COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Corbin Berkstresser ran for a score in his first career start at quarterback in place of injured James Franklin, and Missouri’s defense forced four turnovers to ease the pressure on the redshirt freshman in a 24-20 victory over Arizona State on Saturday night.
Missouri (2-1) built a 17-point cushion in the third quarter in front of a sellout crowd of 71,004, the school’s first for a non-conference game since Notre Dame in 1984. The Tigers held on late a week after fizzling late in a 21-point loss to No. 7 Georgia that spoiled the school’s SEC debut.
Marion Grice scored on a pair of fourth-quarter runs that cut the deficit to four for Arizona State (2-1), which had a fumbled snap on the second extra-point kick.
Kendial Lawrence scored on a pair of short runs, and T.J. Moe was strong overall with eight catches for 88 yards and a 43-yard kickoff return to open the game for Missouri.
Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett made a 46-yard field goal early but missed from 37, 45 and 48 yards.
Kenronte Walker made two big plays late, a pass deflection on fourth and goal from the 2 to turn it over on downs and an end-zone interception and 49-yard return to clinch it in the final minute.
Missouri had quarterback suspense until just before kickoff with Franklin the final starter announced, followed by intrigue when Berkstresser took the field while Franklin wore a cap and headset on the sideline, nursing an elbow injury. It was the first start missed by the Tigers’ No. 1 quarterback since coach Gary Pinkel’s first season in 2001.
Brad Smith didn’t miss a start in four seasons, Chase Daniel made it three years in a row and Blaine Gabbert started every game two years. Franklin had made 15 consecutive starts and warmed up without obvious discomfort prior to the game, throwing several passes of 20 or more yards while watched closely by offensive coordinator Dave Yost.
Berkstresser, who subbed in the season’s first two games, got plenty of help early as Missouri built a 17-0 lead. He cost the Tigers a scoring opportunity in the second quarter, throwing into coverage on Brandon McGee’s interception at the Sun Devil 3.
The Tigers got touchdown runs from Berkstresser and Lawrence on a pair of 18-yard drives off turnovers, with Kip Edwards recovering a fumble and intercepting Taylor Kelly on consecutive possessions.
Arizona State had 27 total yards before putting together a 66-yard drive near the end of the half fueled by quick hitters and capped by D.J. Foster’s 33-yard score on a screen pass from Kelly that took advantage of an overzealous pass rush.
ASU punter Josh Hubner fumbled a snap late in the third quarter, recovering the ball after it slipped through his hands and rolled over the top of his head. He still managed to kick the ball, and the desperation 11-yard effort gave Missouri possession at the Sun Devils’ 33. Lawrence had a 14-yard reception to the 2, then ran it in from the 1 for a 24-7 lead.