Monday, December 26, 2011
Instant analysis: Missouri 41, UNC 24
By David Ubben
A mid-level bowl game on a rainy day in a location few consider a vacation spot led to a small crowd. But Missouri looked like it wanted to be in Shreveport, La., on Monday afternoon, dominating this game, and earning a solid win in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl over North Carolina, 41-24.
How the game was won: Missouri was the aggressor from the start, pounding North Carolina with a relentless running game and hitting simple throws when necessary. The Tigers scored on all five of their first-half drives and raced to a 31-10 halftime lead. Missouri forced a pair of first-half turnovers after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive. The rout was on early.
Turning point: North Carolina turned the ball over on consecutive snaps and when it looked up, Missouri led, 31-7. Giovani Bernard fumbled near midfield and Missouri marched 40 yards for a touchdown. Bryn Renner threw a perfect pass to Dwight Jones, but a hit jostled loose the ball, which ended up rolling off Jones' back and into Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden's hands. Missouri used seven plays to go 59 yards for a score and a 31-7 lead.
Stat of the game: Missouri's running game really couldn't be stopped in the first half. The Tigers outrushed North Carolina, 192-13. Bernard, an All-ACC first-teamer, had just 12 yards on eight carries in the half. The Tigers finished with 337 rushing yards -- just the third time this season the Tigers topped 300 yards on the ground. They did it against UNC, who entered Monday's game with the nation's No. 14 rush defense, allowing just more than 106 yards rushing per game this season.
Player of the game: Franklin. Missouri's sophomore quarterback was at his best, utilizing his underrated arm and great legs, and helping the Tigers keep solid balance. He finished with 142 yards rushing and 132 yards passing, accounting for three touchdowns.
Worst omen: Truman the Tiger. Mizzou's mascot shattered the crystal Independence Bowl trophy just hours before the game, but bowl officials told media at the game they hustled to find a replacement trophy from a "local jeweler." Missouri isn't expected to be forced to foot the bill for the trophy, which cost a "couple thousand bucks, at least," but the omen didn't seem to bother the Tigers in the bowl win.
Stat of the game II: Truman the Tiger fumbles: 1. Missouri Tiger fumbles: 0.
Unsung hero of the game: Missouri's offensive line. North Carolina's defense is littered with NFL talent, highlighted by defensive end Quinton Coples. The Tigers O-line blew them off the ball from the start, clearing huge holes and giving Franklin tons of time to throw.
Best call: Missouri gave up a 22-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, but came back with a trick play you know it was itching to unleash. Facing a second-and-4 on the UNC 40, Franklin flicked a pass to his right, back to former high school quarterback and the team's leading receiver, T.J. Moe. He flung it downfield to a wide-open Wes Kemp for a 40-yard, game-tying touchdown. The trickery worked to perfection, and the execution was perfect, too.
What it means: Missouri will head to the SEC with some good momentum off a pretty average season. The day in Shreveport finished with an S-E-C chant from the Tigers fans who made the trip. The Tigers will face a huge challenge in a new conference next year, while North Carolina begins a brand-new era in the ACC. Interim coach Everett Withers is headed to Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator, and former Southern Miss coach (and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator) Larry Fedora will now take over in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have constantly underachieved under Butch Davis with lots of NFL talent, and Fedora will try to change that.
Record performance: North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner broke Chris Keldorf's school record, set in 1996, for touchdown passes with his 24th of the season on the opening drive. That ball was caught by Dwight Jones, his 12th of the season, which tied Hakeem Nicks' school record set back in 2008.
Record performance II: Missouri's 31 first-half points were a Mizzou bowl record, and also an Independence Bowl record. The Tigers made it look easy.