Missouri coach Gary Pinkel can sometimes have a bit of a chip on his shoulders. “When I took the job here, I said at my first press conference that I wanted the University of Missouri football program to be respected. That’s really, really important to me … just a total respect for the whole operation around here. So we took a little hit last year. But you get back to work, and that’s what we did.” This season has been one building block after another on the respect train. All aboard as we look at five moments that made a difference.
5. INTO THE SPOTLIGHT
51-28 victory at Vanderbilt
Why it mattered: The Tigers had played a pedestrian first four games against bad competition and actually struggled against Murray State. But they gained some respect by hammering the Commodores on the road.
By the numbers: Pinkel opened a season 5-0 for the fifth time in 13 campaigns. And it matched Mizzou’s victory total of the previous season.
How it happened: Quarterback James Franklin guide scoring drives on the first six possessions.
What he said: “James has been around a little bit. If he had stayed healthy last year, he would have played like this. This doesn’t surprise me. I loved him last year. I’m very proud of him … He is playing with some of the best quarterbacks, I think it’s fair to say that.” — Pinkel
4. A GRINDING VICTORY
41-26 victory at Georgia
Why it mattered: The Tigers stamped themselves as worthy of the league by upsetting the No. 7 Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium, but they lost starting quarterback Franklin to a separated right shoulder.
By the numbers: The Tigers scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass from receiver Bud Sasser to L’Damian Washington that demonstrated the weakness of UGA’s secondary and the go-for-broke attitude of Pinkel’s offensive philosophy in the Tigers’ first road victory against a top-10 team since 1981. It stopped UGA’s streak of 15 consecutive victories at Sanford Stadium.
How it happened: Missouri led by 18 after returning a fumble for a touchdown. And then Georgia closed the gap to 28-26. The SEC respect factor went up when freshman Maty Mauk led the Tigers to two scores as Georgia committed four turnovers.
What he said: “I just think we earned a little more respect. The respect level just went up a couple notches.” — Pinkel
3. A BRIEF STUMBLE
27-24 loss in two overtimes to South Carolina
Why it mattered: The Tigers blew a 17-0 lead at home and missed a chance to win in overtime when kicker Andrew Baggett clanged a 24-yarder off the left upright. It put them in a position to have to validate their SEC East standing.
By the numbers: The Gamecocks scored on their final five possessions.
How it happened: Injured Connor Shaw came of the bench to pass for 201 yards and three TDs in relief of Dylan Thompson.
What he said: “You know, that’s his job and it’s his responsibility. Last week, he made five. … It’s not one guy here. We all could have done something different to help win that football game.” —Pinkel
2. NEVER FLINCHING
24-10 victory at Ole Miss
Why it mattered: James Franklin returned as a starter after missing four games and having mop-up duty for one week, and he completed 12 of 19 passes for 142 yards. But the real respect went to the Tigers’ defense: Ole Miss made three trips to the red zone, but managed only three points.
By the numbers: It marked the fourth 10-win season for Missouri in the past seven years and was Pinkel’s 100th win with the Tigers.
How it happened: The Tigers jumped to a 17-3 lead against an upcoming Ole Miss squad that everyone expected to pose a real threat to Mizzou’s SEC East hopes, and running back Henry Josey rushed for two touchdowns. Mizzou rushed for 260 yards.
What he said: “To say I’m proud of my football team and my staff would be an understatement. They battle every time they play. They prepare well and focus at a very high level.” — Pinkel
1. STOPPING JOHNNY FOOTBALL
28-21 victory against Texas A&M
Why it mattered: Needing a victory to clinch the East, or allowing South Carolina to take the division title with a loss, the Tigers held firm against the Aggies.
By the numbers: The Tigers held Manziel to 195 passing yards, his worst game as a collegiate starter and wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham caught seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. Pinkel tied Don Faurot for most victories (101) in school history.
How it happened: Henry Josey burst away on a 57-yard run to wrap up the SEC Championship game berth.
What he said: “What a great play (by Josey). What a great kid.” —Pinkel