By: Greg Dailey, KCOU Sports
The day was October 13, 2012. Missouri hosting top-ranked Alabama had all the makings of a blowout.
With starting quarterback James Franklin injured, backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser had to lead the 3-3 Tigers against the defending national champs. It went about how everyone thought it would. When the clock read zeros, not even the 42-10 Crimson Tide victory told the story of how far apart the teams actually were. Alabama won the total yards margin 533-129. The visitors from Tuscaloosa boasted two separate hundred-yard rushers in Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon; Missouri had three rushing yards TOTAL. From the second play of the game, a 73-yard touchdown burst from Lacy, Alabama had no desire to take it easy in its first matchup with the new conference members.
About the only aspect of the blowout the fans had to root for was being forced to leave the stadium due to lightning. The few that returned came back simply to watch just how dominant the class of college football actually was. A dismal season plagued with injuries and quarterback controversy couldn’t get over soon enough. An embarrassing home loss to Syracuse (in which star defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended) and a poor performance on the road against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M finished Missouri’s year at 5-7, and just 2-6 in the SEC.
Rumors swirled that Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was on the hot seat after the streak of taking his program to seven consecutive bowl games was snapped.
Fast-forward two years later and there isn’t a lot of similarity between the 2012 Missouri Tigers and this year’s edition of the black and gold. The coaching staff remains largely the same, but the on-field personnel has almost entirely turned over. Substitutes and special teams players are now starters in the school’s third year of being a Southeastern Conference member.
Missouri is built differently as well. The Tigers no longer roll out receivers tall enough to play collegiate basketball. They don’t throw the ball all over the place and just nickel and dime opposing defenses down the field. Instead, Missouri is built like typical SEC team, but goes about it a little differently. While they don’t have a bruising back and a massive offensive line, the Tigers do rely heavily on the running game with Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy. They lean on a defense to make big plays and keep the game close enough where the offense can eventually exploit a weak link. Finally, the quarterback position has changed much as well. Franklin took care of the ball and didn’t take many chances in tight windows. Maty Mauk will throw the ball deep at times and frustrate fans at times with decisions.
All that being said, Missouri is representing the SEC East in the conference championship game for the second year in a row…. something no one would have ever guessed two years ago after Alabama stomped the Tigers.