"Missouri Tigers 2014 football team" and "winning impressively" have been mutually exclusive thus far, and that was still true on Saturday afternoon.
On the 103rd edition of Homecoming in Columbia, Missouri, where the tradition itself started (If you've never heard that, Missouri fans and students will tell you. Trust me. They take great pride in it. Just poking fun, let's move along now) Mizzou tangled with the Vanderbilt Commodores. The 'Dores have been soul searching all year long and without James Franklin roving the sidelines -- he's now at Penn State, and let's not get ourselves confused with the other James Franklin, the former Missouri QB -- the team had sputtered to a 2-5 record heading into this Saturday afternoon showdown.
The eighth verse would be the same as the first, as Vanderbilt couldn't slosh their way through what was, for the most part, another unconvincing performance from the Tigers offense, as Mizzou picked up the win on Homecoming, 24-14, who pushed their way to a 6-2 record on the year, while Vandy is just the opposite.
Though the records will show that Missouri won by 10, and though Maty Mauk had two touchdown passes and no interceptions, the team's effort on Saturday did not exactly quell any fears, doubts, or predisposed thoughts on the Missouri offense. Through SEC play thus far, it's been grim. Mauk's ineffectiveness is nothing if not concerning, and his 11-for-23 outing on Saturday on the gridiron at Faurot Field did little to yield the concerns.
The Missouri ground game, meanwhile, had a stupendous showing. Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough combined for 180 yards on 35 carries, with the former rushing for 93 yards on just 16 carries. Mauk even got in on the fun, running for 58 yards on seven rushes, including a 36-yard scamper. The team combined for 244 yards on the ground, decimating the Vanderbilt run defense nearly every time they took the ball.
Freshman quarterback Johnny McCrary more than held his own. The Commodore quarterback stood back, with the fearful Missouri defensive line pressuring him often, and tossed 17 completed passes for 196 yards, with a pair of scores under his belt. The two touchdown passes were caught by C.J. Duncan and Nathan Marcus whose only receptions, interestingly enough, were for those TD catches.
The glaring weakness for Vanderbilt? The run game. While Missouri dominated, Vanderbilt's efforts were futile. They could only amass 44 yards on 27 rushing attempts, leading to a dismal yards per carry average of just 1.6. The highest yards per carry on the day for any 'Dore was 3.0, which was allotted by Dallas Rivers, who only had two carries. Ralph Webb led the team in rushing yards -- 34 -- but could only do it on 16 carries.
One of the biggest story lines of the day was whether or not Tigers defensive end Shane Ray would obtain the Missouri single-season sack record. Unfortunately, Ray could not nab up a sack, but fellow linemen Matt Hoch and Harold Brantley picked him up in that department.