first road triumph over top 10 competition since 1981.

Pinkel said he won’t change the offense to account for the kid who could be running the show for a while with Franklin expected to miss 3-5 weeks. Mauk was a heralded recruit after a record-setting high school career and got his first extended SEC action after Franklin was hurt in the fourth quarter and Tigers ahead by just two points.

“He just got thrown into the fire pretty quickly,” Pinkel said. “He is a pretty poised guy. He’s thoroughly excited about this opportunity at hand.

“He has a lot of good people around him, that will step up their game and that will help him out.”

Here are five things to watch for in Florida vs. Missouri:

TIGERS RUN: Missouri aimed to have Franklin make fewer carries to keep him healthy, but he’s tied for the team lead with running back Henry Josey at 65 apiece. Josey and Russell Hansbrough, coming off his second 100-yard game of the year, need to take more of the load. Of course, Mauk likes to run, too. “They’re going to run their offense. I’m pretty sure they recruit a quarterback that’s going to fit their offense,” Florida linebacker Michael Taylor said. “No quarterback likes to get hurt.”

GATORS GROUND: Jones’ injury should mean more playing time for freshman Kelvin Taylor, son of NFL running back Fred Taylor. Junior Mack Brown leads the team with 340 yards—one more than Jones—and three touchdowns and will start. Success in the run game would take pressure off a line that’s been vulnerable handling the pass rush. “See that we had troubles against the blitz, I’d probably do the same thing,” guard Max Garcia said. “I don’t think we have a problem with strength and getting bull-rushed out there. It’s just the mental part of the game that we’ve got to get down.”

AERIAL OPTIONS: Missouri has four tall receivers, 6-foot-4 or better, all the easier to locate. “Just put that ball up in the air, man, we can go make a play,” said wide receiver Bud Sasser, whose TD pass helped Missouri pull away at Georgia. L’Damian Washington averages 75.8 yards per game, fifth-best in the SEC, and is tied for first with seven TDs. Sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham has 27 receptions with four TDs and senior Marcus Lucas has 30 catches and a TD. “It’s just a collective effort,” Lucas said. “And I think it’s paying off.”

STIFLING DEFENSE: Florida has held opponents to 10 or fewer points three times this season. LSU had scored 35 or more in six straight games, but managed 17 last week. Taylor had a career-high 10 tackles last week for a unit that’s third in the nation in total defense and has produced 3-and-outs in more than a third of the opponent’s possessions. “We’ve got one of the best offenses, so we’re going to come right at them,” Mauk said.

WEATHER WATCH: The forecast calling for cold temperatures has Florida’s attention. Quarterback Tyler Murphy said when he goes home for Christmas “it’s in the teens,” but notes “it’s kind of funny to see people around here when it is in the 60s they all have hoodies and sweatpants on. I’m the only person with shorts and a T-shirt.” Beyond noting, “not many Gators have been to Columbia, Missouri,” coach Will Muschamp said the 11:21 a.m. local-time start is a challenge.

USA Basketball invites Mizzou’s Morgan Eye to tryouts

By Elaine Stockdale

USA Basketball has invited Missouri sophomore Morgan Eye to try out for the World University Games.

The 5-foot-9 guard welcomed the recognition from USA Basketball and will head to Colorado Springs, Colo., May 16-19 for the tryouts held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

Eye felt privileged for the opportunity and has welcomed the news humbly.

“I’m extremely honored for the opportunity to get to compete among the most elite athletes in the nation,” Eye said in a statement released by the Mizzou Athletic Department. “I hope to be able to represent the University of Missouri in the best way.”

Thirty-five student-athletes were invited to the tryouts, 12 of whom will be chosen for the final team. University of Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale will coach the team with assistance from Brian Giorgis of Marist College and Coquese Washington of Penn State.

If Eye is successful in making the team, she will begin training camp June 25. The World University Games will be held in Kazan, Russia, July 8-15.

Missouri women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton believes Eye is deserving of the honor.

