Missouri Hopes for Happy Homecoming vs. Iowa State
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) After winning 40 games in four seasons, Missouri has faced some adversity in 2011. The Tigers will try to regain their footing at homecoming.
Injuries in the backfield and defensive line, as well as the break-in period for sophomore quarterback James Franklin, have contributed to their first sub-.500 record since 2004. Heading into Saturday's centennial anniversary homecoming game against Iowa State, Missouri (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) is off to its worst start since coach Gary Pinkel's first season in 2001.
"Obviously, we are disappointed with where we're at right now," Pinkel said.
Missouri opened its first season in the revamped Big 12 with road games against two top 20 teams and lost in overtime at Arizona State. Based on opponent winning percentage, it's the fifth-toughest schedule in the country.
Mistakes have come often, with the Tigers averaging more than 10 penalties and nearly 90 yards per game. They've also struggled to manufacture points.
After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter at Kansas State last week, Missouri reached the Wildcats' 35 yard line four consecutive times, yet walked away with three points total in that stretch en route to a 24-17 loss.
Part of that can be attributed to struggles in the kicking game. Grant Ressel, an All-American in 2009, has started the season 7 of 13, prompting Pinkel to open up competition between Ressel and punter Trey Barrow for the starting job this week.
The Cyclones (3-2, 0-2) will look to avenge their 14-0 loss to Missouri last year in Ames and pick up their first conference victory this season after a 3-0 start.
The Cyclones also have been penalty-prone, with 45 calls in five games, and have 15 turnovers. And they need stability in the kicking game, too, after missing two extra point attempts in a 49-26 loss at Baylor last week. Grant Mahoney and Zach Guyer are battling for the starting job after combining to go 2 for 6 on field goals this season.
The players "see the improvement they're making, but they also know they need to do more things better, more things right if you're going to win in the Big 12," coach Paul Rhoads said. "And that's exactly what we have to do."
Wide receiver Darius Reynolds and tailback James White are coming off career days against Baylor. Reynolds caught seven passes for 178 yards, the most receiving yards for an Iowa State player since Todd Blythe had 214 yards against Texas A&M on Oct. 29, 2005. Reynolds' performance landed him a spot on the Biletnikoff Award watch list, given annually to college football's top receiver.
White had 148 yards rushing on 16 carries, including a 76-yard scoring scamper. The sophomore began the year with one career rushing attempt, but progressively increased his production before breaking out last week.
Missouri found a pleasant surprise in tailback Henry Josey, who has blossomed since starting the season third on the depth chart, moving up after injuries to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore. Although he was held to 55 yards last week, Josey is averaging an eye-popping 10.7 yards and leads the Big 12 with 117.6 yards per game.
The Tigers are hoping their first home game in a month may provide an opportunity to get back on track. Missouri has won nine consecutive games in Columbia dating to 2009.
"This losing record is very new right now," wide receiver Jerrell Jackson said. "Right now, we're facing adversity. It's time to get on the elevator and start moving up."
Missouri is 60-34-9 all-time against the Cyclones, including four consecutive wins and seven of eight overall. Iowa State's last victory in the series came on Nov. 18, 2006, in a 21-16 victory.