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Missouri Beats Texas A&M With Youth Movement

James Franklin has struggled with consistency in the passing game during his first year as a starter, but he turned in another impressive performance against Texas A&M because of his dual-threat ability and another strong fourth quarter. He avoided the big mistake unlike experienced starter Ryan Tannehill and led his team to a late victory.

What else can be said about Henry Josey except that he is simply an accidental superstar? After being third on the depth chart to start the season, Josey surpassed the 1,000 yard plateau for the year with a 20-carry, 162-yard performance against one of the best run defenses in the nation. It was his third straight game with over 125 yards.

EJ Gaines, the cornerback who was burnt for two long touchdowns in week two at Arizona State, saw his play improve once again this weekend, collecting ten tackles and four pass breakups, three of which came in the all-important fourth quarter and overtime. He was just named Big 12 defensive player of the week.

Marcus Lucas, the highly-touted receiver out of Liberty, pulled in the eventual game-winning touchdown against the Aggies on a fade route on third down in overtime.

Randy Ponder continues to make an impact in the limited time he has seen on the field. As the third defensive back this weekend, Ponder made two crucial, momentum-swinging turnovers in the second half that helped propel the Tigers to a comeback win.

Let's not forget Eric Waters, the third-string tight end that hauled in an impressive 42-yard touchdown in the first quarter against A&M - only his second career catch.

Sense a theme here? Not only is this a list of the most important plays and players from Missouri's big road win over No. 16 Texas A&M, but it is a list that is entirely composed of sophomores.

That fact should probably get Missouri fans a little more excited than they seem to be about the youth on this team. The Tigers record sits at a frustrating 4-4 with a lot of close losses against ranked teams, but when you look at the class composition of the roster, this young team should be gaining a lot of valuable experience that will help them surpass expectations in the next two seasons.

It has to be frustrating for Missouri fans to hear "wait until next year and then our team will be awesome!" but in this case that statement seems to have some merit.

Young, talented college players are well-known in the sports world for making explosive plays while also being inconsistent. That description of a young player also rings true for a young team.

While some, including myself, thought that this year's senior class would be important to the team's success, it really hasn't produced in the way most expected it would.

Receivers Jerrell Jackson (8 catches, 111 yards) and Wes Kemp (18 catches, 213 yards, 3 TD) have been non-existent in the passing game that has actually spread the ball around a lot more than last year when Michael Egnew (also a somewhat disappointing senior) and TJ Moe made most of the plays.

What was supposed to be one of the top defensive lines in the Big 12 because of their run-stopping and pass-rushing ways has turned into a unit that can't put any constant pressure on the top quarterbacks in the conference. Guess who this unit is led by? Three seniors - Dominique Hamilton, Terrell Ressono and Jacquies Smith.

It's not to say that these players aren't good. They are obviously starting because the coaching staff believes that they have earned that right, but with the young defensive line talent like Sheldon Richardson, Lucas Vincent and Brayden Burnett forcing their way into significant playing time on the defensive line, there is even more to be excited about.

This development of young players over the last couple weeks will also help for the rest of this season. Going into the weekend, Missouri was struggling to keep its bowl chances alive. Now, after what they showed in an impressive road win, their remaining four games should all be winnable and we could be talking about a nine-win team when all is said and done.

While this season is a bit of an emotional roller coaster for Missouri fans and still somewhat of a disappointment, at least the team is showing some incredible promise for the future (this year and beyond) and is proving that this football team has turned into a legitimate football program - one that reloads talent every single year and will compete every single year.