It will be a gridiron reunion, Saturday, when the Missouri Tigers led by coach Gary Pinkel take on Pinkel’s former team, the Toledo Rockets.
For the first time, the Tigers will host the school where Pinkel got his start. Pinkel became a first-time head coach when he took over at Toledo (following former Kent State teammate Nick Saban) in 1991 and became the winningest coached in school history. From 1991-2000, Pinkel led the Rockets to a 73-37-3 record, a MAC title, three MAC West Division championships and a victory in the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl. He posted two 10-win seasons at Toledo, and earned the Rockets national Top 25 rankings in 1995, 1997 and 2000. He was inducted into Toledo’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
This season though, the two schools are heading in different directions. Missouri is 1-0 after thumping Murray State last week at home by the score of 58-14. The Tigers racked up the second most total offensive yardage in program history, with 694 offensive yards. The Mizzou defense got into the game, as well, dishing three scoreless quarters to the Racers to close the game. The offensive output for Mizzou is second only to the 744 total dropped on Western Illinois on Sept. 17, 2011.
Toledo lost its opening day game 24-6 to No. 10 Florida in Gainesville.
Missouri received major contributions from its starters against Murray State. Quarterback James Franklin threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Tailbacks Russell Hansbrough and Henry Josey combined for 217 yards and three scores. It was Josey’s first game in almost two years, as the senior recovered from gruesome leg injuries. The game marked the first time since 1999 that a pair of Tiger tailbacks both went for 100 yards in the same game. Two Tigers had done that nine times since 1999, but each time it involved one tailback and one quarterback. It was also the first time Mizzou’s high-powered offense featured two 100-yard rushers and a 300-yard passer in school history.
Eleven different Tigers caught at least one pass Saturday, with seven Tigers catching two balls or more. Senior Wide receiver Jaleel Clark caught a career-best five balls for 51 yards (he had one career catch coming into the game), while sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham led all receivers with a career-high 83 yards on four receptions. Junior WR Darius White (playing in his first MU game since transferring from Texas prior to 2012), caught two passes for 44 yards, including his first score as a Tiger, on a 37-yard strike from Franklin.
Mizzou’s defense recovered from a challenging start and pitched a shutout in the final three quarters against Murray State. After allowing Murray State 14 points, 196 yards of total offense and 11 first downs in the opening quarter, the Tigers adjusted nicely, and shut the Racers down the rest of the way.
Murray State mustered only five first downs, 101 yards of offense and no points in the final three quarters. Murray State also never crossed midfield after the 9:26 mark of the 2nd quarter.
The Tigers snatched three interceptions, two by E.J. Gaines and one by Braylon Webb.
Gaines and the rest of the Tiger defense will have to deal with Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, a 6’4, 195-pound senior from Cleveland, OH, who started ten games for the Rockets last season. Owens has the ability to run, but the Rockets’ main threat on the ground is senior back David Fluellen. When he throws, Owens usually targets one of the trio of Bernard Reedy, Alonzo Russell and Kareem Hunt.
Toledo finished 9-4 last season in the Mid-American Conference. That record earned the Rockets a three-way tie for third place with Ball State and Bowling Green.
Saturday’s matchup will be the first ever between Missouri and Toledo, although Coach Pinkel has gone 8-0 in his last eight meetings with teams from the Mid-American Conference. A Tiger win will bring a 2-0 start for the third time in five seasons, as well as the eighth time in Pinkel’s 13-season tenure at Mizzou. With a win, the Tigers will start 2-0 for the first time since 2010, when Mizzou won the Big 12 North Co-Championship. The win will also improve Pinkel to 92-61, tying him with Dan Devine for the number 2 spot for wins in school history.
The Tigers/Rockets matchup at the ZOU on Saturday, Sept. 7, will be a nationally televised broadcast on ESPNU (2:32 p.m. CT kickoff)…