Missouri falls behind early, can't recover against Alabama

Saturday, October 13, 2012 | 6:37 p.m. CDT; updated 9:27 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 13, 2012
Missouri's E.J. Gaines attempts to tackle Alabama's T.J. Yeldon at the Missouri vs. Alabama football game Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

COLUMBIA — The game was over in 45 seconds.

On Alabama’s second play from scrimmage Saturday at Memorial Stadium, running back Eddie Lacy took the handoff from quarterback A.J. McCarron and found a hole on the right side. He burst into the open field before cutting back left, dodging the feeble tackle attempts of Missouri defenders E.J. Gaines and Kenronte Walker.

Lacy scored, the rain poured and for all intents and purposes, the game was over. Alabama scored 28 straight points to begin the game, eventually sailing to a 42-10 win over Missouri.

“Well, it’s a play. I don’t think you pitch a tent and go home,” said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, referring to Lacy’s touchdown run. “It’s like anything else. They made plays. They did a good job. They out-executed us. But obviously, for Alabama that was a great play.”

On Missouri’s second drive of the game, a third-down pass by quarterback Corbin Berkstresser hit receiver L’Damian Washington in the hands on a crossing route, deflecting off his body and into the air. Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri made a diving interception, giving the ball back to Alabama with a short field.

On the first play after the turnover, McCarron handed the ball off to Lacy, who then turned around and flipped it back to McCarron. He unleashed a 43-yard pass that receiver Kenny Bell hauled in at the Missouri 6-yard line. Two plays later, Lacy hopped over the line and glided into the end zone from 3 yards out, making the score 14-0 Alabama with just more than 6 minutes left in the first quarter.

Add a blocked Missouri punt and two more Alabama touchdowns to the mix, and the Crimson Tide held a comfortable 28-0 lead in the second quarter.

The only thing that could halt Alabama’s momentum, at least for a little while, was lightning.

Severe weather caused a 38-minute weather delay midway through the second quarter, and fans were told to evacuate the stadium during the delay. Only scattered groups of Missouri faithful re-entered, leaving entire sections of the east bleachers unoccupied.

Those that did return were immediately rewarded for their support.

Late in the second quarter, Missouri returner Marcus Murphy caught a kickoff at his own 2-yard line. He immediately broke through a seam on the right side and sprinted past the Alabama coverage team and eventually made it into the end zone, making the score 28-7.

After the play, Missouri fans on the east and west bleachers began a “MIZ-ZOU” chant, alternating cheers from one side of the field to the other. The chant lacked its usual life, though, most likely because at least 70 percent of the east bleachers remained unoccupied.

Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett later tacked on a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter to narrow Alabama’s lead to 28-10, but that was as close as Missouri would come.

Regardless of the rain or who was on the field, Alabama was able to consistently run the football. Lacy piled up 176 rushing yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns, repeatedly breaking arm tackles and gaining extra yards.

Freshman running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 144 yards of his own and tacked on two more touchdowns. Even Blake Sims, Alabama’s backup quarterback, gained 36 yards on a run late in the game.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who amassed 14 tackles in the loss, acknowledged the tough running of Lacy and Yeldon, as well as the size of Alabama’s offensive line. But he also pointed out a different way in which Missouri’s defensive line was at a disadvantage.

“We did good for the most part. A couple holding calls didn’t get called,” Richardson said. “I got held a lot this game. They didn’t see it. But who cares?”

Missouri’s offense couldn’t keep up with Alabama’s rushing attack. Berkstresser threw for only 126 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Missouri’s top rusher, Kendial Lawrence, gained only 37 yards.

To turn losses into wins, Richardson said, Missouri needs to score. And not only score, the Tigers need to score touchdowns.

“We gotta score. Period. We gotta score. We gotta score,” said Richardson, repeating the statement louder each time. “They’re not getting the ball in the end zone, period.”

Berkstresser, who made only his second career start in the loss, knew the defense he was going against was going to be faster than his previous opponents, Arizona State and Vanderbilt.

They were.

“It’s obviously a little different from Arizona State,” Berkstresser said, chuckling. “No knock to Arizona State, but definitely a little different and a little faster around the edges. But I need to come out and compete more.”

With an injured offensive line and an inexperienced quarterback, Missouri never had a great chance of winning against the No. 1 team in the country.

Alabama, Pinkel said after the game, has certainly earned that ranking.

“That is maybe the best football team I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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