Lessons From the Tigers' Opening Game

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Over the weekend, the Missouri Tigers opened their 2012 season by beating up the Southeastern Louisiana Sacrificial- er, um, Lions 62-10. It was pretty much everything you could have hoped for out of an opening night performance: the Tigers won and nobody got hurt. 

The problem with trying to read too very much into a game like the one on Saturday is, of course, the level of competition. It's nothing against Southeastern Louisiana University or its fine alumni; I'm sure it's a great school and the people who go there are quite lovely. But in college athletics you get these odd mismatches fairly regularly, particularly early in the season before conference play ramps up for teams, where the teams just aren't of even remotely similar pedigree. 

The best way I've found to deal with games like this is to think of them almost like preseason games in the NFL. It's not exactly like that, obviously; even great teams do occasionally blow it and lose one to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the games most definitely do count. But ignore the score, and just accept that a quality team got their work in. 

That doesn't mean there aren't things to be gleaned from even the most lopsided affairs. And it's a good thing, too, when you happen to be a sportswriter looking for something to write about. 

The Tigers looked good overall. James Franklin made some nice throws, the defense stifled the Lions, and the Mizzou playmakers, for the most part, made plays. None of that is very specific, of course; four things stood out to me as important. 

Thing One: Marcus Murphy is Fast

Anyone watching the game had to be impressed with the return abilities of running back Marcus Murphy, a redshirt freshman who missed all of season with a shoulder injury. Murphy has very much a Henry Josey kind of thing going on, and just might have a chance at a similar sort of breakout. The speed is evident, as well as the shiftiness and remarkable cutting ability. I don't know that Murphy will get a ton of time on the field as a tailback just yet, but watching him run returns on Saturday you have to be excited at the prospect of what kind of weapon he could be for the Tigers. 

The best teams usually have the ability to make a difference in all three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. We don't know exactly what the other two parts of this Mizzou team are going to look like just yet, but the presence of a guy like Murphy taking kicks gives the Tigers a chance at a true game-changer of a play at any moment.

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