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Columbia Missourian

TIGERS REPORT ARCHIVE: Missouri players prepare for senior day against Syracuse

By Justin Brisson
November 17, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Here is a look at the Missourian's past coverage available to our digital subscribers of the Missouri Tigers' 2012 football season. We will be updating the archive every week to include the Missourian's newest stories about the Tigers.

With a dramatic win over Tennessee in four overtimes, Missouri has put itself in position to advance to a bowl game. Needing six wins to be bowl eligible, the Tigers are 5-5 with two games to play. Missouri's season finale will come against Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. The Tigers' best hope to play in a bowl game will be to defeat Syracuse at home Saturday. This week's game is also senior day — perhaps the most important game of the year for many Missouri coaches. Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel says this week is the game where all he thinks about are his seniors. The Tigers will have to win without their defensive leader and star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson after he was reportedly suspended for one game for violating team rules.

James Franklin: an up-and-down ride

James Franklin started his 2012 campaign looking healthy. After having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder, Franklin recovered in time for fall camp in August. Before the season, Franklin and the Tigers' coaching staff were concentrating on pushing the ball downfield with the vertical passing game. At the home opener against Southeastern Louisiana, Missouri didn't need to throw the ball much, with Marcus Murphy's punt returns and Kendial Lawrence's runs powering the Tigers to an easy 62-10 win.

After a crushing home loss to Georgia, in which Franklin was hammered by the Bulldogs' defense and threw a costly fourth-quarter interception, a bounce-back game was expected when Arizona State came to Columbia. Instead, Franklin sat out because of an inflamed bursa sac in the same shoulder that was operated on in March. Before the game, Franklin refused painkillers.

His decision to not play attracted attention from prominent Southeastern Conference radio personality Paul Finebaum, who said Franklin needed to "man up." Last month, Franklin said he has been taking a "secret remedy" to help his injured knee. He said the mystery potion contains milk, but he didn't elaborate further.

After so-so performances against South Carolina and Central Florida, Franklin continued to be a mystery for Missouri football fans. Against Vanderbilt, Franklin started strong, leading the Tigers to two straight scoring drives to open the game. Then, during a 23-yard scramble that set up a Missouri field goal in the first quarter, Franklin took a helmet to the knee and sat out the rest of the game. The hit sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

At Missouri's 101st Homecoming game against Kentucky, Corbin Berkstresser started again for the Tigers. But after the first half, Franklin was brought in to try to spark the offense. Despite his knee not being 100 percent recovered, Franklin played well and helped Missouri pull away from the Wildcats for a 33-10 win.

Franklin was heavily criticized after he threw a career-high four interceptions against Florida. Despite Franklin's poor performance, Pinkel said the team still supported its quarterback. Franklin took responsibility for his performance and the team's loss, even though linebacker Will Ebner and cornerback Kip Edwards said the onus was on the defense to allow fewer points.

Corbin Berkstresser: a trial by fire

After Franklin injured his right shoulder, Corbin Berkstresser, Missouri's backup quarterback was forced to start against Arizona State. Berkstresser, a redshirt freshman, took the reins from Franklin. In his first career start, Berkstresser led the Tigers to a 24-20 victory over the Sun Devils. Franklin reclaimed the starting quarterback position when Missouri faced South Carolina. However, a hit to the knee on a scramble against Vanderbilt forced Franklin out of the game again. The injury was diagnosed as a sprained MCL.

Berkstresser was once again called upon to be the Tigers' substitute signal caller. To the dismay of Missouri fans, Berkstresser and the offense could not move the ball. The following week, Berkstresser was finally able to prepare as Missouri's starter, and he said he would not be afraid to take hits from a hard-hitting Alabama defense. But he failed to get the Missouri offense into the end zone and the Tigers were crushed by the Crimson Tide.

DGB shows glimpses of potential this season

The buzz surrounding Dorial Green-Beckham heading into this season was unlike anything Missouri football fans have encountered for a while. "DGB" chants quickly became a popular thing to shout around Columbia. During training camp, Green-Beckham had to learn the team's playbook and establish himself as a reliable target for James Franklin. Wide receiver coach Andy Hill thinks Green-Beckham will have just as big of an impact on Missouri's football program as Chase Daniel, Brad Smith and Justin Smith had. But his playing career for the Tigers got off to a slow start. The former high school football superstar looked very much like a college freshman.

