Quarterback: James Franklin came out like a house afire, leading the Tigers 74 yards in eight plays for a touchdown in his first drive in six weeks. Franklin said after the game he was not thrilled with how he played overall, but he was effective. The Tigers ran the ball 35 times after halftime and threw it only 12 and Franklin was responsible with the football. An assist to Maty Mauk for a 60-yard pass to Bud Sasser to ignite a scoring drive after the Tigers had stalled a bit. GRADE: B
Running Back: The difference in this Missouri team and others of recent vintage? The Tigers have three guys they can rely on to salt a game away and they're very tough to come back on because of it. Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough ran for 194 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries. It doesn't get much better than that. GRADE: A
Receivers: Sasser and Marcus Lucas came up big in the first half. L'Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham were probably less than full strength and were not major factors. Eric Waters caught three passes, though they only went for six yards. This game was about Missouri's offensive line, its ground game and its defense. There have been days Missouri needed its receiving corps to play a major role. This wasn't one of them. GRADE: C
Offensive Line: Missouri ran for more than 200 yards...in the second half. The line simply asserted its will and pounded Ole Miss for the final 30 minutes. GRADE: A
Defensive Line: Ole Miss seemed to be game planning to neutralize the Tiger pass rush by getting rid of the ball quickly. The Tigers did get one sack but didn't have as many plays in the backfield as they do in most games. Still, outside of one drive in the third quarter, the Rebels had just a little more than 50 yards on the ground. Lucas Vincent made a couple of standout plays as well. GRADE: B
Linebackers: Andrew Wilson seemed to be all over the place and Kentrell Brothers made some plays as well. The Tigers got hurt by the screen pass a few times, but not as badly as they have in the past. GRADE: B
Secondary: Ole Miss seemed to target Randy Ponder early and often and Ponder responded. He had an interception and multiple pass breakups. Matt White and Braylon Webb made multiple plays. Missouri gave up some yardage (252) but they played physical with a very talented Ole Miss receiving corps and came out ahead for the night. GRADE: A-
Special Teams: The two biggest plays of the night came from Harold Brantley, who blocked a field goal and then lobbied for playing time on offense after a 27-yard run on a gutsy fake punt called from the Tigers' own 20-yard line. Andrew Baggett made every kick and Missouri won the special teams battle in a game where it seemed like a major deficit coming in. GRADE: A
Coaching: Nothing rattles this team. Nothing. And that simply has to be a reflection on the head coach. Evan Boehm said he snuck a game ball into the locker room to present to Gary Pinkel in honor of the coach's 100th win at Missouri. Number 101 would tie Pinkel for the school record and put his team in the SEC Championship Game. GRADE: A
***GAME AT A GLANCE***
Player of the Game: Missouri's offensive line. With a nod to the trio of tailbacks, the five guys paving the way deserve recognition for complete and utter dominance of the line of scrimmage. The last eight minutes--when Missouri was going to run, Ole Miss knew it and still couldn't stop it--are a lineman's dream.
Play of the Game: It's four plays. Ole Miss had first and goal on the one-yard line. Without looking up the numbers, that situation probably leads to points somewhere around 98% of the time. The Tigers made a stop on first down, got a false start penalty, held the Rebels out of the end zone and then blocked a field goal. After that, Ole Miss was playing from behind all night long and never could make up the deficit. That goal line stand changed the entire night.
It was over when...: The Tigers took advantage of a replay reversal wiping out a Ja-Mes Logan touchdown and stopped Ole Miss on first and goal from the seven. The Tigers got the ball back with eight minutes to play and the defense never stepped back on the field.
Reason to feel good: One game for everything. Missouri did what it had to do. The Tigers were standing at the free throw line, down two with no time on the clock. If they missed the first shot, the second one wouldn't even matter. They did not. With a win on Saturday, the Tigers are in the SEC Championship Game. Baylor lost on Saturday. If Ohio State or Florida State drops a game, Missouri is two wins away from the BCS National Championship game.
Cause for Concern: Kickoff against Texas A&M is still 158 hours away. This is going to be one of the longest weeks in the history of Missouri football.
Up Next: Missouri hosts Texas A&M at 6:45 on Saturday night. The game will be televised on ESPN.
***FIVE THOUGHTS ON THE TIGERS***
The heirarchy at quarterback Having a backup QB that can win a game is a very good thing and Missouri does. But Mauk is clearly the backup. He earned a series or two in each game and he took advantage of his chance this week. But Pinkel said there was never any consideration to leave Mauk on the field. Franklin is not only the best quarterback on this team, but its leader.
There are no more questions I was talking to a guy that covers Ole Miss at halftime. I said, "every week, opposing media members lead up to the game thinking Missouri isn't very good and is a product of its schedule. And then by about the third quarter, they start to realize, hey, Missouri is pretty damn good." This team is 10-1, 6-1 in the SEC, hasn't trailed in the fourth quarter and has led every single game by at least 14 points. You do that in the SEC, you deserve every bit of a top six ranking, which is exactly what Missouri will have later today.
Hooray for Henry Pinkel talked again on Saturday night about how he didn't know if Henry Josey would ever again be the player he was. I don't know if he's gotten every bit of speed and explosiveness back, but the kid is every bit the back he was two years ago. In talking about Josey, Pinkel said, "it has a lot to do with his heart." If Franklin is the leader of this team, Henry Josey is its heart and soul.
Eric Waters' Blindside Block On Marcus Murphy's touchdown run, Waters blocked an Ole Miss defender all the way through the end zone and into the padded wall at the front of the stands. The defender took exception and shoved Waters, drawing a 15-yard flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. I tweeted out a description of the play and got this response: "It was time for him to go home." If you don't get the reference, watch "The Blind Side," (which you should do anyway).
No amount of hype is too much Next weekend is the biggest game this program has played since the Big 12 title game in 2007. It's not bigger because, well, it can't be any bigger. But it's right there. It's the biggest home game since 1960. Johnny Football is coming to town, but he's not bringing a defense with him. 60 minutes stand between the Tigers and the label "best team in school history." How do you overhype that?