COLUMBIA — The 68-yard touchdown run really just made it seem unfair. Untouched and unchallenged, as he was virtually throughout the first half, Missouri running back Henry Josey ran through a massive hole and left Western Illinois’ defense wondering what happened — again.
Josey’s 263 yards on 14 carries in the half led Missouri’s offense to a record-breaking 69-0 win over Western Illinois on Saturday night.
Josey continually danced around Western Illinois defenders, leaving them grasping at nothing but the cool night air as they dove for his ankles. To the delight of the 63,420 in attendance, Josey ran for over 10 yards nine times. The Leathernecks could do nothing about his speed but helplessly chase him down the field, eventually hoping to gain an angle and drag him down, or at the very least bump him out of bounds.
All of this with what he called “a bad hamstring.”
“I wouldn’t have too many guys who could really keep up with me once I got out into open field, but me having a bad hamstring,” Josey said. “You have be ready to make a move or do some kind of shifty thing to get them off of you so you can keep going. It’s exciting because they missed, and you’re just running past them real easily.”
His performance in the half was good enough to land him fourth in the Missouri record books for a single-game rushing performance. Devin West’s record of 319 yards on Sept. 12, 1998, against Kansas survived the night, but the same cannot be said for the team’s record for total offense. By racking up 744 yards, the Tigers broke a 62-year-old record, which also came against Kansas, back on Nov. 19, 1949. With the 69 points, the Tigers also tied their record for most points — they accomplished the feat in 1969 against Kansas and in 2008 against Nevada.
The way Josey did it wasn’t necessarily a highlight reel — there weren’t any ankle-breaking jukes or defender-leveling power moves on his resume Saturday — but rather a simple combination of big holes and pure speed.
“I can put in any word I want: fantastic,” Western Illinois coach Mark Hendrickson said of Josey. “At times we made him look unstoppable.”
The only knock on Josey’s performance is that it comes against inferior competition. Western Illinois is a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, one class below the Football Bowl Subdivision where Missouri plays.
Josey, who took over the running back position after injuries to De’Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence, is no stranger to big performances against FCS teams. He racked up 112 yards and three touchdowns against FCS foe McNeese State in 2010.
The Western Illinois defensive line averages just over 276 pounds, and it showed. They were dominated by Missouri’s big boys up front (the Tigers’ offensive line averages 302 pounds), who opened up giant gap after giant gap for Missouri’s running backs.
“Henry’s really, really fast, so I think he could get through a small hole and be gone, but those big holes help us boost our confidence," left tackle Justin Britt said. “Our goal this week was to take it personal … I feel like we took a big step forward.”
After Josey came out of the game, Jared Culver and Greg White picked up right where he left off. Culver broke off a 60-yard run down the sideline, which included an impressive stiff arm, to open the second half. Culver finished with 96 yards, and White had 40 of his own.
Missouri’s dominance wasn’t limited to its ground game either. Quarterback James Franklin threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns on 18-for-26 passing in two and a half quarters, building on a strong performance last week against Arizona State. Franklin got to show off his arm strength early in the second quarter when he a fired a strike that hit T.J. Moe in stride for a 30-yard touchdown that made it 28-0 Tigers.
That was sandwiched between two easy touchdown connections with Wes Kemp, who was wide open on both plays, the first a 37-yard connection that gave the Tigers a 7-0 advantage, and the second, a 10-yard hookup on third-and-goal that put Missouri ahead 35-0.
"I think what we’ve done the best is kind of grow as a team, get that chemistry against other players,” Franklin said. “The first game I was a little hesitant back there, wasn’t on the same page as some of the guys. The second game, it took a little bit, then we finally did it. And this game we kind of started off like that, and that’s what we want to do every game.”
Defensively, the Tigers picked up their third shutout in 12 games dating back to last season. Western Illinois ran 13 offensive plays and punted four times before picking up a first down, which came with 14:26 remaining in the second quarter.
Things did not get any better in the second half for the Leathernecks, who finished the game with 44 total yards. That ranks third on the all-time list for Missouri’s defense in a single game, just behind a 1967 game in which it allowed 18 yards against Kansas State, and the 1968 Gator Bowl against Alabama where it gave up 23 yards.
The margin of victory, 69, broke a school record that dated back to 1928. That is one, however, that coach Gary Pinkel isn’t necessarily proud of.
Missouri scored on a 54-yard pass from Jimmy Costello to Jimmie Hunt to make it 62-0 in the fourth quarter, a pass that Pinkel never intended to go for a score.
“I just wanted a simple completion, and then we’ll run the ball,” Pinkel said. “I’m screaming at him not to score, and obviously they don’t listen."
Then, E.J. Gaines returned a punt 44 yards for the final score.
“E.J. Gaines hadn’t caught the ball yet, I had no idea he was going to return that thing for a touchdown,” Pinkel said. “Sixty-two I’m OK with. It gets difficult to keep it down there, I just don’t like to get it close to 70 points."