COLUMBIA, Mo. - Henry Josey received the hero's welcome. Yet it was the rest of the Missouri offense that stole the show until the senior tailback finally got his on-field moment.
Josey played for the first time since Nov. 12, 2011, when the tailback shredded his knee against Texas. The senior completed his comeback by finishing the night with 113 yards on 13 carries to go along with a 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Until then, though, it was quarterback James Franklin, Josey's backfield counterpart Russell Hansbrough and a collection of pass-catchers that sparked a Missouri offense that racked up a whopping 694 total yards and scored the final 45 points in a 58-14 victory Saturday night at Faurot Field.
"I've never been involved in handing a ball to one player," Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. "We brought (Josey) in the middle and presented him a team ball. His courage, his determination, his guts and heart and will to come back when so many people said he couldn't do it. It was neat to see him do those things."
The crowd noise during Missouri's pregame player introductions crescendoed when Josey's name was called. His first carry came on the fourth play of the game, a 12-yard jaunt good for a first down and yet another rousing ovation.
"I will remember just getting back out there with my teammates," Josey said. "That was probably the happiest moment, just getting back there and being with them, just being on the field and hearing the crowd.
"There's a little nervousness about getting back out there and wondering if you can actually do it again, but I just went out there and kept having fun with my teammates."
It didn't take long for another running back - Hansbrough - to wow the crowd and get the Missouri offense going. The sophomore running back produced two touchdowns and 101 yards on six carries in the first quarter alone. It took a little longer for Franklin to join in, but the senior finished 26-of-38 for 318 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
While all was well and good with the offense from the get-go, it was quite a different story on the defensive side. After allowing 14 points and 196 yards in the opening quarter, the Tiger defense shut down the Racers the rest of the way. Missouri picked off three passes and allowed just 101 yards after the first 15 minutes.
Murray State put a scare into the Missouri faithful early, cashing in after a Bud Sasser fumble. The Racers found the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Maikhail Miller to Walter Powell just 3:25 into the contest.
It took all of 44 for seconds for Missouri to respond, as the Tigers coasted 75 yards on four plays, culminating in a 3-yard rush from Hansbrough to tie it at 7.
Hansbrough did it again on the next series, shaking and baking for a 51-yard touchdown run that capped a four-play, 78-yard drive in just 55 seconds. Andrew Baggett's PAT was blocked, leaving the score at 13-7.
"If I don't score I really don't care, but if I do I'm glad I'm helping the team out," Hansbrough said. "It can be a dangerous combination (with Josey) back there with all the speed that we have."
The highlight of the night for Murray State implemented a little chicanery. Miller tossed a pass laterally to Jeremy Harness, who lobbed it back across the field to Miller, who spun by Kony Ealy and waltzed into the end zone from 5 yards out to make it 14-13 with 3:58 left in the first period.
"I thought we had some adversity, which I think we created a little bit," Pinkel said. "Certainly give them some credit for what they did early in the first quarter and second quarter, and momentum stayed on their side. We settled down and then I think we played pretty well the rest of the game."
While Baggett missed on a chance to put Missouri ahead early in the second period, going wide left on a 30-yard field goal, Missouri did take the lead for good soon after.
Follwing an interception from E.J. Gaines that gave Missouri possession just 33 yards from paydirt, James Franklin eventually connected with Jimmie Hunt on a 22-yard touchdown pass that gave the Tigers a 20-14 advantage with 11:22 remaining before halftime.
Marcus Murphy later capped a 13-play, 82-yard drive with a 4-yard rush that put Missouri up 27-14 with 5:45 to go in the second quarter before Baggett nailed a 43-yard field goal as time expired heading into halftime to make it 30-14.
Missouri blew it open in the second half.
Franklin hit Darius White for a 37-yard touchdown pass at the 13:11 mark of the third quarter to make it 37-14. He concluded his night by finding L'Damian Washington falling out of bounds for a 4-yard score at the 9:51 mark to make it 44-14.
It was then time for the moment everybody had been waiting for.
Josey's blazing speed helped him sprint past just about all 11 defenders down the right sideline for the score that made it 51-14 with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
"It's a just a blessing to be back out there," Josey said. "I was waiting on that moment the whole game. I was trying to take my time and be patient. ... It felt great.
"I looked up and I thanked God. I was pretty much screaming at him, I hope he heard me. I was so happy."
Morgan Steward capped the scoring from a yard out 1:40 into the fourth period to make it 58-14.
Missouri (1-0) hosts Toledo at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Dorial Green-Beckahm bruised his hand on a punt block play, but an X-ray came back negative. "I really didn't know what happened until after the play," he said. "I'm not sure how I did it. It's just sore, that's about it. Nothing big. I can still catch balls, so that's good enough, that's all that matters."
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