Slipups were few and far between in Missouri’s 62-10 season-opening victory against Southeastern Louisiana, an opponent familiar with the rain over Columbia on Saturday night.
But in the first play of the second quarter, when the fractured weather system that blew in from Hurricane Isaac became intense and poured down, junior quarterback James Franklin lost his footing on the damp Faurot Field. He was rushed, then tried to get up field to his left and fell.
The second quarter was the Tigers’ only frame of not adding to the rout. On two occasions, Franklin overthrew his receivers, missing junior Marcus Lucas and freshman Dorial Green-Beckham.
“I just had to be more aware,” Franklin said. “Get a better grip on the ball, so that is something that I will probably work on a little bit better next time.”
Franklin didn’t need to have a commanding performance for the Tigers. His 131 yards and touchdown on 13 of 21 throws was enough. Much of the game was controlled on the ground, which senior tailback Kendial Lawrence torched with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
But from the start with Marching Mizzou forming "SEC" on the field during its pregame performance, the game was claimed by all phases.
After Franklin found senior T.J. Moe in the end zone on the 11th play of the season’s first drive, Missouri’s defense seesawed the scoreboard. Senior linebacker Zavier Gooden ran 20 yards after an interception. After Lawrence took a handoff and scored on a career-long 76-yard dash down the right sideline, sophomore Kony Ealy engulfed Lion quarterback Nathan Stanley and forced the fumble junior Michael Sam scooped and scored.
By the half, the Tigers led 28-3, with the only second-quarter points coming from SELU’s 31-yard field goal. The half opened with MU’s special teams joining the scoring frenzy.
Sophomore Marcus Murphy scored a pair of punt returns, the first coming on a 70-yarder and the next spanning 72 yards, and it was the first time a Missouri player had done so. In total, he racked up 180 yards on punt returns, breaking NFL Hall of Famer Roger Wehrli’s single-game record.
“Just give one crease and just get him out in the open — he’s got great quickness, speed and acceleration,” Pinkel said. “It’s a dimension that really helps us.”
Murphy smiled through interviews after the game.
“It felt good,” he said. “It wasn’t completely (about) making history. I just wanted to feel good about having a team victory and just coming out knowing I gave it all I can.”
In his much-anticipated debut, Green-Beckham came onto the scene with three grabs, the first one coming on a six-yard bubble screen with 1:51 left in the first quarter. Franklin’s longest completion of the game went to Green-Beckham, who turned around 29 yards down the right sideline and made the leaping catch. He said the catch felt “amazing” and that it came at a time when he “wanted to make a statement.”
“Once that play was called I knew I had to be focused for it because I knew it was coming my way,” Green-Beckham said. “I had to keep my head up and make a play on the ball.”
After a summer of not speaking with media, as per a new team rule for first-year players, a reporter in the group around Green-Beckham asked, “Have you been wanting to talk to us?”
“I mean, it really doesn't bother me,” Green-Beckham said. “It doesn't matter really. It's going to happen …”
Talk transitioned to next week’s meeting with Georgia, who will travel to Columbia for Missouri’s first Southeastern Conference game.
Junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said he watched Georgia’s win over Buffalo earlier in the day. But not much of it.
“I watched that game,” he said. “I turned it off, too.”
Richardson added that watching the SEC was like “watching Big 10 football. It’s old man football.”
“If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us,” he said. "Period."
Green-Beckham said he expected to receive a totally different introduction to college football.
“It’s going to be a bigger game,” he said. “We’re just going to have to go out there and compete. All of us are going to have to go out there and make plays, (and) let them know that we’re here.”