An unexpected season: A look back at Missouri football's 2013 season

Friday, January 3, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:15 p.m. CST, Friday, January 3, 2014
A Missouri football player holds up his helmet after the team beat Indiana on Sept. 21.

From a 5-0 record in non-conference play to a pair of road wins in two of the SEC's toughest environments, Missouri made an improbable run at an SEC Championship in 2013. Here's a game-by-game account of Missouri's 2013 season.

Aug. 31 - Missouri 58, Murray State 14 - Columbia 

Missouri running back Henry Josey slips away from Murray State lineman Felton Collins. Photo by Kevin Cook/Missourian

The 2013 season almost got off to a disastrous start for Missouri. Murray State had a 14-13 lead after one quarter. Early touchdown drives of 59 and 83 yards gave the Tigers an early scare, but things quickly turned around.

In his first game back from a knee injury that cost him his entire 2012 season, Missouri running back Henry Josey ran for a 68-yard touchdown, contributing to 45 unanswered points for the Tigers in a 58-14 win over Murray State.

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

Sept. 7 — Missouri 38, Toledo 23 — Columbia

Missouri defensive back Duron Singleton, center-right, congratulates quarterback James Franklin, center-left, after the Tigers' 38-23 win over Toledo. Photo by Kholood Eid/Missourian

The lasting memory from the Tigers’ 38-23 win over the Toledo Rockets was defensive tackle Markus Golden sprinting 70 yards for a touchdown. The redshirt junior from St. Louis kicked off his 2013 coming-out party by intercepting Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens and returning it to put the Tigers up 15 points in the third quarter.

“I’ve been preparing for this,” Golden said. “When I picked it off, the first thing that popped into my head was, ‘Just go score.’”

The Rockets would mount a comeback, however, and the score was an uncomfortable 24-23 late in the third before Henry Josey scored from one yard out. Marcus Murphy added an eight-yard scoring run during the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.

Senior captain and linebacker Andrew Wilson was called for targeting in the third quarter after he hit a defenseless Toledo receiver with his forearm. Wilson was the first Tiger called for the new NCAA penalty, and had to sit out the rest of the game, as well as the first half of Missouri’s next game against Indiana.

Sept. 21 - Missouri 45, Indiana 28 - Bloomington, Ind.

Missouri players Duron Singleton, 2, and Connor McGovern, 60, tackle Indiana quarterback Nate Boudreau, 9. Photo by Joshua Boucher/Missourian

After starting the season 2-0, Missouri hit the road for the first time to take on Indiana. The Tigers were just as dominant as they were at home. At the end of a back-and-forth first half, defensive end Kony Ealy provided a pivotal play, intercepting Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld and returning it 45 yards for a touchdown to give Missouri a 28-14 lead.

In the second half, Missouri's offense cruised. James Franklin threw a pair of interceptions in the first half, but he rebounded to pile up more than 400 total yards and three touchdowns, his most productive game since 2011. 

Franklin wasn't fazed by the early struggles. He kept challenging Indiana's defense and attempted a total of 47 passes in the game. 

"It's just a mentality thing really," Franklin said. "I know being sad isn't going to change anything, so I move on to the next play."

The strong second half pushed Missouri to 3-0 and three wins away from bowl eligibility. 

Sept. 28 — Missouri 41, Arkansas State 19 — Columbia

Missouri defensive lineman Markus Golden sacks Arkansas State's Adam Kennedy in the second quarter. Photo by Kevin Cook/Missourian

With the Tigers’ blowout win of the Red Wolves, Gary Pinkel picked up his 94th career victory as the head coach at Missouri. That total tied him with the legendary Dan Devine for second-best all-time.

“I don’t get real caught up in that stuff,” Pinkel said. “To be named with him is a tremendous honor.”

For the second straight home game, the Tigers had trouble putting away an inferior opponent. The Red Wolves managed to stay within one score until five minutes remained in the game on the strength of 318 passing yards by quarterback Adam Kennedy.

Missouri had a pretty good quarterback of its own, though. James Franklin capped off the Tigers’ final two scoring drives with a nine-yard touchdown run and a touchdown pass to sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham.

Oct. 5 - Missouri 51, Vanderbilt 28 - Nashville, Tenn.

Missouri football players celebrate after their 51-28 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville. Photo by Joshua Boucher/Missourian

Missouri still needed to prove itself when it went to Nashville, Tenn., to play Vanderbilt. A 4-0 start to the season for Missouri didn't mean much without a conference win to its name. 

A 51-28 win over Vanderbilt was a start toward earning the respect Missouri wanted following a 5-7 2012 season. Missouri's offense was once again the story. Quarterback James Franklin threw four touchdowns, and running back Henry Josey ran for two of his own, helping the Tigers runaway with the win. 

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Missouri fans were the majority at Vanderbilt Stadium, the bright yellow shirts far outnumbered the dull gold of Vanderbilt. Not only did Missouri show it was ready for the SEC schedule, its fans showed their willingness to travel. 

