The stats that mattered in Missouri's 41-24 win over North Carolina in last night's Independence Bowl.
337: Rushing yards gained by Missouri. North Carolina entered the game allowing 108 rushing yards per game. Two different Mizzou rushers -- quarterback James Franklin (142) and running back Kendial Lawrence (108) -- each gained at least that. The question coming into the game was whether Missouri could handle UNC's front seven well enough to take advantage of perceived deficiencies in the secondary. Mission: accomplished. Franklin threw in 132 yards on 15-for-23 passing as well to earn an easy Player of the Game award.
318: Yards gained by Missouri in the first half as they put the game virtually out of reach. North Carolina landed the first blow, marching 51 yards for a touchdown on the game's opening drive. Missouri would score the next 31 points, reaching paydirt on all five first-half drives and both running and throwing at will.
31: Rushing yards gained by North Carolina's star redshirt freshman, Giovani Bernard. Missouri dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and on just about every touch (he had 13 carries for 31 yards and six catches for 36 yards), Bernard was forced to evade tacklers in the backfield. The Tar Heels found a couple of weaknesses to exploit deep in Missouri's secondary, but they could not consistently move the ball because of the work Missouri was doing near the line of scrimmage. Bernard found few holes, and quarterback Bryn Renner was forced to scramble out of the pocket more often than he would have preferred.
7.0 - Average gain on 22 passes thrown at North Carolina receivers Dwight Jones and Erik Highsmith. Jones started hot, then faded to finish with a decent six catches and 77 yards in 11 targets. Highsmith, meanwhile, caught more passes (eight of 11) and gained the same number of yards. In the end, despite a couple of nice grabs from No. 3 man Jheranie Boyd (three catches, 95 yards), the Heels were just unable to generate the magic necessary to come back from a 31-7 deficit.
4: Consecutive wins Missouri finished with to end the 2011 season. Against a brutal schedule, dinged by tight losses and injuries, the Tigers pulled it together and bid adieu to the Big 12 in solid fashion. The defense saved three of its best performances for the final four games, and Missouri's ability to both run and pass set the table for success. The Tigers rushed for at least 240 yards in eight games and threw for at least 240 in five, and for the first time in school history, they finished the season with over 3,000 rushing (3,172) and passing (3,010).
3: Players who touched this pass before Missouri's Zaviar Gooden came away with the interception.
Some days you get the breaks.
-1: Yards gained by North Carolina on three plays late in the first half. Trailing 31-7, the Heels drove to the Missouri two in the final minute and could have built a bit of momentum heading into halftime. But Renner could not find Nelson Hurst on first down and saw a fade to Jones get broken up on second down, and blocking back Anthony Blue was stuffed by Kony Ealy and Andrew Wilson for a loss on third down. UNC settled for a field goal as the half expired and saw any possible momentum negated.