After catching just six passes for 48 yards in Missouri's first four games, Green-Beckham finally made a big impact on the Tigers by catching an 80-yard touchdown pass against Central Florida. Offensive coordinator David Yost talked about getting the talented 6-foot-6-inch wide receiver more involved in the team's passing game. But less than a week after the game, Green-Beckham and two other Missouri players were arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession. Missouri fans discussed the arrest on social media. Green-Beckham was suspended for one game. On Thursday, it was reported that he pleaded guilty to second-degree trespassing after the charge was changed from possession of marijuana. Green-Beckham had to pay a $200 fine and $22.50 in court costs.

Last Saturday against Tennessee, Green-Beckham was held without a catch until he caught a touchdown pass from James Franklin with 47 seconds left in regulation. For an encore, he followed up that big play with a 10-yard touchdown catch in triple overtime that gave Missouri a 48-42 lead. The Tigers went on to win the game in the fourth overtime.

Elvis Fisher faces an old enemy: injury

When left tackle Elvis Fisher tore the patellar tendon in his left knee before the 2011 season, his career at Missouri seemed like it had come to an end. But when the NCAA granted his medical hardship waiver, Fisher was determined to return to Faurot Field for one more year. On Sept. 1 against Southeastern Louisiana, Fisher's goal became a reality — once again, he started for Missouri.

Unfortunately, Fisher's luck turned sour again and the 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound offensive lineman went down against Georgia with a strained MCL in his right knee. Luckily for Fisher, the injury did not require surgery. He spent the next few weeks watching Missouri from the sidelines. Now, Fisher has re-entered the Tigers' lineup and has continued to start in his sixth season.

Sheldon Richardson becomes a dominant force

Sheldon Richardson prepares thoroughly for opponents. During the summer, he watched hours of game film of teams on Missouri's schedule. But Richardson's "old-man football" comment, referring to Georgia's style of play, received considerable media attention. As a result, he was prohibited from speaking to reporters for weeks. Instead, Richardson let his play do the talking. He has continued to be a standout defensive player for Missouri.

During the first drive of Missouri's Homecoming game against Kentucky, Richardson made a momentum-changing play. With the Wildcats going in for a score, he forced a fumble, recovered the ball and ran 60 yards to set up the Tigers' first score. He blocked a field goal kick in Missouri's game versus Florida.

Unfortunately for Missouri, Richardson was reportedly suspended for the game against Syracuse for a violation of team rules. The redshirt junior defensive tackle will miss the final home game of the season.

Kendial Lawrence takes advantage of an opportunity

For the past two years, Missouri has had a deep pool of talent at tailback. In 2011, Kendial Lawrence was supposed to be the team's starter. But, after breaking his left fibula in practice early in the season, Henry Josey stepped up and had a magnificent year: he ran for 1,168 yards and nine touchdowns in only nine games in 2011. Because of Josey's success, when Lawrence returned, he only played a minor role in the Tigers' offense. The roles have been reversed in 2012, with Lawrence showcased as Missouri's top tailback as Josey sits out.

T.J. Moe holds out hope for a successful finish to the season

This season has been tough for T.J. Moe. He was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list before the year began, but Moe and the other Missouri receivers have been frustrated by the offense's lack of scoring prowess. Moe grew up as a big Tiger football fan in O'Fallon. When he came to play at Missouri, he hoped to establish himself as one of the great players of his generation.

Gahn McGaffie rises to the occasion

As a fifth-year receiver, Gahn McGaffie knew he had to step up and make an impact this season. A certain caped crusader helps motivate McGaffie to play better. McGaffie likes Batman so much, he has a tattoo of the bat symbol across his back. He also has "Rise" written on all of his gloves so McGaffie never gets down on himself. According to McGaffie, Batman is his inspiration because he's the only superhero without superpowers.

E.J. Gaines musters added motivation, shines in secondary

In Missouri's game against Arizona State, E.J. Gaines had something to prove to himself. After a poor performance against the Sun Devils in 2011, Gaines made sure he showed up to play this time around. In the game, he made multiple big plays, including a 44-yard punt return all the way into the opposing team's red zone. When Missouri lost to South Carolina the following weekend, however, Gaines and the team's secondary took some responsibility for the defeat.

