Mizzou backup QB Berkstresser got trial by fire
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)
Idolizing Corby Jones, the Tigers' signal caller in the late 1990s, Berkstresser grew up running options and throwing to his cousins in his suburban Kansas City backyard. Last Saturday, in only his third collegiate game, Berkstresser learned he would be following in Jones' footsteps by leading Missouri out onto the field as a starter.
''Yeah, got my heart going a little bit,'' he said. ''Definitely, whether it's five minutes before the game of five days before the game, it's going to get your heart going. I thought it was probably the greatest experience of my life, because everything slowed down. It's like a dream.''
It took two plays for Berkstresser to crash back into reality - and the ground - as 295-pound Arizona State nose tackle Jaxon Hood sacked him for a 3-yard loss.
''After that first big hit, it just reminded me that it's football,'' said Berkstresser, who's 6-foot-3 and weighs 230 pounds. ''It's nothing different. You're going to get hit. You're going to throw the ball again. It's no big deal.''
Berkstresser finished with 198 yards on 21-of-41 passing with an interception, adding 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Missouri won, 24-20, with him playing the entire game as James Franklin nursed a sore shoulder on the sideline.
So how would Berkstresser grade his performance? Five out of 10.
Offensive coordinator Dave Yost disagreed, saying he was ''pleasantly surprised'' by the freshman's performance and that Berkstresser earned the right to open the playbook more the next time he plays.
''He beats himself up over things probably more than I even get to,'' Yost said. ''And that's just kind of his natural demeanor. He wants to be perfect in everything he does.''
Berkstresser started playing football in the second grade as an offensive lineman, weighing 120 pounds. It took six years before he had an opportunity to play his favorite position.
''I always wanted to,'' he said. ''By my eighth-grade year, they saw my size and saw me throw a football. There wasn't really anybody else. I always wanted to be a quarterback since I was little, just never really had the right chance.''
Berkstresser takes pride in leading a team, and he says part of that responsibility is staying in the pocket and completing a pass, even at the risk of a big hit.
''He really didn't get rattled,'' receiver T.J. Moe said. ''I thought he did a good job settling down and making all the throws he needed to make. But being so tough is kind of what made him be able to just sit there.''
Berkstresser, however, admitted to being nervous as Arizona State scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before breathing a sigh of relief after safety Kenronte Walker's interception in the final minute.
After the game, Berkstresser walked out of the locker room to embrace his parents, who shared his good times - committing to Missouri after only his sophomore year - and his bad - being charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident in May.
''It's awesome to turn to them like that and be thanking them that they took me to every football practice and baseball practice,'' Berkstresser said. ''Keeping me always busy and thinking. It's really awesome and I'm really blessed to have that.''
Franklin is expected to return this week at No. 7 South Carolina, whose defensive line is anchored by Jadeveon Clowney (5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks). Regardless of who plays, Berkstresser says he's learned what to expect playing quarterback in the SEC.
''They're each going to hit you hard,'' he said.