Missouri’s 2013 report card is a little easier to view than it was at this time a year ago.
Even with senior quarterback James Franklin injured for part of the season with a separated shoulder, Missouri was still one of the better offenses in the league. The Tigers were third in scoring offense (39.1 points per game) and third in total offense (490.7 yards per game). Their balance was especially impressive. They were the only team in the SEC to pass for more than 250 yards per game (252.9) and also rush for more than 230 yards per game (237.9). Henry Josey was a 1,000-yard rusher (1,166 yards) with 16 rushing touchdowns, while Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington combined for 22 touchdown receptions. Redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk also deserves big props for holding it together until Franklin returned for the last four games.
If you take away the 59-42 SEC championship game loss to Auburn and the fourth quarter and two overtimes of the 27-24 loss to South Carolina, then Missouri is flirting with an "A" on defense. The Tigers held Ole Miss to 10 points in a key game and came back the next week and held Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in check to clinch the Eastern Division title. It's just hard to forget about those 545 rushing yards (and 59 points) Missouri gave up to Auburn in the SEC championship game. The same goes for those 17 fourth-quarter points the Tigers gave up to the Gamecocks at home after leading 17-0 at one point and then giving up the 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth down in the first overtime. Still, the Tigers were good enough on defense, particularly up front, to win 12 games and make their first SEC championship game appearance. Michael Sam and Kony Ealy formed the best defensive end tandem in the league, and E.J. Gaines established himself as one of the most complete cornerbacks in the league.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
The Tigers would love to have that missed 24-yard field-goal attempt back against South Carolina. Andrew Baggett’s kick hit the left upright in the second overtime. It was one of three misses by Baggett from inside 29 yards on the season. But to his credit, he came back and made his last four field goals in the SEC title game and Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. Baggett also led all SEC kickers with 120 points. Missouri’s return teams were just OK and didn’t produce any touchdowns on the season after Marcus Murphy had four in 2012, and the Tigers were 12th in the league in net punting (36.8 yards).
If not for what Gus Malzahn did at Auburn, Gary Pinkel would have been an easy choice for SEC Coach of the Year honors. He did a marvelous job in bringing Missouri back from an injury-plagued, disappointing first season in the SEC, and the Tigers overcame another injury to Franklin this season to win the East title. Giving up so many points to Auburn in the SEC championship game was disappointing, but Missouri showed its resolve by bouncing back in the postseason to beat Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. This was a senior-laden team with strong leadership and plenty of motivation after going 5-7 in 2012, its first season in the SEC. It's also a team that that made its own breaks, as evidenced by a plus-16 turnover ratio, which led the conference. Auburn's turnaround will be what most people talk about when they think back to the 2013 season, but Mizzou proved emphatically that it belonged in the SEC.