“It is a great honor and privilege to be recognized by USA Basketball to receive an invitation to possibly represent our country in the World University Games,” Pingeton said in a statement released by the Mizzou Athletic Department. “We are extremely proud for Mo and the opportunity USA Basketball has presented her. I couldn’t be more proud of her. It is a true testament on how hard she has worked.”

Eye had a record-breaking season in 2012-13, setting the record for most 3-pointers made (112) in the Southeastern Conference and Missouri’s single game record for 3-pointers (11). She also managed 95 3-pointers coming off the bench.

Eye also won numerous awards for both Missouri women’s basketball team and the SEC this year. Eye won the Three Point Specialist and Free Throw awards on Sunday at the women’s basketball annual banquet. She also was the first Tiger to receive the Sixth Woman of the Year honor in the SEC.

Other countries who will be represented at The World University Games include Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, and Japan, Mongolia, Poland, Sweden, Taiwan and Ukraine.

Mizzou’s Thomas named finalist for Player of the Year

By Karl Roskamp

Senior pitcher Chelsea Thomas has been named one of 25 finalists for the 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.

The Amateur Softball Association of America and USA Softball announced the finalists Wednesday after narrowing the field from an original watch list of 50.  The award is in its 12th year and recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by collegiate softball players.  Thomas has been named a finalist three times in her career.  She was one of three overall finalists in 2011 and was among the top 25 finalists last season.

This season, Thomas has a record of 14-3 with 131 strikeouts.  She owns the school record for career strikeouts with 1,078 and surpassed 1,000-strikeout mark against Evansville March 13.  Thomas has 101 wins as a Tiger, and her next win will tie the school record.

No. 8 Missouri will host Arkansas in a three game series this weekend at University Field. Friday’s game will start at 6 p.m. while the games on Saturday and Sunday will start at 2 p.m.

Alex Oriakhi managing his emotions, becoming a leader for Mizzou basketball

By Matthew Fairburn
Missouri senior forward Alex Oriakhi has a tendency to let his temper get the best of him.
On the court, that has led to foul trouble, which has hurt the team. Over the course of the season, Oriakhi has learned to manage his emotions with the help of his coaches and teammates.
Heading into the final stretch of the Tigers’ season, Oriakhi has become a leader for the team.
Supervising Editor on this story was Megan Rentschler

Emerging receivers Lucas, Washington ready to go deep for Missouri

By The Associated Press

When Missouri receiver Marcus Lucas prepares for games, he envisions a perfect play – catching the football in stride, turning around and sprinting through the secondary toward the end zone.

With 1:31 remaining in the first half against Georgia and the score tied at 3, he pulled it off, catching a pass at the 27-yard line and juking around a defender en route to the goal line, breaking the game’s slogging pace.

“It’s an adrenaline rush, for sure,” Lucas said. “You see nothing but the end zone. You don’t see the guys who you have to make miss or anything, the guys on your team blocking downfield. You just want to get to the end zone, do whatever you can to get the score.”

After Missouri’s offense struggled in a 41-20 loss Saturday, the Tigers hope to see more quick strikes from Lucas and L’Damian Washington, who scored untouched on a 69-yard pass early in the third quarter. The two juniors are consistently starting for the first time in their careers following the loss of Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson to graduation. Both are tall and lean, but don’t attract as much fanfare as vocal senior T.J. Moe or prized newcomer Dorial Green-Beckham.

“We’re counting on them,” receivers coach Andy Hill said. “I think last year, both those guys rotated in and played good football and made some plays for us. But it’s different when you’re the guy at the front of the line.”

Lucas caught 23 passes for 414 yards last season, including five touchdowns that tied for the team lead. The highlight came when he used every inch of his 6-5, 215-pound frame to haul in the game-winning score in overtime at Texas A&M, an 11-yard fade pass.

The 6-4, 195-pound Washington finished the 2011 season with 20 receptions for 364 yards and three touchdowns. His 18.2 yards per catch barely eclipsed Lucas (18.0), but finished well ahead of Jackson (13.1).

“There’s not too many people who can catch him,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “And I think you saw that (Saturday), he just ran away from everybody.”

