A lot has been said about Derrick Washington's increased speed and nimbleness, and it didn't take the senior tailback long to show them off in Missouri's first scrimmage of the preseason. On the first play Washington took the ball from inside his own 5-yard line and shot up the middle of the field for 73 yards.
That play began a productive day for Washington and sophomore tailback Kendial Lawrence as the Missouri offense beat the defense to win the scrimmage, 56-48.
"I think I'm one of the playmakers on the team," Washington said. "Anytime I get the ball in my hand I try to make the most of it and the O-line did their job so it made it easier for me."
Washington racked up 133 yards on seven carries and added 59 yards and a touchdown on three receptions. Lawrence had only 21 yards rushing but made one of the offensive highlights by scoring on a 60-yard touchdown pass.
"We can make it a lot easier," Lawrence said of the tailbacks. "If [junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert] dumps it off to us or hands it off to us, we can make some moves, get up the field and get the yards that we need."
Later on Washington added to his touchdown total by catching a pass from Gabbert around the opponent's 20-yard and scampering the rest of the way for a 47-yard touchdown. Overall it was a good start for the senior captain looking to bounce back from a down year in 2009.
"That's what you have to do," head coach Gary Pinkel said. "When you have starters that are returning, they have to play better than they did the year before or your team's not going to get better."
Apart from the big plays from Washington and Lawrence, the Tiger offense had trouble holding on to the ball throughout the scrimmage. Missouri fumbled the ball five times (losing four) and threw one interception.
"I just think that we looked a little rusty," Pinkel said. "I think we looked okay on both sides of the ball if you look at the one offense, one defense. And okay isn't good enough."
Sitting on the sideline for the scrimmage was junior linebacker Will Ebner, still trying to get over a strained hamstring.
Compared to earlier in the week Missouri left the field relatively unscathed, though freshman wide receiver Jimmie Hunt injured an ankle and had a boot on it before the scrimmage finished. Pinkel said afterwards that Hunt was "fine."
The Missouri first team offense featured Gabbert completing 18 of 23 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver T.J. Moe continued his impressive fall camp by catching nearly every pass thrown to him for seven receptions and 47 yards.
Defensively, redshirt freshman defensive end Michael Sam made plenty of noise with five sacks, a tackle for a loss and a 50-yard fumble recovery and return. PowerMizzou.com will have more on Sam's big day in another story later today.
As for players looking to move up the depth chart, freshman wide receiver Bud Sasser made his case with six catches for 80 yards and junior Jayson Palmgren saw some time with the first team offensive line.
Palmgren is battling redshirt freshman Justin Britt for the starting left guard spot.
"Justin Britt's a real good player," Palmgren said. "I just lost it a little bit in the spring and now I've got to come back and get it. I think I did pretty good today and he did really well I think. I don't know what's going to happen. We'll see after tomorrow when we watch some film."
On a day with many big offensive plays, sophomore Trey Barrow took his turn in the spotlight by nailing a 57-yard goal. But afterwards it was clear that the day belonged to the tailbacks, especially Washington.
"You can tell, he's primed and ready for a great season," junior defensive end Jacquies Smith said. "When I'm on the sideline, I'm gonna be checking it out because you can tell he's gonna have a lot of highlight reels for us."
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