Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Per tradition, Evan Boehm will take a rock from Memorial Stadium after his final home game Saturday against Tennessee.
He will also take a Missouri record with him.
Boehm is set to start his school-record 51st consecutive game Saturday on Senior Night, passing the mark shared by center Adam Spieker (2004-07), tight end Martin Rucker (‘04-07) and cornerback Carl Gettis (‘07-10).
“It’s going to be awesome,” Boehm said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, but at the same time I can’t really focus on that. I’ve got to focus on this really good Tennessee defense, and this defensive line, and this Tennessee team.
“It’s going to be exciting, and maybe after the game I can kind of sit back and imagine it and picture it and smile about it, but right now I’ve got to keep my focus on this team and keep my focus on going out there and playing football.”
That said, don’t get the idea Boehm is unaware of the record.
“I’ve definitely heard Evan talk about it a couple times,” said freshman quarterback Drew Lock, a fellow native of Lee’s Summit. “He might’ve been bragging to me a little bit, knowing that I probably can’t get that done, but that’ll be cool for him. I’m excited for him. It’ll be even better that it’s on Senior Night.”
Linebacker Michael Scherer is one of just six active players from Missouri’s 2012 recruiting class, of which Boehm is a part.
“I mean, when you take a step back and look at it, who doesn’t want to have their name in the record book?” he said. “Who doesn’t want to be the best at something, have the most of something? I hope I can someday be on one of the top tackle lists. Everybody wants something. You’ve got to have something to hang your hat on.”
Boehm started all 12 games at left guard his true freshman year, filling in on an offensive line that struggled with injuries all season.
Head coach Gary Pinkel said Boehm was tricky to coach at first, because he was used to getting by with his size in high school. But while it took a bit for his technique to develop, the leadership skills of Boehm — the son of a Lee’s Summit West coach Royce Boehm — were never in question.
“When those guys walk in here, when their dads are coaches, they’ve lived in the (football) world,” Pinkel said. “So they come in here, and — not that they think they’re coaches, but they’ve lived in the environment their whole life. So those guys, they know about football, they know about leadership.”
Since his freshman season, Boehm has started every game at center.
“We’re in a position that isn’t always the most durable,” left tackle Connor McGovern said. “And so that’s huge for any offensive lineman, especially him, to have that record.”
Perhaps the biggest threat to Boehm’s streak came on his first drive of the season when he suffered a right ankle sprain. Boehm watched the end of the season opener in street clothes, and he was listed as questionable the next week.
“A lot of guys would’ve said, ‘Heck, my foot’s bothering me, my ankle, what have you, I’m not going to do this. I’m going to take a couple games off,’” head coach Gary Pinkel said. “And he just wanted to battle through it.”
Though not at 100 percent, Boehm didn’t miss a start.
“You talk about a guy really this year that fought through a pretty serious high ankle sprain to continue to play and perform — not as well as he can when he’s healthy — but perform at a pretty high level for us to still get in there and function and have a shot as an offense to win,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “So, it speaks to his toughness.”
Missouri’s eighth game of the season, a loss at Vanderbilt, put Boehm past offensive line coach A.J. Ricker’s mark of 47 straight games started at Missouri.
“We were on the plane ride back, and he was sitting in front of me, and I was like, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know that I just passed your record today, but I don’t want you to be upset,’” Boehm said. “No, he gave me a big high-five, gave me a big hug after the plane ride and said congratulations.”
Ricker received criticism this season when the Tigers’ senior-laden line struggled early. Boehm, one of the first 19 players in the country to accept an invitation Tuesday to the Senior Bowl, had the second-year coach’s back.
“I know a lot of people are saying some stuff about him right now, but those people don’t know half the things that go on in this building, half the things that go on on that field,” Boehm said. “He’s a great football coach and a great person and a great family member.”
Boehm said his injury might have been “dragging him down” early on, which could have hurt the line’s play overall.
“The offensive line had maybe a couple games here and there that we didn’t play up to potential, but I think overall we played pretty well this year,” he said. “Yeah, we can get better and we can keep on improving and there’s two more games for us to keep on improving and getting better on. It’s dwindling down, and you have to take every moment in and take it in with open eyes and open arms and just embrace what’s going on right now.”
Boehm isn’t the only senior Tiger in pursuit of a program record as the season winds down. Andrew Baggett has 352 points in his four years as a Missouri kicker, 10 away from the school’s scoring record of 362 held by Jeff Wolfert.
Baggett has made 15-of-19 field-goal attempts this year — good for a career-best 78.9 percentage — and all 15 of his extra-point attempts. The Tigers have two regular-season games to play and potentially a bowl game. Baggett is averaging 7.5 points per game this season, more than a point worse than last season, in large part because of Missouri’s offensive struggles.
Senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers is on pace to surpass Travis McDonald’s school record of 164 tackles — if the Tigers reach a bowl game. Brothers currently leads the nation with 128 tackles, and would finish with more than 166 if he kept that pace through three games.
Note: Defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. will not play Saturday after being injured in the first quarter of Missouri’s game against BYU. Pinkel said Beckner had a “strained knee” and would be undergoing an MRI on Monday night. Beckner has 27 tackles this in his true freshman season, including three sacks and eight tackle for loss. Beckner was a blue-chip recruit out of East St. Louis High School in Illinois. “He had a great year,” Pinkel said. “Show me a better defensive tackle in the country as a freshman.”