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Columbia Missourian

Sasser seizes opportunities for Missouri football team

By Richard Fernandez
October 8, 2012 | 9:47 p.m. CDT
Wide receiver Bud Sasser scores on an 85-yard pass from quarterback Corbin Berkstresser during the fourth quarter of Missour's 19-15 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday.

COLUMBIA — From goal line to goal line, a football field is 100 yards long.

Somehow, Missouri's Bud Sasser still found a way to gain 101 receiving yards with only one catch in the Tigers' 19-15 loss to Vanderbilt.

Tigers notes

Sophomore center Mitch Morse, junior quarterback James Franklin and senior guard Jack Meiners have all been ruled out for Saturday's game. Redshirt freshman Brad McNulty will replace Morse at center. Junior Max Copeland will start in place of Meiners. Pinkel said Meiners underwent a "cleanup" knee surgery Monday and is expected to miss a few weeks.

Freshman Maty Mauk, who many expected to redshirt this season, is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart.

Freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and four other suspended players have been reinstated. Green-Beckham is still listed behind Eric Waters at the Y-receiver position and is expected to play against Alabama.

Green-Beckham, freshman receiver Levi Copelin and freshman linebacker Torey Boozer were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of marijuana possession. Freshman defensive lineman Harold Brantley and freshman tight end Brandon Holifield were not arrested, but were suspended by the team for their involvement in the incident.

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Sasser was able to eclipse 100 receiving yards thanks to the extra 16 yards he gained after scooping up a fumble by junior receiver Marcus Lucas in the third quarter. The redshirt sophomore receiver from Denton, Texas, didn't even realize his bizarre stat line until after the game. A calm, quiet Sasser spoke about the game at Monday's media day.

"You never know what's going to happen," Sasser said. "You've just got to take advantage of any opportunity that's given to you."

Sasser knows how to take advantage of opportunities. He even knows how to take advantage of lack of opportunities. It's still hard to tell if he was even an intended receiver in the game.

His only catch, an 85-yard touchdown, came on what might have been an overthrown ball intended for senior receiver Gahn McGaffie. The pass from redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser flew directly over McGaffie, who leaped and reached his arms up in an attempt to grab the ball.

Sasser bent down to catch the pass and then sprinted straight down the sideline, reaching the end zone before Vanderbilt defenders could bring him down.

"He made a great play, one much-needed," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "He didn't surprise me because he's very capable."

Berkstresser insisted the pass was intended for Sasser.

"I knew I had to get it over that last defender," Berkstresser said. "Luckily for me, he (Sasser) was right there for me."

Sasser said he thinks Berkstresser was looking for him on the play, but he was also just happy to end up with the ball.

"I'm glad he threw it to that side," Sasser said.

Even if the pass was intended for Sasser, he still got eight fewer passes thrown his way than Lucas. But it didn't matter. Sasser made the most of his touches and led Missouri in receiving, out-gaining Lucas by 47 yards.

Despite the lack of opportunities, Sasser was ready. When Sasser saw the ball come loose from Lucas, he was ready. The ball bounced just twice on ground before the 6-foot-2, 215 pound receiver picked it up and ran forward.

Sasser said his preparation at practice helped him succeed. In the three games preceding Saturday's, Sasser caught just one pass for 2 yards and had a fumble. He was frustrated. But he saw himself making mistakes that he could correct.

"This last week of practice, I just made sure just to practice my tail off, and just try to do everything right and make sure I finish through all the practices. And just stay positive throughout the week as well," Sasser said. "That's what I did and, you know, stuff started happening."

Of course, Missouri failed to capitalize on Sasser's great game. The team botched what would have been the game-tying extra point after his touchdown, and went on to lose.

"It's kind of frustrating," Sasser said. "We know that we've got to critique those small things to get this team going and have us all on one page."

Frustration is everywhere on the 3-3 Missouri football team. It will likely grow after the game against No. 1-ranked Alabama at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

Redshirt junior L'Damian Washington says it can be especially frustrating for receivers in the struggling offense, especially when balls aren't coming your way.

"We just have to get going and keep each other going and stay positive," Washington said. "Bud had his chance, and he made the most of his opportunity."

Sasser left little sympathy for the other receivers with his stat line. How can anyone complain about not getting the ball when Sasser had such a terrific game with just one catch?

Now, Sasser finds himself in the starting lineup at the receiver spot previously filled by Lucas.

He says he's ready. His usual second-team quarterback is moving up with him. Berkstresser will have to start against Alabama with junior James Franklin out with a sprained MCL in his left knee.

Pinkel said he hopes to get Sasser more involved, but there are other receivers who deserve the ball too. The coach hopes the team can end its struggles in the passing game.

After starting the first six games of the season, Lucas has now moved behind Washington on the depth chart. But Pinkel said Lucas will still get plenty of playing time.

Lucas has 30 catches for 309 yards and two touchdowns so far this season. He leads the Tigers in all three categories.