Missouri's winningest senior class became proud owners of a 3-1 record (4-1 for redshirt seniors) against the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday, helping push Missouri to 10-2 on the season with a 35-7 euthanasia of an emotionally wounded and seemingly disinterested Kansas team on Saturday.
A Drama-Free Win
Mizzou was in control of the 119th installment of the Border War from the opening snap, and that's not just from the advantage of hindsight. On the field Saturday, there was an almost palpable sense of nonchalance from the north side of Arrowhead Stadium, and it was readily apparent to the players.
"Immediately, you could just tell by their demeanor that they, I don't know, I don't want to say anything about them, but I feel like we wanted it more than they did," [Missouri linebacker Andrew] Gachkar said.
The sentiment wasn't limited to the Missouri players, as the Columbia Tribune's Joe Walljasper noted after speaking with Kansas cornerback Chris Harris.
"I would say that in the past it was a lot more heated. We've got a lot of guys that have never played in this game, so they didn't really know how it was going to be. There was a lot of trash talking, but there wasn't as much as there was in the past. ... My Orange Bowl year, they were warming up and Aqib [Talib] just jumps through their warm-up."
The win was drama-free for the Missouri Tigers to conclude a regular season that managed to produce drama like it was a TNT writers meeting shortly before the season opener against Illinois. Twelve game of football after the Derrick Washington legal imbroglio and the wave of August suspensions and injuries, the Tigers are back atop the 10-win plateau for the third time in four years.
Carrying the Load
Speaking of the Derrick Washington situation, Washington's two shoes have been filled by a total of somewhere around 12 feet. Missouri's running back by committee approach has, to a large degree, been silently effective for a decent percentage of the season (and, for that matter, hasn't exactly been popular with bloggers from Stillwater).
All of Missouri's touchdowns against Kansas came via the ground game, with four different players accounting for the scores. In total, eight Missouri players ran the ball against the Jayhawks, compiling 218 rushing yards against what Blaine Gabbert called a "4-0, no linebackers" look from Kansas. Though the rushing attack has disappeared on occasion in 2010, Saturday was an illustration of Mizzou's ideal ground game.
Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore led the tailbacks with 10 carries a piece, with Lawrence totaling a team-high 75 yards and Moore a game-high two touchdowns. Moore, who Gary Pinkel once called "the grandpa" of the tailbacks, showed his utility in short yardage while Lawrence showed against Kansas an ability to run through tackles that had largely been unseen up to this point of his career. The two freshman tailbacks -- Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy -- carried 11 times for 60 yards, and perhaps most encouragingly, did so without any plays of negative yardage. But beyond the tailbacks, four other players ran the football either out of the quarterback position (Gabbert and James Franklin) or on jet sweeps to the receivers (T.J. Moe and Jerrell Jackson).
It is not/has not been/will never be the solo production the Tigers would have expected from Washington. But what Mizzou lacks in singular reliability it makes up in versatility. The running game hasn't been without fault on occasion, but Saturday's game was a reminder of how difficult Missouri's multi-headed attack can be to defend. For the season, seven Missouri contributors in the running game (the four backs plus Franklin, Jackson and Moe) now have per carry averages of better than 5.0.
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