by Mizzou Matt
|The original trophy|
SHREVEPORT, LA- We'll go by the numbers: Eight. That's the number of bowl games that Gary Pinkel has led Missouri to in his 11 years as head coach. Three. That's how many they've won of the previous seven. 84. Pinkel's win count at Mizzou leading up to the Independence Bowl. Three. The number of appearances Missouri has made in Shreveport. One. One game left as members of the Big 12 Conference.
The University of Missouri (8-5, 5-4) looked to do something that they haven't been consistent at doing- win a bowl game. In the previous 28, the Tigers are just 12-16.
Improve that record to 13-16 with a dominant performance by the Tiger squad as they rolled over the North Carolina Tar Heels (7-6, 3-5) by a score of 41-24. Powered by sophomore quarterback James Franklin, the Tigers scored 31 points on all five of their first half possessions- both a school record for points scored in any half, and an Independence Bowl record.
The Tar Heels, who entered the game 7-5, 3-5 ACC, were touted as having "NFL talent" and one of the best rushing defenses in the country, allowing just 106 yards per game on the ground. The Tigers ripped them up for 337 as a whole. Franklin paved the way with 142 yards while Kendial Lawrence plugged UNC's holey defense with 108 of his own. Franklin had two touchdowns on the ground, Lawrence with a solo score.
The passing game wasn't there, mainly because it wasn't needed. The Tigers stuck to a game plan that worked. Franklin went just 15/23 for 132 yards and a TD, but the big play of the night was a double-pass from Franklin to wide receiver TJ Moe, Moe to a wide open Wes Kemp on a 40-yd score to tie the game at 7. Moe finished 1/2 on the game, 2/3 on the year for 71 yards. Senior quarterback Jimmy Costello completed his final pass as a Tiger, netting four yards.
|Broken trophy. courtesy: Mizzou Alumni Association|
Shreveport native L'Damian Washington got some cheers from his hometown crowd, grabbing three balls for 47 yards, including a big 22 yard gain on third down. Washington's homecoming was bittersweet as he got to spend Christmas with his brothers. The Washington's mother passed away a few years ago, and their father ten years before that.
The comical side of the game actually occurred before the kickoff, during pregame festivities. Mizzou's mascot, Truman the Tiger, broke the crystal bowl that sat atop the Independence Bowl trophy. A backup was brought in from a local retailer, and the vase is twice the size of the original crystal. Many thought it to be a bad omen, a precursor of what would come- poor ball control. While Truman fumbled the trophy, fans hoped that would be the only fumbling done by the Tigers.
Turnovers turned out to be the Achilles heel for the Tar Heels, as Giovani Bernard fumbled the ball, recovered by senior defensive end Jacquies Smith. Linebacker Zavier Gooden intercepted a Bryn Renner pass that was intended for UNC's Dwight Jones, after the ball rolled across Jones' back. Missouri turned both of those into points. The lone Tiger turnover was a Franklin pass, but to James' defense, his arm was hit as he released the ball by Quinton Coples. Mizzou went +1 for the game.
Grant Ressel was reported to have been warming up prior to the game, making field goals of about 40 yards. He was not used, however, as junior punter/placekicker Trey Barrow connected on 2/2 with a long of 31 yards.
|photo courtesy: Rolandis Woodland|
With the win, Mizzou increases their overall record to 630-520-52, and moves Gary Pinkel one win closer to Dan Devine and Don Faurot. The 17-pt margin is just the third bowl game to be decided by more than 10 points this year. It's also the first time since 1965 that the Tigers won their last four games of the season.
The old saying "You break it, you buy it!" continued it's relevance last night as the Tigers said "No big deal." Will Missouri get stuck with the bill for the new trophy? If so, they can always say "Hey Chuck [Neinas], you got this, right?"