Marcus Murphy makes history

Marcus Murphy sat out the entire 2011 season and had never returned a punt in college before, yet he knew what to do. Against Southeastern Louisiana, Murphy returned two punts for touchdowns — something that had never been done in Missouri football history. With Kendial Lawrence performing well as Missouri's tailback, Murphy found a home as a returner. He has begun fielding kickoffs for the Tigers and has shown that he can work well in tight spaces. At Central Florida, Murphy returned his third punt for a touchdown this season, fueling a 21-16 victory for the Tigers. The touchdown broke Missouri's record for return touchdowns in a season and tied Murphy with Jeremy Maclin for most career return touchdowns.

Andrew Baggett looks for a measure of consistency

Sometimes things don't begin the way you hoped they would. Andrew Baggett's first field goal attempt in high school was not what he hoped for. When Baggett won Missouri's starting place kicker job before the season started, there were questions about the redshirt freshman's ability to kick under pressure in a big college football game. Pinkel and his coaching staff expressed confidence in the young kicker but wanted to get Baggett off to a good start. Against Southeastern Louisiana, Baggett kicked nine extra points, making eight of them. The Tigers passed up several long field goal attempts because Pinkel said they had a specific yard line they set as the maximum range for Baggett. Since the first game, Baggett has been a somewhat steady kicker for Missouri. He kicked the game-winning field goal against Tennessee in quadruple overtime of an extremely emotional game for the Tigers.

Matt Hoch escapes the larger shadows of smaller men

Sheldon Richardson has dominated headlines for the Missouri defense. He has also dominated opponents. But, while Richardson hogs all of the spotlight, Matt Hoch quietly excels. A fellow defensive tackle, Hoch is both taller and heavier than Richardson, and excels at clogging running lanes for opposing tailbacks. Hoch's play has stood out the past few weeks, drawing praise from defensive end Kony Ealy and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski.

The remarkable aspect about Hoch's strong play of late is he only started playing defensive tackle at the beginning of the 2012 season. He was recruited to Missouri as a tight end, but switched to defensive end in 2011 before breaking his foot and sitting out the year. Hoch gained weight and made the transition to defensive tackle in the offseason.

Will Ebner resumes his role as starting middle linebacker

Will Ebner knew he was in line to be Missouri's starting middle linebacker this year. But, he was in the same position before the 2011 season. In the Tigers' opening game last year against Miami of Ohio, Ebner suffered a high ankle sprain and a concussion. Pinkel and his staff eventually chose to redshirt Ebner ,so he would be eligible to play in 2012. The decision seems to have paid off: Ebner is currently Missouri's second leading tackler this season despite missing one game with a hamstring injury.

Against Florida, the Missouri defense only allowed 14 points, but Ebner said he and the defense deserve responsibility for the team's loss. Despite Franklin throwing four interceptions in the game, Ebner said the Tigers defense allowed more points than the offense scored. Simple enough.

Kony Ealy cares about animals — a lot

Before the season started, Kony Ealy became better simply by battling with veteran offensive tackle Elvis Fisher. Fisher a stalwart on Missouri's offensive line for years before getting injured, had high praise for Ealy during fall training camp. Ealy started off his sophomore campaign well in 2012, recording 1.5 sacks in his first two games. He also let outsiders know a little about his personal life — specifically his love for animals. So far this season, Ealy has 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and 21 tackles including 6.5 for a loss.

Donovan Bonner is Missouri's most versatile linebacker

Missouri figured to be solid at the linebacker position in 2012 with Will Ebner, Zaviar Gooden and Andrew Wilson all retaining their roles as starters. But because of injuries, Donovan Bonner practiced with the first-team defense a lot during training camp. That valuable practice time allowed Bonner to become a versatile weapon who could fill in at any linebacker position for the Tigers.

Max Copeland gets weird

Max Copeland brings a passionate edge to the Missouri offensive line. Every day, Copeland tries to impart that attitude onto his fellow offensive linemen. They prefer to term it "getting weird."

Kip Edwards, the defensive back, the comedian and the barber

Missouri football players don't need to go to a barbershop to get their hair cut — Kip Edwards provides that service for them. Edwards, a starting cornerback for the Tigers, isn't just a good football player. He's also a talented hair stylist.


Supervising editor is Frank Russell.


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