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A slow start, but Missouri cruises to victory over Murray State

Saturday, August 31, 2013 | 9:15 p.m. CDT; updated 12:23 a.m. CDT, Sunday, September 1, 2013
Missouri opened up the 2013 season with a 58-14 blowout victory over Murray State.

COLUMBIA — Missouri football's 58-14 win over Murray State in the season opener wasn't as comfortable as the final score indicates.

As the time ticked away in the first quarter, 58,038 fans were scattered about Memorial Stadium, the sweltering heat from earlier in the day had started to subside, and Murray State was beating Missouri 14-13.

That is not a typo.

Murray State, a team that finished 5-7 in the Football Championship Subdivision in 2012, gave Missouri's defense fits in the first quarter with touchdown drives of 59 and 83 yards and held a lead into the second quarter.

Racers' quarterback Maikhail Miller was the main reason. The Ole Miss transfer beat Missouri with draw plays, improvised scrambles and accurate throws down the field. 

"We didn't know hardly anything about the guy," coach Gary Pinkel said after the game. 

It didn't take long for them to learn all about him. Miller did a little bit of everything to keep the Racers in the game. In the closing moments of the first quarter, he even managed to slip out from under center and catch a touchdown pass.

But as much as Miller was hurting Missouri, the Tigers did plenty to hurt themselves in all three stages of the game.

Offense: The Tigers turned the ball over on their first series of the game, allowing the Racers to score first.

Defense: Missouri couldn't do anything to contain Miller and had an interception called back because of a penalty.

The result was a 14-13 deficit after 15 minutes of play.

Special teams: Kicker Andrew Baggett missed a chip-shot, 30-yard field goal.

But Missouri snapped out of it. Starting in the second quarter, the Tigers ripped off 45 unanswered points and looked dominant doing so. The sparse crowd still in attendance into the second half witnessed the Missouri football team everyone expected to see from the first snap.

"I want everything to go perfect," Pinkel said. "I don't want any stress. We have some things to work on to continue to get better as a football team."

The defense was particularly dominant after an undisciplined first quarter. Murray State accumulated 196 yards of total offense in the first 15 minutes of the game and was only able to muster 101 yards in the rest of the game combined.

"It shouldn't even take that long," defensive end Kony Ealy said.

The frustration melted away with each passing play in the second half. And when running back Henry Josey took a carry midway through the third quarter and made a dash for the sidelines, his teammates started running with him.

Josey, who had not taken a carry in a regular season game on Faurot Field since his knee injury in a 2011 game against Texas, got the angle on the defense and didn't stop until he was pointing to the sky, 68 yards later in the end zone. 

The run was enough to earn Josey the game ball, an honor Pinkel had never given out in his 23 years as a head coach until tonight. 

"I looked up and thanked God," Josey said, still holding the game ball during interviews. "I was pretty much screaming it. I hope he heard me."

His teammates certainly did. A mob of Tigers crowded around Josey in the end zone to celebrate the run, which put him over 100 yards for the game.

"You don't think this guy is important to my team?" Pinkel said. "That was real cool to see."

The second-half surge helped put the first-quarter jitters in the back of Missouri's mind. As players exited the locker room, fans lined the barricade, congratulating each player on his accolades. E.J. Gaines for his two interceptions, Dorial Green-Beckham for his 83 receiving yards and Russell Hansbrough for his 100-yard rushing game.

But despite the celebration the second-half provided, the slow start was not what the team wanted, especially against an opponent like Murray State.

Whether it was the heat, the unexpected mobility of the Racers' quarterback or a lack of focus, Missouri knows it has to be better next week when Toledo comes to town.

"We faced some adversity," Pinkel said. "But we handled it. We came out of the game fairly healthy. That means we have a chance to get better."


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