COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - No one’s smile was as wide as Randy Kemp’s on Saturday afternoon.
After Missouri’s 30-9 victory over Texas A&M, the 1975 Missouri graduate was proud of his alma mater, but that wasn’t the main reason behind his unfaltering grin. His son, junior wide receiver Wes Kemp, led the team in scoring with two touchdowns.
“He’s waited quite a long time to have a game like today, so we were all happy that it finally happened,” Randy Kemp said.
Wes Kemp, who was inconsistent in early games, was the standout wide receiver in College Station on Saturday, where he caught 10 passes for 89 yards. Both Kemp and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel attributed the improved performance to his newfound confidence and recent success in practice.
“He had a little lull during the end of two-a-days and the first couple of games he wasn’t catching the ball as well,” Pinkel said. “And for some reason, the past couple of weeks… he’s been practicing right now like you see him playing.”
Pinkel said that Wes Kemp’s recent improvement is something he’s seen over and over throughout his career. When Kemp began to play better and excel at practices, Pinkel knew his hard work would translate into better gameday results.
“The first weeks of the season it was kind of humbling, just trying to stay in it,” Kemp said. “But it just works out in the end.”
Fellow wide receiver T.J. Moe said that he thinks a mental shift was the root of Kemp’s improvement. Kemp has always been an excellent athlete, Moe said, and just needed to prove both to himself and to quarterback Blaine Gabbert that he could be a reliable receiver.
“Wes’s confidence really picked up, and his play came right with it,” Moe said. “You talk about training your mind and then your body follows, and that’s what he did.”
Pinkel added that the adversity that Kemp faced early in the season probably made him a stronger player. His ability to rebound from that in College Station proved a lot to the coach about his receiver’s dedication.
Although two touchdowns are impressive, Kemp came within inches of a third touchdown in the second quarter. On a questionable call, officials ruled that he was down at the one-yard line. For Randy Kemp, it didn’t matter—every time his son caught the ball was a highlight.
“The highlight was probably the first touchdown,” the father said. “Followed by the second touchdown that was called back. Followed by the third touchdown.”
Wes Kemp said that one of the best things about the victory was not his individual performance but that of all the wide receivers as a group. Saturday’s game saw the most balanced performance among the receivers, and Pinkel said that having multiple targets for Gabbert to throw to is crucial to the offense’s success.
“I think as a group that’s probably the best we’ve played,” Moe said. “We’ve had some good individual performances this year, but I think as a group we did a really nice job.”
For Kemp, Saturday was a learning experience. He found out that he can not only contribute significantly as a receiver in 2010, but that his own dedication can help him leave his early-season struggles behind.
“Everybody goes through highs and lows, and if you keep working hard you’re going to have more highs than lows,” Kemp said.