I was really high on Missouri coming into the season and so were the rest of the Zealots as we had them picked for 3rd place in the Big 12. As it would turn out, it would take Missouri a while to get it going in 2011. They started out just 4-5 against a very tough schedule (their first nine games included four top 25 teams and Baylor). Missouri closed strong by winning their final four games including a 17-5 win over Texas.
Missouri was led by first year starter James Franklin and he had a very good year for a first time starter. He passed for 2872 yards and 21 TDs vs 11 INTs. He also ran for 981 yards and 15 TDs and was the teams second leading rusher. Leading the team in rushing was Henry Josey. Josey broke out with 1168 yards in 10 games before having his season ended with a knee injury. I personally thought Missouri would be stronger on defense but they took a step back in points allowed (7.4 more allowed per game in 2011 vs 2010) and they also gave up 50 more yards passing per game. A stout defense will be key for them if they want to make their mark when they enter the SEC for the 2012 season. To review the 2011 Missouri season we caught up with Jason Madson. Make sure you follow him on Twitter and watch out for some work he will be doing with Optimum Scouting.
CFBZ: Missouri got out of the gates slowly this past season, what were the biggest reasons behind their turnaround?
Jason Madson: This Tigers team improved with QB James Franklin. He flashed what many Mizzou fans heard about during his recruitment, but he was hardly consistent with his play. We saw it in the fourth quarter of the Arizona State game or first half at Oklahoma, but never a full game. His play in the Iowa State game is where the season really turned around. Yes, he played poorly in a loss at home to Oklahoma State the next week, but I point to the Cyclones game as the "turnaround" moment. It would be wrong to leave Henry Josey out of this discussion. The Tigers transformed from a pass first team, to a run first team. Josey helped take a lot of the pressure off the young QB. The Franklin/Josey duo were the main reason for the Missouri Tigers winning 5 of their last 6 games in 2011.
CFBZ: If you could have a "do over" for any game which would it be?
Jason Madson: Playing NCAA 2012, the "do over" button is used a lot. In the 2011 Missouri Tigers season, there are 2 games to consider when thinking about using a do over: Arizona State and Baylor. Missouri made a furious comeback in the desert to tie it up late. With the right play calling and using timeouts correctly, on the final drive in regulation, Mizzou could have beat the Sun Devils. As soon as Ressel missed the game winning field goal, the momentum was gone. Missouri lead by 2 scores in Waco, but couldn't stop RGIII, or any Bear for that matter. If the Tigers can just get one stop, they pull off a tough road win. This game hurt a little more for me. I happened to be in Vegas watching this game from a sportsbook. My bank account wanted a "do over" in this game for sure.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
Jason Madson: There are a few things that will always be remembered for the 2011 Missouri Tigers football season. Leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, Gary Pinkel having 2 "jumbo" glasses of wine, Icing the kicker, and possibly beating Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium for the final time. Choosing one of those is tough. When thinking about it, leaving the familiarity of Big 12 country is probably the one memory that will last. Facing Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State for the final time this year is the most difficult part. You know each teams fans, where to tailgate, good bars to go to and many other things about each school. That is going to be the lasting memory of this season, leaving the Big 12. Mizzou and Kansas will play each other again, so this doesn't hurt as much. There is just something special about beating your rival over and over again.
CFBZ: Who are some players that need to step up for Missouri to be successful in their first year in the SEC?
Jason Madson: Missouri has some star players in Franklin, Josey, WR Marcus Lucas, WR TJ Moe, LB Zavier Gooden, DE Brad Madison, DT Sheldon Richardson and CB EJ Gaines. When thinking about players Mizzou needs to step up to be successful in year one, a handful come to mind.
The offensive line is an obvious choice, with the ridiculously good defensive lineman in the SEC. I'm going to lump them into one, they need to step up next year. Individually, there are two players that need to step up. TE Eric Waters and DE Kony Ealy. The tight end is a very important position in the Tigers offense and Waters is next in line. Waters had only 2 receptions this season, but look at Egnew's stat jump from 2009-2010. He jumped from 3 receptions to 90. Like Egnew escaped from Chase Coffman's shadow, expect Waters to do the same. Kony Ealy is a freak athlete. He should make a big impact in 2012 SEC play using his strength/speed combo. With Jacquies Smith moving on to the NFL, Kony will battle for the spot opposite Madison in spring ball. The depth along the defensive line would be a strength for the Tigers in Big 12 play. I'm anxious to see how this group does in the more physical SEC.
CFBZ: Are you more excited or nervous to see Missouri play in the SEC this year?
Jason Madson: Is this a serious question? Of course I'm excited! There hasn't been this much hype around the Mizzou football team in a long time. The city of Columbia, MO (where University of Missouri is located for those that didn't know) is talking about building a Tiger Town. I don't know what this means yet, but it's being done to make the Mizzou gameday experience more SEC like. Teams like Georgia and Alabama coming to Mizzou next year. As soon as the announcement was made, many Mizzou fans went out and bought the book "Dixieland Delight" and began planning a roadtrip to the college football experience they most wanted to be a part of, it's Knoxville, TN for me. The probability that every game is televised, something that wasn't the case in Big 12 play. Being able to say that we are part of the best football conference is an honor and something Mizzou fans need to be proud of.
CFBZ: Bonus Question. I'm a Georgia guy and Missouri's first SEC game is against Georgia. It's a long time until they hit the field, but where do you think Missouri might match up well with Georgia?
Jason Madson: The crowd for this game is going to be insane. It's the first ever SEC game at Mizzou. If it is a night game, I'm picking the Tigers. I'll probably pick Mizzou anyway, but I'm a homer. But, at this time, does Mizzou matchup well with Georgia? The size of the Bulldogs up front is a concern, but I would take Missouri's skill position players over Georgia's. The matchups I like in January are Missouri's WR, QB over Georgia's Secondary and Mizzou's LB/DL ability to stop the run. It's early and I may reattempt this question after Spring Ball.
Previous 2011 Exit Surveys
Big 12- Kansas Jayhawks