"Man, doesn't this feel like we're at home?" Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham said after the game.

Oct. 12 — Missouri 41, Georgia 26 — Athens, Ga.

Missouri running back Henry Josey dives into the end zone for the final score to seal the Tigers' 41-26 win over the Georgia Bulldogs. Photo by Kevin Cook/Missourian

The Tigers had not beaten a Top 10 team on the road in 32 years when they arrived in Athens. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 7 in the nation and coming off a season in which they were one play away from the National Championship game. Needless to say, Missouri was the underdog.

Nevertheless, the Tigers built up an early lead and then blew the game open in the second quarter, when Shane Ray stripped Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and Michael Sam returned it for a touchdown to give Missouri an 18-point lead.

But Georgia battled back. Murray tossed two touchdowns to narrow the Tigers’ lead to two points. Then, disaster struck for Missouri. Quarterback James Franklin scrambled left to throw the ball out of bounds, but separated his shoulder on a hit by two defensive linemen.

Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk was thrust into a pressure situation, and he responded by picking up a first down with a run on the next play. Two more Missouri touchdowns — a trick-play touchdown pass by Bud Sasser and a diving score by Henry Josey — allowed the Tigers to escape Athens with a huge win. But a cloud lingered over the team after Franklin’s injury. Some national outlets reported that the senior’s career was over, but Missouri refused to release a statement until later in the week.

Regardless, it was time for Mauk to step up.

Oct. 19 - Missouri 37, Florida 17 - Columbia 

Missouri defensive lineman Markus Golden and linebacker Andrew Wilson bring down Florida wide receiver Trey Burton. Photo by Kevin Cook/Missourian

In the week leading up to Missouri's game against Florida, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk was the center of attention. A crowd of reporters huddled around him at the team's media day on Monday. How would Mauk perform in his first career start?

Mauk answered that question quickly, tossing a 50-yard strike down the sideline to L'Damian Washington to open the game. The play set the tone for a dominant, 36-17 win. Missouri improved to 7-0.

Playing without James Franklin and E.J. Gaines, Missouri picked up where it left off against Georgia in front of the first Memorial Stadium sellout crowd of the season. There were ups and downs. Mauk nearly had a few passes intercepted, and Henry Josey had a brief injury scare. But big plays from both helped excite the 67,124 in attendance. 

With time ticking away in the fourth quarter, Missouri fans began to do the "Gator Chomp" and sing "We Will Rock You." A 7-0 start to the season set up an unexpected marquee matchup on Homecoming. Missouri would take on South Carolina with a chance to take a commanding lead in the SEC East Division. 

"We have a special opportunity," Missouri center Evan Boehm said. "It's not given. It's earned."

Oct. 26 — South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (2 OT) — Columbia

A Missouri fan stands in disbelief after Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett misses a field goal in double overtime, causing the Tigers to fall to South Carolina 27-24. Photo by Julia Sumpter/Missourian

This one will hurt for a long time. Missouri’s dream undefeated season was still well intact in the fourth quarter. The Tigers held a 17-0 lead over the Gamecocks and an 8-0 start was a near certainty.

But Connor Shaw had other plans. The injured South Carolina senior — who completed his final 20 passes in a blowout win the year before — burned Missouri again by entering the game late in the third and scoring 17 unanswered points to send the game to overtime.

The sellout Homecoming crowd was stunned, but hope still remained. Mauk led a quick touchdown drive to start the extra period, and the defense forced Shaw into a 4th-and-goal from the 15-yard-line. In a play that Missouri fans will try to squeeze out of their memories for years to come, Shaw examined the field and lofted the ball to a receiver running a corner route to the right side of the end zone. Caught. Touchdown.

“We thought we had it,” defensive end Kony Ealy said.

Things only got worse from there. The Gamecocks kicked a field goal in the second period, and Tigers kicker Andrew Baggett hit the left upright on a 24-yard attempt that shocked a national audience. The Gamecocks stormed the field as Missouri fans filed out of the stadium.

The undefeated season was gone, and the road to the SEC Championship was now an extremely tough one.

Nov. 2 - Missouri 31, Tennessee 3 - Columbia

Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough dives into the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown in the third quarter against Tennessee. Photo by Kholood Eid/Missourian

Which direction would Missouri take? Would the loss to South Carolina derail the season or would Missouri realize that all its goals were still attainable and get back to its winning ways? 

“Why in the world would you ever even be thinking about last week’s game when there’s so much out there?” Pinkel asked. “There’s no common sense there. Are you kidding me? We’re 7-1, 3-1 in the league. We’ve got four games left in November. I’ll take that the rest of my career. Forever.”

Missouri didn't look like it was thinking about South Carolina. The Tigers got back to what they do best and ran the football. Missouri rushed for more than 300 yards, including the first 100-yard rushing game of Maty Mauk's career. Mauk also threw three touchdowns.

