November 14, 2009

Tiger Notebook: Super 'Nario

MANHATTAN, KS--For all the blame he's received for a lack of halftime adjustments, Gary Pinkel didn't want the credit after Missouri outscored Kansas State 21-6 in the second half on the way to a resounding 38-12 win.

"I saw Spoon handle it (halftime)," Pinkel said. "It was quiet as could be in there at halftime. Just focus on what you've got to do and let's go out and play well."

The message from the senior linebacker came through loud and clear.

"You could kind of tell that guys were frustrated around here, not really happy with losing," Weatherspoon said. "Today was a big task for us and we came out and played together as a team. Now we can actually look each other in the eye and know that we came out and played for everybody in the Mizzou family and that we had a great day."

It was received by not just Spoon's fellow seniors, but also by the younger Tigers.

"We know our seniors can't do it on their own. We got a speech from Zo Williams that really influenced me," Jerrell Jackson said. "He was just saying the senior class really appreciate it when the younger guys come in and play real good and help them out."

But it was a senior and the usual suspect at wide receiver who made the loudest statements. Danario Alexander caught ten balls for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

"I just try to get everybody going," Alexander said. "Spoon's a great vocal leader. I just want to try to lead by example."

"He did it right between those lines," Weatherspoon said. "He's been playing better than any receiver that I've seen. Every week, he just comes out and tries to go hard for his football team."

Alexander did it with a 54-yard grab over double coverage for a touchdown that gave the Tigers the lead for good at 10-3. He did it with an 80-yard catch and run, breaking away from a tackle at his own 30 and outrunning the Wildcat defense for Missouri's first second half touchdown in Big 12 play. He did it with the grit of a five-yard catch where he carried multiple tacklers past the first down marker, losing his helmet in the process. Which was his favorite?

"I think the 80-yarder because it was the second half," he said. "Blaine was looking for it. I told him I'd be open. I wanted to try to get the ball and give our offense a spark."

"I was kind of mad at the first touchdown, cause I was wide open and he threw it to a person that was double-covered," Jared Perry said. "But he caught it and made a touchdown so I'm happy for the team."

The performance was Alexander's second consecutive 200-yard game, a first for a Missouri receiver. He now has 81 catches for 1,238 yards on the season, both temporarily leading the Big 12 Conference. He is just 22 yards shy of Jeremy Maclin's single-season receiving record. But it wasn't Maclin to whom his teammates were comparing him after the game.

"That dude is a playmaker. He is amazing," Jaron Baston said. "He hasn't made it to that next level yet, but you could almost compare that guy to (Randy) Moss sometimes, man."

"Nario's more of a straight-line receiver, like a Randy Moss kind of guy and it's awesome," Andrew Gachkar echoed. "He's a beast. He's scary good. I catch his highlights all the time. We stand up just to watch the guy. I've never seen a guy like that."

Alexander has put up monster numbers. But on Saturday, they led to a Tiger win. They also led to questions of whether he belongs on the all-American team at the end of the year.

"I don't know," Alexander said. "Hopefully. I try to play the best I can."

He doesn't have to do the talking. His teammates will do it for him.

"He never ceases to amaze me every week and that's exactly what I told him. It's always something new with him," Derrick Washington said. "200 yards back to back weeks? Three touchdowns? That's crazy. He's sneaking in the first round of the draft."

"He's ballin' right now," Perry said. "Of course he'll be on it."

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