November 2007 blog archives
In his press conference today in San Antonio, Coach Gary Pinkel referred to his Tigers as a “business as usual” team. About an hour later, when they strolled casually into the Alamodome and took a look around, it seemed like it might be true.
This team makes the ubiquitous “one game at a time” cliche come true. In previous years, as Mizzou’s ranking and national stock has risen, play has dwindled.
This year, as each week has brought more attention, more naysayers and more national possibilities, the players have tightened their focus. They hadn’t won at Colorado since 1997. No problem. They hadn’t won at K-State since 1989. Big deal, even with the Kansas showdown looming a week later. They had to win their sixth game straight — against an undefeated Kansas, no less — to get to the Big 12 Championship. Done.
“I think definitely the past seasons have really helped us out a lot,” said Lorenzo Williams earlier this week. “We know what happens if you don’t take it one game at a time, if you get too busy or wrapped up in rankings or wrapped up in what’s coming ahead.”
As soon as each game is over, though, it’s on to the next bit of business. Here’s the scene in the locker room after the Kansas game, as described by Williams: The team has just clinched the Big 12 North title and probably become the No. 1 team in the country, but the players aren’t celebrating as much as you’d expect.
“You could see in guys’ eyes that they weren’t done yet.” Williams said. “They wanted more.”
Injury update: Pinkel also noted today that tight end Chase Coffman is “questionable” for tomorrow because of his ankle injury. Coffman has practiced some this week, but whether or not he plays will be a game-day decision.
Photos by Rob Hill
Lorenzo Williams, Gary Pinkel and Chase Daniel take a walk around the Alamodome.
Mizzou football players were not alone when they boarded their buses this morning and began their trip to San Antonio. Even if only for a few short steps, fans cheered on the No. 1-ranked team in the country as its members exited the athletic complex shortly before noon and prepared to travel to the Big 12 Championship. Expected ups and downs of battle showed in the athletes’ faces. Some wore expressions of joy. Others stoicism.
Several fans held the most recent issues of Sports Illustrated with Chase Daniel’s picture on the cover. Mary Sexton, who took off work today, was one of them. “I just wanted to tell them to take down the Sooners,” Sexton said.
Chris Witthaus, an MU student who held a ‘Go Tigers! Beat OU!’ sign, will be making the trip, too. Immediately after the send-off ended, Witthaus planned to begin the 14-hour roadie with a few friends. “I’m leaving right now,” he said.
To high-pitched cheers and high-raised hands, both buses, stealth in their design, headed out.
Photos by Shane Epping
A fan sends the Tigers on their way from Columbia to San Antonio with a high five.
It’s not just a sports exaggeration; Mizzou truly is No. 1.
At the No. 1-ranked Tigers’ weekly press conference this past Monday, radio commentator John Kadlec was wearing his Mizzou jacket with a makeshift “#1” on the back created with athletic tape. He didn’t have the patience to wait for the official version.
Kadlec — who as a player, coach and commentator has been a part of Mizzou football on and off since 1947 — knows that building a program requires more patience than that. As a big fan of seventh-year Coach Gary Pinkel (pictured), he’s glad the University had patience through losing seasons and negative pressure.
“When he came here, he knew what he wanted to do” Kadlec says of Pinkel. “I tell you what, it’s a real mark of a man to stick to his philosophy and stick to what he believes in, and to eventually have success.”
Pinkel has shown patience, too, and loyalty to his coaches. When people were down on offensive coordinator Dave Christensen after the 2004 season, Pinkel stuck with him. Now Christensen runs the 5th-best team nationally in total offense. Patience pays off.
Pinkel also was shown patience in return by administrators such as Athletics Director Mike Alden and Chancellor Brady Deaton, he says: “I think you have to have a real strong administration to be able to stand up to all those outside pressures and say, ‘This is the guy I believe in.’ ” Patience pays off again; the team has gone from 5-6 in 2004 to 11-1 in 2007.
It also helps that this year’s senior class actually started to grow impatient.
Tight end Martin Rucker sums it up: “Going through those seasons of upsets and highs and lows, I think we just kind of laid the groundwork for this season, and we didn’t want to go back down those roads. We just finally said we’d had enough.”
Photo by Rob Hill
If any sight best represents the surreal beauty of this Tiger football season, it may be Truman the Tiger doing the Heisman pose in front of an endless crowd on the south steps of Jesse Hall.
That’s just what happened at the “spirit rally” tonight, a last big celebration before fans and players head to San Antonio for the Big 12 Championship. The band and cheer squads got the crowd excited, though the crowd didn’t need much prompting. Anne Deaton, wife of the chancellor, danced with the rest of the revelers on the steps. Everyone ignored the cold and guzzled free coffee and hot chocolate.
“It’s never, ever been a better time to be a Tiger than right now,” shouted Gary Link, color commentator for the Tiger Network.