Long receptions can instantly raise the spirits of the offense, an effect Pinkel described as “huge.” Until Lucas’ touchdown catch, Missouri had only 62 yards of total offense.

“It’s momentum, that’s what the game’s about,” Lucas said. “Whenever you get a big score like that, it just helps our team. We started clicking a little bit more, started moving the ball downfield after that. It’s just something you have to keep consistent throughout the game.”

Consistency is something they’ve been working on in the offseason, learning especially from Moe, whom Washington considers his extended brother.

That bond between Missouri’s receivers is helped by the different skills each brings, whether it’s Lucas or Washington deep or Moe in the flat. They all know their roles, and no matter who scores, all of the receivers start “jumping all over the place,” Lucas says.

There’s only one goal, and that’s to win, something perhaps more difficult this week coming off an emotional loss in Missouri’s first Southeastern Conference game. The Tigers must regroup quickly against an Arizona State team that dealt them a bitter overtime defeat in Tempe last year. Although the Sun Devils lost their top five tacklers, they already have eight sacks through two games and lead the nation with six interceptions.

“We’ll be fine,” Lucas said. “We just have to learn from last week. Just focus on preparing each and every week. We just have to get better each and every day. Crescendo throughout the whole season.”

James Franklin makes Heisman Watch List

The Heisman Pundit released its 2012 Heisman Watch List on Tuesday and Missouri quarterback James Franklin was one of the 18 players to make the list.  He is one of six players from the Southeastern Conference on the list and one of eleven quarterbacks from across the nation.

The list was revealed just more than a month after Franklin underwent shoulder surgery on March 23, which kept him out for the majority of the spring practice season.  Following the surgery to repair Franklin’s torn labrum, coach Gary Pinkel expressed confidence that Franklin wouldn’t miss any games this fall, but wouldn’t guarantee it.

If he is healthy, however, Franklin proved as a sophomore that he is a threat both through the air and on the ground.  In his first season as Missouri’s starting quarterback, Franklin passed for 2865 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while rushing for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Missouri opens its 2012 season at home on Sept. 1 against Southeastern Louisiana.  The 2012 Heisman trophy will be presented on Dec. 8 in New York.

Information from Missouri Athletics was used in this report

Dolphins draft Michael Egnew

Michael Egnew became the first Missouri Tiger selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.  Egnew, an All-American tight end at Missouri, was taken in the third round by the Miami Dolphins with the 78th overall pick.

Egnew was the third tight end selected in this year’s draft, behind second-round pick Coby Fleener from Stanford and fellow third-round pick Dwayne Allen from Clemson.

As a junior in 2010, Egnew caught 90 passes for 762 yards and five touchdowns.  He followed that up with a senior year in which he recorded 50 receptions for 523 yards and three touchdowns.

Information used from Mizzou Athletics

Mizzou football Fan Day draws thousands

Photo by Karen Mitchell

Thousands of fans braved Sunday’s heat—and rain—to meet their favorite Mizzou football players and coach Gary Pinkel. The ninth annual Fan Day event is the opportunity for fans to briefly chat with players and have an item autographed. Posters were given out at the event and many fans brought footballs, helmets and photographs to be signed.

Mizzou’s season opens with Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, Oct. 3.

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Chelsea Thomas returns to dominance, gets Mizzou one game closer to World Series

By Darren Hellwege

Through the month of May, something’s been missing. No, Chelsea Thomas didn’t turn into an ordinary pitcher—one couldn’t imagine her ever being that. She was still gave up few hits and fewer runs. She even no-hit DePaul to clinch the championship of the NCAA Regional.

The things that really mattered were still there. But that little something extra—the remarkable strikeout numbers, smashing records even as Thomas is just in her sophomore year—had fallen off. After striking out opponents at an incredible pace, the numbers fell off during the month of May. At one point Thomas struck out at least 10 in five of six games, but only once in the last eight games did she strike out as many as 10. In the last two against DePaul only four strikeouts were rung up in each game.

