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Mizzou 51, Vanderbilt 28: Tigers' offense is humming

Frederick Breedon

The Trib: Missouri displays balanced offensive attack in 51-28 win over Vanderbilt in SEC opener
The Trib: Notebook: Missouri vs. Vanderbilt

Josey had three runs of more than 10 yards, including a 20-yard burst on the third play of the game, a speed-option pitch he took from quarterback James Franklin. Missouri ran the option at least eight times last night, with Josey as the pitch man on many of those.

The high number of option play-calls was planned, offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. Missouri used the option against Vanderbilt's aggressive outside blitz.

"It was just something we felt like coming into the game could be something to help us move the football," Henson said.

Rebounding from a catastrophic knee injury in 2011, Josey showed his best speed and vision of this season, following blockers and weaving through holes against a shoddy Vanderbilt defense. His best runs, it seemed, came as Franklin's pitch man on those options.

"We just tried to take advantage of that, going at their blitz every time," Josey said.

The Maneater: Pinkel backs Franklin in good times and bad

"If we’d have stayed healthy last year," Pinkel said, wagging his finger, "he’d have played like this, very close to this a year ago. I really think he would have, so this doesn’t surprise me. Everybody’s going, ‘Wow,’ and all of a sudden, everybody loves James Franklin, but I loved him last year and his sophomore year."

Pinkel was even more animated about comparisons to 2012’s Tiger squad, which went 5-7 and whimpered to a 2-6 conference record in its SEC debut.

"Everybody tries to judge last year," he said. "If I’d done a better job coaching, we’d have won one more game and gone to a bowl, OK? Last year, our team — people talk about the leadership last year on our team — we had great leadership on our team last year. When you start losing all those guys, you’re quarterback’s hurt and can’t play, you’re losing close football games, it takes a toll. Those kids were great senior leaders last year, all those kids and we just battled through it. And guess what? If I’d done a better job coaching, we could’ve won one more game. That’s all we had to do, through all the stuff we went through."

Intended Touches (targets + carries)
Henry Josey: 14 for 69 (2 TD)
James Franklin: 10 for 72
Russell Hansbrough: 9 for 44
Marcus Lucas: 7 for 60 (1 TD)
L'Damian Washington: 5 for 86 (2 TD)
Dorial Green-Beckham: 5 for 30
Marcus Murphy: 4 for 69
Eric Waters: 3 for 39 (1 TD)
Jimmie Hunt: 3 for 35
Bud Sasser: 3 for 28
Darius White: 1 for 0
Jaleel Clark: 1 for 0

Things weren't quite as even this week. With Mizzou nursing a hefty lead in the second half, the Tigers leaned pretty heavily on the run. Considering it was working so well, I'd say that's probably okay, huh?

This offense is working with stunning precision so far. Like I said last night, the occasional first-down struggles are potential cause for concern against defenses (like Florida's) that are less likely to let you off the hook on second or third down. (That's almost certainly the reason for the random three-and-out glitches Mizzou has suffered in previous weeks.) But the ease with which Mizzou is catching back up after falling behind schedule -- either through gouging with the run or spreading the defense out dramatically and hitting quick slants and whatnot -- is something we haven't seen since at least 2008.

We don't know how much Mizzou's improvement is due to good health (quite a bit, probably), experience (at least a little), or a change in coordinators (at least a little), but we know that this offense is humming. And it's going to give Mizzou a chance in just about every game the Tigers play this year.

Oh yeah, and hello, tight ends. Good to see you.