10 December 2011

A Look Back

First semester brings roller coaster of emotions
by Mizzou Matt
As the year of 2011 comes to a close, it brings with it the end of the first semester of the academic/athletic year. As the students take their finals and head home for the holiday season, many of them will never suit up in the Mizzou Black & Gold ever again. In a semester filled triumph and defeat, with pride and with sentiments of "What just happened?", the True Sons/Daughters showed what it took to have the Heart of a Tiger. So in the spirit of finals, pick your pencils up. It's time to take a look back at the semester's athletic events.

The Mizzou soccer team came off of a 7-10-2 2010 season and opened play with an exhibition game against Illinois. The game was delayed for upwards of thirty minutes due to weather, but when it finally began, the outcome was very similar to the score before the game. 1-1 tie. The Tigers would go on to be the winners of 12 contests, including a victory over then No. 7 Ohio State and notching a win in a nationally televised game against Oklahoma on ESPNU, but their season would come to a close in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament, falling to Texas A&M 3-0.
Dominique Richardson led the team in goals with 6, while Danielle Nottingham was right on her heels with 5. Alyssa Diggs, Kelsey Blincow and Taylor Grant all had 4 goals each, and Abi Raymer and Kendra Collins added 3 each of their own. Kaysie Clark, Haley Krentz and Brooke Williams netted 2 a piece, and Mallory Stipetich rounded out the scoring with one goal on the season. Missouri outscored their opponents 37-22 while out shooting them 346-300.

Final 2011 record: 12-8-1, 3-5-0.

Fresh off a 2010 NCAA tournament appearance, the Tigers used their skills in the front court to force 691 errors by the opposing teams. The Tigers trailed in the kills department, 1629-1715, and that's reflected in their 21-13 overall record. In Big 12 play, they carried a sub-.500 record of 7-9. Lisa Henning set a school record with kills with 523.

Through the fall exhibition, the Tiger softball squad went a perfect 8-0, notching five shutouts. On the men's side, the Tiger baseball team split their exhibition with Iowa 2-1, while raising more than $12,000 for the Joplin Little League.

Simmons Field at Taylor Stadium, the home of the Mizzou baseball team, has been named 2011 College and University Baseball Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), as announced by the STMA on Tuesday (Nov. 22). The field is maintained and cared for by Mizzou Turf Specialist Josh McPherson and his staff.

Ah yes, last but not least. Coming off of a 10-3 2010 season, the Tigers were in a rebuilding phase after losing quarterback Blaine Gabbert and star defensive end Aldon Smith. Their season was a roller coaster full up ups and downs, starting with the loss of star offensive lineman Elvis Fisher. For most of the season, winning seemed hard to come by, up until the final three games, that is. The Tigers would go the majority of the season without having won back-to-back games, though having plenty of opportunities to do so.

They started their season with a 17-6 win over quarterback Zack Dysart and the Miami (OH) Redhawks. De'Vion Moore, Kendial Lawrence, Jacquies Smith, and Will Ebner all went down to injury in the opener, and would miss the next few games. Henry Josey stepped up to fill the vacated running back role. They traveled out to Tempe, AZ to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. This marked the second time in three games, dating back to the 2010 Insight.com Bowl against Iowa that the Tigers were in Sun Devil Stadium. After battling back to tie the game in the fourth, the Tigers would fall in overtime, 37-30. Back home they came for Western Illinois, a FCS opponent who put up an FCS fight. Mizzou notched their most lopsided victory in school history, 69-0. Onward to Norman, OK and the Sooners on Kyle Field. The Tigers jumped off to a quick 14-0 lead, becoming the first team to lead against OU to that point. Powered by strong 2nd & 3rd quarters, though, the Sooners jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable lead and looked as though they were going to cover the spread set by Vegas. The Tigers fought back in the fourth again and closed the gap to 10, losing 38-28.

For the fifth game of the year, the Tigers went out to the foothills of Kansas to take on Kansas State at Bill Snyder Family Memorial Stadium. The Wildcats hadn't allowed any points in the fourth quarter prior to the matchup, and the Tigers would be the first ones to do so. Their fourth quarter was sound, but they still found themselves on the short end, 24-17. Homecoming. The Centennial. 100 years ago, the Tigers played their first Homecoming against Kansas. This year, it was against Iowa State, a team that Mizzou defeated 14-0 last year. The Tigers used a stellar first-half performance to roll past the Cyclones 52-17 to move to 3-3 on the year, and stay perfect on their home turf, dating back to 2009. The next week, however, would prove to be a streak-breaker as Oklahoma State came to town. Powered by Joseph Randle's rushing and Brandon Weeden's passing, the Cowboys slid past Mizzou 45-24, and the inability to win two in a row continued. What happened next, nobody could've predicted.

Missouri went on the road to take on 16th-ranked Texas A&M. James Franklin looked like a man on a mission on his first TD run of the game, and Henry Josey continued his trend of carrying the team as the Tigers used overtime to beat the Aggies 38-31. Mizzou is the winningest program in overtime games with 10 OT wins. They beat TAMU, but could they beat the Heisman hopeful Robert Griffin III and the Baylor Bears? Almost. Their comeback came too late, and the Tigers fell to Baylor 42-39. Mizzou would return to Columbia for their final two home games that would complete the "Texas 4-Step". First up, Texas. A team that Gary Pinkel has not beat in his previous 10 years as Mizzou head coach. The Tigers took a lead and never let it go, despite an unusual third quarter where Mizzou outscored the Longhorns 3-2. The final home game was against Texas Tech, and coming off a week of turmoil surrounding Pinkel and his DUI and losing Josey to a knee injury, questions were raised if Missouri could beat Tech. Rather than relying on paper to determine the game, the Tigers did their talking on the field, using yet another second half comeback capped off by a Michael Sam interception with :32 seconds to play to clinch the 31-27 win. The team finally got the monkey off their back and won two games straight. Could they get their third in a row?

At the start of the game, it wasn't looking too good. Kansas looked like they came to play. Their strong first half had them leading in the locker room 10-3. During halftime, as reported by Fox Sports Midwest, Josey pulled Franklin aside to tell him "Don't worry about that. Play the second half like it's a brand new game." Franklin heeded his advice. While the Jayhawks were struggling on offense, the Tigers' offense seemed to finally find it's way out of neutral. Notching 14 points off turnovers in the 3rd and adding another touchdown early in the 4th, the Tigers knocked off Kansas for what might have been the final meeting between the two schools, 24-10.

Season Statistical Leaders:
J. Franklin223353273320
J. Costello23701
H. Josey14511688.19
J. Franklin1998394.213
T. Moe5464912.04
M. Egnew4748410.33

Andrew Wilson led the team in tackles with 89. Jacquies Smith led in sacks with 5.0. Kenji Jackson led interceptions with three, while E.J. Gaines intercepted two, both in the endzone. Smith also forced a team-high four fumbles, with Luke Lambert leading with three fumble recoveries. Gaines also led in pass breakups with 16.

The Tigers finish their season 7-5, 5-4 and go bowling for the 8th time under Pinkel, and for the seventh straight season. Missouri will take on North Carolina (7-5, 3-5) in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA on Dec. 26, 2011. Kickoff is set for 4p/CST.

The next semester brings a new round of Tiger athletics as the softball and baseball teams kick off their seasons in February. Tiger basketball is in full stride, and the Tigers are currently sitting at 8-0 on the year, with a game against Navy on Saturday, Dec. 10th at 4p/CST.

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