Mizzou vs. Arkansas State Preview

Mizzou FansCoach Pinkel and the 3-0 Mizzou Tigers return home this weekend to finish off non-conference play against the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m.

The Tigers have been dominant in their first three games, outscoring their opponents 141 – 65 thanks in large part to their offense, which ranks seventh in the nation. Mizzou is averaging 567.0 yards per game of total offense and is looking to start 4-0 for the seventh time in Coach Pinkel’s 13-season tenure.

Mizzou and Arkansas State have matched up twice before, with the Tigers earning big wins in both 2004 and 2005. The Tigers rolled to big offensive days in both games, totaling 506 offensive yards in the 2004 win and 657 yards the following year.

The 2013 Tigers know a lot about offense, too. Senior quarterback James Franklin amassed a career-best 404 yards of total offense last week at Indiana and finished the night 32-47 passing for a career-high 343 yards and two touchdowns (he also added a rushing touchdown, his first since the 2011 Independence Bowl against North Carolina). Sophomore Russell Hansbrough posted his second 100-yard rushing game of the season with 104 yards on 13 carries against the Hoosiers.

Three games into the season, Mizzou’s rushing attack appears to be a three-headed monster. Hansbrough’s strong night went along with steady rushing performances from tailbacks Henry Josey (47 yards, 13 att.) and Marcus Murphy (67 yards, 10 att.).

Overall, the Tigers rank eighth nationally in scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and sixth nationally in third-down conversion rate (59.6%).

That high-powered offense has complemented a relentlessly productive defense. The Tigers have already surpassed their 2012 total for interceptions just three games into the season. Missouri has recorded nine interceptions in total, three each in the first three games. The 3.0 INTs per game ranks first in the SEC and first nationally.

The interceptions at Indiana pushed Missouri’s consecutive games streak with a turnover forced to 33—the longest active streak in the country. The last time Mizzou had notched three INTs in three consecutive games was back in 1980 when the Tigers had five against San Diego State, three against Penn State and three against Oklahoma State in games 3-4-5 of that season.

Eight different Tigers have recorded picks, with senior E.J. Gaines the only one with two pickoffs. Gaines is Mizzou’s active career interceptions leader with five. Interestingly enough, the interceptions for all other seven Tigers in 2013 marked the first of their careers.

That included junior defensive lineman Kony Ealy, who returned his interception for a 49-yard score. That staked the Tigers out to a 28-14 lead, and they never looked back the rest of the night, as they pulled away for the big road win. Ealy was named SEC Defensive Line Player of the Week.

Through three games, Ealy leads the Tiger defense with four pass break ups. According to www.cfbstats.com, Ealy’s five passes defended (PBUs plus INTs) ranks him 26th among all defenders nationally and tied for first among all defensive linemen.

Although the defense has had no trouble catching the ball, the offense hasn’t struggled either. Both senior Marcus Lucas and sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham posted career-high 100-yard receiving performances at Indiana, which marked the first time two Tigers had 100-yards receiving in the same game since 2010. Jimmie Hunt (six catches, 44 yards), and L’Damian Washington (five catches, 77 yards, touchdown) both either matched or topped career highs, too.

Green-Beckham has blossomed into Mizzou’s most productive receiver. A year after being the top recruit in the nation, Green-Beckham is averaging 14.1 yards per catch, 79.7 yards per game and is leading the Tigers in total yards and touchdowns.

The win at Indiana tied Coach Pinkel with Dan Devine for No.2 in school history with 93 wins. He now needs eight wins to match Mizzou’s all-time winningest coach, Don Faurot. Faurot won 101 games from 1935-42, 1946-1956.

Arkansas State last played on September 21, when it lost to Memphis 31-7. The Red Wolves are 2-2 in 2013.