After losing to South Carolina, Missouri needed four straight wins to finish the season in order to win the SEC East. A 31-3 romping of Tennessee was the first step.  

Nov. 9 — Missouri 48, Kentucky 17 — Lexington, Ky.

Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham hauls in his third touchdown catch of the game over Kentucky safety Eric Dixon. Green-Beckham became the first Tigers' wide receiver to catch 4 touchdowns in a single game. Photo by Kevin Cook/Missourian

Mauk’s final game as a starter was great — the redshirt freshman tied a school record with five touchdown throws — but the unquestioned star was Dorial Green-Beckham. The No. 1 high school recruit in the nation one year earlier, Green-Beckham made Wildcat defensive backs look silly all afternoon.

The receiver seemed to out-do himself on every catch. First, he snagged a 35-yard pass with one hand down the left sideline, and then finished the drive with a Randy Moss-esque leaping grab in the corner of the end zone.

“When I saw him go up, his hands had to be at least 12 feet in the air,” Mauk said. “It was unbelievable when I saw him go up and get that.”

Green-Beckham had only seven catches on the day, but four of them were touchdowns. The sophomore made SportsCenter’s “Top 10” that night for his third TD: an underthrown ball that he trapped against the helmet of Kentucky’s Eric Dixon.

The four scores were a new school record. After the game, Green-Beckham was asked if anyone in the country could cover him.

“Honestly, not at all,” he said. “I’m a 6-6, 230(-pound) guy, so that’s just my mindset. I’ve got to go into games thinking, ‘I can’t be stopped.’”

Nov. 23 - Missouri 24, Ole Miss 10 - Oxford, Miss.  

Missouri quarterback James Franklin tries to scramble past Ole Miss defender Mike Hilton. Photo by Amy Stroth/Missourian

Missouri's trip to Ole Miss was supposed to be a test. With anticipation already mounting for Missouri's home finale against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, the Tigers had to take care of business in Oxford, Miss. to make that game relevant. 

They did just that. In James Franklin's first game back from injury, Missouri's defense gave him plenty of help. Two key goal line stands thwarted the Ole Miss offense and gave Missouri a comfortable lead throughout the game. A week after the Rebels set a school record with 751 yards of offense, the Tigers held them to 10 points in a 24-10 win. 

"What do you say about your defense?" Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "This is a very potent offensive football team. We battled and did some great things in critical situations."

Nov. 30 — Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21 — Columbia

Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy knocks Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel down during a pass attempt. Photo by Joshua Boucher/Missourian

There was plenty of anticipation when the Aggies came to town. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was likely playing his final regular season game, and a win for the Tigers meant a trip to Atlanta for the 2013 SEC Championship Game.

But it was redshirt junior running back Henry Josey who stole the show. Josey, who missed the entire 2012 season with a devastating knee injury, came through when Missouri needed him most. The game was tied 21-21 with little more than three minutes left. Offensive coordinator Josh Henson called a handoff that he later said was simply intended to pick up the two yards needed for a first down.

Instead, Josey blew past the Texas A&M defense for the game-winning 57-yard touchdown. And after the defense held Manziel one more time, the Tigers were officially headed to Atlanta.

“You have twelve (games) that’s guaranteed,” receiver L’Damian Washington said. “That’s it. Why would you aim to be average? Nobody average is ever remembered. You have to aim big.”

After the final whistle, the Missouri crowd rushed the field to celebrate with the team as Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind” blared over the sound system. 

Dec. 7 - Auburn 59, Missouri 42 - Atlanta

Missouri defensive lineman Matt Hoch pounces on a loose ball after Kony Ealy forced an Auburn fumble in the first quarter. Photo by Amy Stroth/Missourian

In just its second year in the league, Missouri had a shot at the Southeastern Conference Championship. Missouri and Auburn went from a combined 2-14 in SEC play in 2012 to playing each other in the SEC Championship Game. 

The first half in Atlanta was a frantic, back-and-forth affair that set the stage for the highest scoring game in SEC Championship Game history. Auburn led Missouri 28-27 at halftime, but the second half was even more wide open. 

Missouri's offense slowed down a bit in the second half, but Auburn never stopped. In total, the two teams combined for more than 1,200 total yards and more than 100 points in the game. Auburn finished with more than 500 yards of rushing, including 304 yards on 46 carries from Tre Mason. 

"I feel like some of y'all could have run through the holes out there," cornerback E.J. Gaines told reporters.

Even though Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall only needed to attempt 11 passes, Auburn cruised to a 59-42 win and earned a trip to the BCS National Championship. Missouri was left wondering what could have been.

"We'll be back, that's all I can say about that" Green-Beckham said. "We'll just be back. I believe in all the guys. They're going to try to make their way back to being here. It's a good start for right now. We know what it feels like to be here. We just need to get our respect the way it should be."

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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