University of Missouri

Bud Sasser helps reignite Missouri’s passing game

Missouri Tigers wide receiver Bud Sasser has emerged as the team’s top threat in the passing game this year.
Missouri Tigers wide receiver Bud Sasser has emerged as the team’s top threat in the passing game this year. The Kansas City Star

Missouri senior wide receiver Bud Sasser was supposed to be a girl.

His mother, Jackie Cox-Spence, expected a girl and planned to name her Champagne.

It would have fit perfectly with Brandy and Tequila, the names of Sasser’s sisters.

Instead, Sasser — as you might have surmised by now — is a boy, so Champagne no longer felt appropriate.

He was given the name Larry Jr. after his father, but the family tradition had to continue in some fashion.

Thus, Larry Jr. was dubbed Bud, short for Budweiser, a name that stuck in his early days in Denton, Texas, and as he blossomed into a star wide receiver at Ryan High School.

“They wanted it to stay in the whole drink thing, the whole alcoholic beverage deal,” Sasser said with a laugh, explaining the story during Monday’s media day.

Now a senior with the Tigers, who host Kentucky for a 3 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Sasser is now called a star as well.

He has emerged as the go-to playmaker in the passing game for Missouri.

Sasser put together a fine season in 2013, finishing with 26 catches for 361 yards with a touchdown. He had at least one catch in 12 of the Tigers’ 14 games during a magical 12-2 season that culminated with an SEC Championship Game appearance and Cotton Bowl victory.

Of course, Missouri was loaded at receiver last season, with L’Damian Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas leading the charge.

Sasser has flourished as the Tigers’ top option since that trio moved on and leads Missouri with 40 catches for 551 yards — double the team’s next-best pass catcher in both categories. His six touchdowns also lead Missouri.

“Obviously, he’s kind of been our big-play guy,” Tigers offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “He’s kind of been our go-to guy. He runs great routes. He’s very sure-handed. I know he had a drop Saturday, but he’s not had a lot of those this year.”

Several times this season, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has joked that he told Sasser, “We should have thrown you the ball more last year,” and his 6-foot-2, 220-pound receiver smiled and told him he agreed.

“He just happened to be in here at a time when we had a cluster of real high-level receivers,” Pinkel said. “The great thing about it, he maintained a great attitude. He caught a bunch of balls last year, but he’s playing at a very high level — as good as anybody we had last year.”

Sasser isn’t satisfied, though.

“It’s somewhere towards my expectations, but I just set the bar high and really try to reach for my goals as I go throughout the year and reach for the team goals as we go throughout the year,” Sasser said.

Quarterback Maty Mauk and the Missouri passing game’s struggles in recent weeks are well-documented, including gaining only 20 yards passing at Florida.

It was Sasser who ended a 235-minute, 53-second drought between touchdown receptions against Vanderbilt last week, scoring on a 13-yard catch-and-run late in the third quarter.

Sasser then hauled in a 25-yard rainbow in the fourth quarter, dotting the back of the end zone with his left foot for the back-breaking touchdown in a 24-14 victory.

The hope is that Sasser’s play helps reignite a dormant passing game during Missouri’s stretch run in November.

“Bud made a tremendous play and came down with it, and that’s what we need to see,” Mauk said. “We need to see that spark in us again, and it’s starting to come back.”

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

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