Mizzou’s Jackson looking to build on breakout game

Over the first six games, Jerrell Jackson lagged behind as the

third option in No. 7 Missouri’s passing attack. For a month, he

was the guy lugging a cast.

No one can overlook the junior anymore.

Jackson dazzled on the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter

of the seventh-ranked Tigers’ first victory over Oklahoma since

1998, pirouetting away from two defenders on a 38-yard catch. He

played a key role all day, with a season-best nine catches for 139

yards.

Before that, Jackson had only 18 receptions in five games while

recovering from a broken left wrist. He played the opener against

Illinois wearing a cast.

”I’ve had some alright games, but I hadn’t really played my

best yet,” Jackson said. ”Oklahoma probably asked themselves

where this kid came from after watching film and not seeing me do a

whole lot on tape.”

Jackson emerged from a relatively small urban high school

located in the heart of downtown Houston. At Jefferson Davis High,

he averaged an eye-popping 23.8 yards on 42 catches with 18

touchdowns as a senior, but attracted little attention before

impressing Missouri coach Gary Pinkel with his speed.

”I’ve been a Jerrell Jackson fan for a long time,” Pinkel

said. ”Midseason last year, I’m talking to him all the time to

raise expectations. That you’re a great athlete and you can make

plays.”

Jackson stepped up after Jared Perry missed the final two games

last season because of a knee injury, and he had eight catches for

142 yards and a touchdown in a win over Iowa State.

He ended up third on the team in receptions (37) and yards

(458), setting him up to replace Danario Alexander as the top

receiver. Alexander, now with the St. Louis Rams, served as mentor

for Jackson.

”He used to always preach to me about yards after catch,”

Jackson said. ”Get the rock and do something with it and that’s

what I think about every time I catch the ball.”

Alexander watched Jackson’s exploits on TV the night before the

Rams’ 18-17 loss at Tampa Bay.

”I’m really proud of him,” Alexander said. ”He ran the ball

after the catch, like I always told him.”

Strong performances in spring practices resulted in Jackson

being touted as the Tigers’ most dangerous deep threat entering his

junior season. All of that momentum came to a halt on Aug. 11 after

he was injured on a hit from teammate Jasper Simmons in practice,

and Jackson struggled playing the first four games wearing a

cast.

”It was more about catching the ball with my fingers and not

letting it hit me in the cast,” Jackson said. ”It got in the way

a few times, but I thought it was going to be tougher than it

was.

”Now I feel like it’s time for me to get back to my old

self.”

Missouri (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) already boasts two receivers who are

in the top 10 nationally in total receptions. Michael Egnew ranks

fifth with 56 catches to go with a 7.9-yard average and three

touchdowns, and T.J. Moe has 53 receptions, an 11.8-yard average

and three touchdowns for eighth-best.

Now there’s another threat, and just in time for Saturday’s game

at No. 14 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1). The winner takes control of the Big

12 North, and Jackson and his teammates will have to make plays

against a Cornhuskers pass defense that ranks third in the

nation.

”When you have guys all across the board that can make plays

it’s really tough on a defense,” Moe said. ”It seems like every

game there is someone new making plays and that’s because we don’t

have any superstars on this team.

”We have a lot of great players who step up and contribute when

it’s their time to shine.”