Missouri taken by storm in 42-10 loss to top-ranked Alabama

By Seth Boster

Missouri did get a break during its 42-10 route from Alabama on Saturday.

It came after the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s 27th unanswered point with 8:40 stuck on the second quarter clock. It came with the Tigers’ defense on the field, on its knees without senior cornerback E.J. Gaines, who became yet the next casualty in the team’s injury-stricken season until returning later. It came with redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser and the Tigers’ offense stranded on the sideline having showed little signs of a heartbeat, just 40 yards to their names compared to 303 from the Tide.

The Doppler radar showed a splash of red over the Columbia area like the color that covered pockets of Memorial Stadium before the wind carried redshirt freshman Andrew Baggett’s kickoff out of bounds. Dark clouds and dim expectations hovered over the city before it hosted the country’s most heralded football program.

And at 3:43 p.m., lightning split the sky to the east, judged to be within six miles of the playing field, and the game was suspended while the rain continued to fall on the Tigers’ 0-4 Southeastern Conference start.

Teams jogged to their locker rooms.

“We sat down,” senior receiver T.J. Moe said. “(Coaches) sat down, too. They said chill out for a little while.”

A mass of yellow poncho-wearing fans crossed Stadium Boulevard back toward campus. There was no reason for an expected return.

But then sophomore Marcus Murphy gave one, initiating the touchdown celebratory cannon blast that could be heard from miles away after his 98-yard bolt to the end zone for Missouri’s first score.

“I think it gave a little spark,” Murphy said. “Just that they weren’t beating us 28-0, it was 28-7. We showed that we can score and we can put points up.”

The spark carried over into a surge from the defense. In Alabama’s following possession, Eddie Lacy, who had 18 carries for 178 yards and three touchdowns, the first of which being a 73-yard run in the game’s second play, fumbled the ball. Coach Gary Pinkel gave three fist-pumps on the nearby sideline.

With the recovery, the Tigers started at the 48-yard line but were unable to move from there, only moving back after junior Justin Britt twitched before the snap, issuing a flag.

A possession later, Missouri halted Alabama’s attack, kept alive for a second set of downs after AJ McCarron’s 27-yard toss. Facing fourth-and-three, Crimson Tide punter Cody Mendell mishandled the snap and was tackled backward, granting hope to Berkstresser and the Tigers in Alabama territory at the 34-yard line.

Berkstresser lofted a 24-yard pass over defenders to junior receiver L’Damien Washington, who hauled in four for 72 in Berkstresser’s 10-for-22, 114-yard, two-interception effort. Fans could be seen walking back toward a still-porous Memorial Stadium from a parking lot away.

But a play later, Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard came free on Berkstresser’s blindside and crashed into the quarterback to force a fumble, which was recovered as the second-quarter clock drained away.

“That was definitely my fault right there not seeing that backside blitz,” said Berkstresser after his second career start. “I’ll take that blame on myself. … It definitely leaves a mark, definitely leaves a bruise. But we have to come back tomorrow, get healthy.”

To open the second half, Berkstresser took seven plays and 51 yards to set up Baggett’s 41-yard field goal, the first the Crimson Tide has allowed this season. For 19 minutes and 25 seconds, Missouri’s defense went toe-to-toe with Alabama’s attack, containing the Crimson Tide before Lacy punched in his third touchdown of the day with 8:05 left in the game.

A possession later, Alabama, who outgained Missouri by 325 yards on the ground, took seven plays for another goal line score to put the final tallies on the scoreboard and the final gashes in the Tiger defense, which allowed 533 total yards.

Freshman Russell Hansbrough took a carry in the game’s final series and was suplexed like a victim in a WWE event by LaMichael Fanning.

With less than a minute to go, senior tight end Eric Waters caught a pass for one yard and was tackled to the ground. The game’s final seconds ticked off the clock and a stretcher was wheeled across the field to him, laying flat on his back. Members of each time left the field all the while.

Waters gave fans a thumbs-up as he was carted off. Pinkel said he was told by the training staff that the stretcher was “precautionary.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban pointed out the Tigers’ injury situation when asked about their ability to compete in the SEC.

“They certainly can compete in our league,” he said. “I don’t think we could compete very well if we lost key players in key positions.”

The Tigers, playing with their backup quarterback and their fifth combination of offensive line starters on the season, has struggled to find mercy. They approach a bye week before hosting Kentucky.

Pinkel was asked of the importance of the coming week.

“To get a break, to get a rest,” he said. “We’ve had a rugged schedule to this point … Hopefully some guys will get healed up. There’s half a season left.”

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