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Missouri 41, Arkansas State 19: Links and initial reflections

Jamie Squire

I'll have a few more pieces and links throughout the rest of the day, but for now, here are the basics.

1. Recaps Franklin Leads Tigers to 41-19 Win Over Arkansas State Mizzou/Arkansas State Post-Game Notes Mizzou/Arkansas State Post-Game Quotes
The Missourian: Missouri overcomes slow start, beats Arkansas State 41-19
The Trib (Behind the Stripes): Missouri offense catches fire late in 41-19 win over Arkansas State
The Trib: Missouri answers the bell in 2nd half of win over Arkansas State
KC Star: Missouri-Arkansas State game report
Post-Dispatch: Mizzou storms back, improves to 4-0

Games are 60 minutes long. If you want, you can lose your mind and rant and rave because things aren't immediately going your team's way (or, if you're in our section, you can lose the script completely and start dropping massive f-bombs at the refs, your team, and everybody around you until The Beef and his wife shout you down). Or, you can just settle in and see what happens over the course of the entire game before reaching your conclusions.

Beginning around Arkansas State's third possession, Missouri's defensive line began to get a severe push against a shaky ASU offensive line. That made me pretty optimistic overall, even as the wobbly J.D. McKissic (wobbly, as in bringing him down was like trying to catch a knuckle ball; nobody could get their arms around him) continued to break tackles and get upfield. ASU found something that worked and briefly built its offense around him. They stretched Mizzou from sideline to sideline with him (for the game, he caught 15 of 15 passes for 117 yards), poked a couple of holes downfield, and benefited from a couple of terribly ill-timed three-and-outs from the Missouri offense.

Mizzou was establishing complete control early in the second quarter. Dorial Green-Beckham caught a 68-yard bomb to put the Tigers up 14-6 after a shaky start, ASU went three-and-out, and Mizzou took over near midfield. But Marcus Murphy got sandwiched and fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive. ASU ran 25 of the first half's final 28 plays, then ran 15 of the first 18 in the third quarter thanks to a couple of three-and-outs; Mizzou's defense somehow held up as ASU got to the Mizzou 1 to end the first half, then the Tigers forced a field goal and a punt on the first two drives of the second half. What could have easily been about a 24-14 ASU lead was only 16-14, and after weathering a strong series of blows, the Tigers pragmatically put the bout away.

Mizzou: nine plays, 94 yards, touchdown. 20-16.
ASU: three plays, nine yards, punt.
Mizzou: nine plays, 87 yards, touchdown. 27-16.
ASU: 14 plays, 59 yards, field goal. 27-19.
Mizzou: six plays, 65 yards, touchdown. 34-19.
ASU: two plays, minus-13 yards, interception.
Mizzou: three plays, 21 yards, touchdown. 41-19.
ASU: four plays, minus-3 yards, punt.

We can talk about how Mizzou started slow, or how the Tigers had to "wake up" late to put the game away. And to an extent, that's certainly true; the team as a whole just wasn't quite as sharp as it was against Indiana, and the little details were betraying the Tigers for a while. But the defensive line's push eventually made the difference on ASU's possessions, and the Mizzou offense's depth of weapons finally overtook the Red Wolves on Tiger possessions. You'd like for every game to be put away by the end of the first quarter, but it doesn't usually work that way. ASU made Mizzou work and put up a much better fight than it did against Memphis last week, and power to the Red Wolves for that. But Mizzou is 4-0 because, over the course of 60 full minutes, it's a pretty damn good team right now.

2. Multimedia

The Missourian: Missouri fans brave rain to tailgate before Arkansas State game
PowerMizzou: Game Day Gallery
Mizzou Network: Highlight Reel: Mizzou Downs ASU 41-19
Mizzou Network: Highlight: DGB 68 Yard TD
Mizzou Network: Postgame Report: EJ Gaines Talks Turnovers
Mizzou Network: Post Game Report: Franklin On Mizzou's 41-19 Win

3. Pinkel

The Missourian: Victory over Arkansas State propels Gary Pinkel to No. 2 in Missouri football all-time wins

Yes, Gary Pinkel has coached (and, therefore, lost) a lot more games than Dan Devine did as Mizzou's head man. Yes, football teams play a lot more cupcakes now than they used to. Yes, Pinkel is only the third-best coach Missouri's ever head and isn't magically now second because he passed Devine in wins last night. If you feel like nit-picking Pinkel's record, fine. But the fact that Pinkel moved into second place all-time in Mizzou wins last night is still a wonderful achievement for a man who has simply shown up for work and put a mostly solid product on the field for going on 13 years now. He could catch Don Faurot in first place within the next year as well.

Longevity is a skill of sorts, and Pinkel has had it. He will be replaced in the coming years, either because he couldn't get Mizzou over the hump in the SEC, or because he brought the program back to top-25 status and retired in a few seasons. But really, no matter what happens from here on out, his tenure has been an overall success, and last night's win gave us a brief opportunity to recognize that.

4. QB No. 1

The Trib: Franklin delivers in the clutch

One note, however: It is amazing that Pinkel has won this many games with the dumbest "two-point conversion card" in the sport's history in his pocket. Thanks to an egregiously stupid, and unsuccessful, two-point attempt when up 20-16 late in the third quarter, a fourth-quarter ASU field goal allowed the Red Wolves to potentially stay within one possession at 27-19. There was absolutely no justifiable reason to go for two in that situation -- even if the card says to go for two (and my goodness, it doesn't), there's no reason to do so with almost 19 minutes remaining in the game. This could have been as potentially disastrous as a similar decision was in the 2007 Illinois game.

Alas, James Franklin made sure it didn't matter. With ASU down only eight points, Mizzou could have gone into clock-killer mode with 7:23 remaining, attempting to grind out clock and get its defense some rest in case it needed one last stop. But after Russell Hansbrough opened the drive with a three-yard run, here were the plays that followed:

Franklin pass to Marcus Lucas for 11 yards (and a holding penalty on Bud Sasser)
Franklin pass to Dorial Green-Beckham for 15 yards
Franklin bomb incomplete to DGB
Hansbrough rush for 16 yards
Franklin pass to L'Damian Washington for 23 yards
Franklin rush for nine yards and a touchdown

With the game on the line, Mizzou asked Franklin to make a play, and he made a few of them. And his touchdown run was just about the best I've seen from him, mixing both power and agility. And when Mizzou got the ball back up 34-19, he threw his third touchdown pass of the game to DGB to put the game out of reach and, yes, cover the spread.

For the game, Franklin was 21-for-30 for 256 yards, three touchdowns, no picks, and one sack. Yards per pass attempt: a solid 8.2. He also rushed four times for 36 yards and a score (not including sacks). Again, the two untimely three-and-outs Mizzou suffered in the middle of the game were pretty costly and could have been more costly if not for solid depth on the Mizzou defensive line (the Tigers were rotating well and staying fresh despite ASU sitting on the ball for basically an entire quarter). There's always room for growth. But four games into his senior season, Franklin has 1,129 passing yards, nine touchdowns to three picks, and 215 rushing yards with two scores. The mistakes have been minimal, he's moving on when he does make a mistake, he's distributing the ball well to a variety of targets, and when Mizzou needs a couple of extra yards, he lowers his shoulders and gets them. Fix the lulls, and there's almost nothing more we could ask for from the quarterback position.