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Anthony Gatti gives Missouri’s offensive line a boost

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, at 5:50 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, at 8:55 p.m.

Missouri at Vanderbilt

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

TV: KCTV (Ch. 5)

Other story lines

•  HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE? It might be hard to tell Missouri and Vanderbilt fans apart before kickoff. There will be a lot of black and gold in the stands since those are the primary schools for both teams. Still, with the Chiefs also in Nashville this weekend to play the Titans, there are whispers that Vanderbilt Stadium might be overrun by Tigers supporters.

•  TURNOVER STREAK: Missouri owns the longest active streak in the nation with at least one turnover created in 34 consecutive games. Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has thrown five interceptions and shown a propensity for fumbling as well.

•  RUN GAME DOMINANCE: Not only does Missouri lead the SEC in rushing offense, but the rushing defense has been stout as well. The Tigers rank third, allowing only 115.8 yards and three touchdowns on the ground this season. Opponents are averaging 3.7 yards per carry.

— Last season, five of Missouri’s top 10 offensive linemen missed games because of injury during a disappointing 2012 season.

Now, it seems that the Tigers have a surplus along the offensive line.

Junior Anthony Gatti was announced as a co-starter at left guard this week after filling in — and filling in very well — for senior Max Copeland, who sat out at Indiana with a sprained ankle and was limited last week against Arkansas State.

“I’m proud of him, man,” Copeland said. “He’s been playing really well and he’s been playing hard too. That’s the biggest thing. Playing well is one thing; playing hard is another. It’s tough. It’s a tough position to play, but I’m proud of him for stepping up the way he did when we needed him.”

Copeland doesn’t begrudge the “or” that showed up next to his name Monday when Missouri released its weekly depth chart either.

“This is about winning games, dude,” Copeland said. “If we’ve got a guy who can help us, it would be wrong of us to keep that on the shelf. Every guy that can help should get the opportunity to help if they’re at that level, and he’s at that level, so he deserves the opportunity to help us.”

Adding depth in the trenches, especially after last year’s injury-marred Southeastern Conference debut, certainly benefits the Tigers.

“After what happened last year, we want to get those sixth and seventh guys out there rotate them in,” sophomore center Evan Boehm said. “We’ve been able to do that with Anthony, and he’s done a great job whenever we’ve put him out there. That’s exciting to see.”

Copeland said he keeps his advice for Gatti fairly simple, “I just head butt him and tell him to go beat someone’s (butt).”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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