On Saturday night, Tiger fans were delighted to see the return of the Chelsea of old, as Thomas struck out 13 and got hitting support from Nicole Hudson as the Tigers beat 12th-ranked Washington 4-0 in the first game of the NCAA Super Regional at University Field on the Columbia campus. The Tigers are now just one win away from a third straight trip to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series.

The teams will play at 6 p.m. Sunday, with the third and final game to follow if the Tigers lose.

“She answered any questions I may have had,” said Tiger coach Ehren Earleywine following the win. “It was a great outing.”

Earleywine also said the Huskies may be in for a rude shock tomorrow if they think they now have Thomas figured out. Noting that the damp weather affected her ability to throw the rise ball, he said “She threw a lot of drops today, she has some surprises tomorrow.”

Huskies coach Heather Tarr was also impressed with Thomas, calling her “one of the best pitchers we’ve faced.” “She had good control and command, and got ahead early.”

The Tigers run support came primarily from Nicole Hudson. Hudson, who came into the game with 12 RBIs in the last nine games, continued to be productive. She drove in Jenna Marston with a sharp double in the first, then in the third hit a home run to dead center that hit high up on the scoreboard.

The offensive outburst brought a happy ending to one of the most difficult weeks of Hudson’s life. Hudson is a native of Webb City, just a few miles from the city of Joplin, devastated by last weekend’s EF-5 tornado which killed over 100 people. Although her family was safe from the storm, a Domino’s Pizza restaurant owned by her father was smashed to bits by the tornado. “I feel real lucky to represent the area, it’s the best place in the world and I’m just glad to be able to represent it on national TV.” She said family members including her father, Shane, were at the game Saturday.

The Tigers last two runs came in the fifth when speed and Husky mistakes the primary factors. Things started badly when Washington starter Kaitlin Ingelsby walked the last player anyone would want to put on base, Tiger speedster Rhea Taylor, who proceeded to steal her 42nd base of the season. After Marston and Hudson were walked, Fleming grounded out to second base allowing Taylor to scoot across the plate with the Tigers third run.

The Tigers and Huskies play at 6 p.m. on Sunday, with a Tiger win locking in their third straight trip to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series. Both Mizzou’s Chelsea Thomas and the Huskies’ Kaitlyn Ingelsby are expected to start the game. Should Washington win, the third and deciding game of the Super Regional will be played immediately afterward. Both games are scheduled to be nationally televised on ESPN2.

And while they have their backs against the wall, UW’s Jenn Selling expressed confidence they can come back. “This team gets tougher in tough situations. We wish tomorrow would come right now.”

•NOTES•

• The Tigers set another attendance record today with 2,595 in attendance, breaking the mark set earlier this season against Texas. The stands were full, with fans standing several deep all along the outfield fence, and more than a dozen watching from across the street on the putting green at A.L. Gustin Golf Course.

• Earleywine indicated that Princess Krebs may get the start in left field on Sunday. Ingelsby is known as a drop ball pitcher, and Mizzou sent Lisa Simmons to left tonight, both for her ability as a low-ball hitter and her outstanding defense. However, the Tigers saw on Saturday that Ingelsby was leaving her ball high in the zone and that’s a style of pitch more suited to Krebs.

• While people tend to think of the Pac-10 as the dominant conference in softball—and historically there’s very good reason for that—this year’s Women’s College World Series may have a very strong Big 12 feel. On Saturday both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma punched their tickets by winning Super Regionals. Oklahoma State is a surprising team to make the tournament after beating Houston in Stillwater, while the strong Sooners team of Patty Gasso knocked off Pac-10 power Arizona. In addition to Mizzou, one other team from the conference is one win away from a trip to Oklahoma City as Baylor beat Georgia in Athens 5-1 on Saturday. If the Lady Bears and Tigers win Sunday, half the field of the World Series will be from the Big 12. Alabama, Arizona State (which beat the Big 12’s Texas A&M) and Florida have already clinched berths in the World Series, and the eighth will go to either California or Kentucky, with Cal holding a 1-0 lead in that series.

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