Several players spoke, and their personalities showed in their brief statements. Defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams played to the women in the crowd. Kicker Jeff Wolfert spoke quietly and efficiently. Tight end Martin Rucker (pictured above) said he couldn’t have written the season any better; fans probably agree since he stayed here instead of heading to the NFL. Chase Daniel was supremely understated, saying all the team has to do is win.
Crowd member Nathan Williams of Columbia thinks it’s going to happen. Williams has been going to games for 25 years, some of them as a ticket-taker or usher, and wore a jacket and hat covered with slogan-filled buttons from past games.
“I love ‘em,” Williams said of the Tigers. “I think they’re going to beat Oklahoma this week. I believe they’re up for it this time.”
Photos by Shane Epping
Nathan Williams has buttons from games dating back to 1988 on his jacket and hat.
Coach Gary Pinkel (above) feels the love from the crowd (below).
Break out the red carpet. Mizzou football players and coaches are getting more awards and nominations than a high-minded Hollywood drama. Here’s a list of just a few of the awards or nominations:
- Quarterback Chase Daniel: Heisman contender, Davey O’Brien finalist, Walter Camp finalist, Manning finalist, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team, Academic All-Big 12 (an honor that 14 Tigers earned)
- Tight end Martin Rucker: Mackey Award finalist, All-American First Team, All-Big 12 Second Team
- Receiver Jeremy Maclin: Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team
- Center Adam Spieker: Rimington Award finalist, Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team, Academic All-Big 12
- Defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams: All-Big 12 First Team, Academic All-Big 12
- Coach Gary Pinkel: AP’s Big 12 Coach of the Year (an honor shared with Kansas’ Mark Mangino)
What makes this all the more impressive is that this list is by no means comprehensive.
Columbia’s celebration of Tiger football has been going on unofficially all week in the form of tiger tails hanging from car trunks, people decked out in Mizzou gear and business marquees spelling out pro-Mizzou messages.
Now there will be several official chances for home-front celebration:
Tonight (Thursday), there is a a “spirit rally” at 7 p.m. on the south steps of Jesse Hall. Coach Gary Pinkel will speak, as will Tiger players. The Mizzou Alumni Association will offer free coffee and hot chocolate.
Fans can send the team on its way at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the athletic complex at the corner of Stadium and Providence. Fans should park on the west side of Memorial Stadium and use the bridge to get to the complex.
If you can’t make it to San Antonio but still want to watch the game with a crowd, there’s a giant watch party at Mizzou Arena starting Saturday at 6 p.m. The event is free, and concession stands will be open.
Far, far away from Columbia, a different kind of watch party will take place. Sgt. Derick Moudy of Marceline, Mo., says that he and fellow soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan got to watch the Mizzou-Kansas game and plan to watch the Big 12 Championship, too, as work allows.
“Everybody here is excited about the upcoming games,” Moudy writes, “and the interest the university has in us is generating more excitement. The team store (Tiger Team Store) is sending us some Tiger Football shirts. The guys are pumped about that.”
The Mizzou Tigers are headed to the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. So is Mizzou Wire’s Live Wire Blog.
Our special Big 12 Championship edition will cover the team, the fans, the trip and everything that goes along with this historic game against Oklahoma.
This game will answer many questions:
Will Mizzou win 12 games in a season for the first time ever (they already hit the record 11 mark)?
Can Gary Pinkel lead his confident Tigers past Oklahoma — a team that has won five of six games against Mizzou since the Big 12’s inception in 1998 and holds a 64-23-5 series lead?
Can the team capture Mizzou football’s first Big 12 title ever and first conference title since winning the Big Eight in 1969?
Will Lou Holtz and other sportscasters learn how to say Chase Daniel’s name right? (There’s no ‘s’ at the end, people.)
Follow us to San Antonio as we learn the answers to these questions. My partners in coverage will be Rob Hill, longtime MIZZOU magazine photographer, and Shane Epping, Mizzou Wire photographer.
Check back for more coverage throughout the next few days, or subscribe to the Live Wire Blog feed to keep up.
Photo by Shane Epping
Mizzou beat Kansas in more ways than one last Saturday, but in this case, fans on both sides deserve recognition for being charitable. Tigers and Jayhwawks alike contributed both money and food for a food drive sponsored by each school’s alumni association.
Mizzou fans donated the equivalent of 41,114 meals in food and cash, and Kansas fans donated an additional 19,829 meals’ worth, according to the Mizzou Alumni Association. Friendly competition in this case will help feed hungry people.
Many of us will spend Thanksgiving feasting, dozing, seeing relatives we haven’t seen in a while and so on. Not so for the Culinary Scholars. Mizzou Wire has a story about these students/chefs in training, who are giving up a week to serve 3,200 sailors aboard the gigantic USS Ronald Reagan.
Photographer and reporter Shane Epping checked out the group’s dry run buffet at Eckles Hall last week. He got this hard-hitting quote from a source regarding the quality of the meal: “It was very good.” We trust the sailors will agree.
There’s a lot happening for Tiger teams and fans over the next few days, so forgive me if this blog seems like a sports page right now.
First, as we cover in Mizzou Wire, the soccer team hosts the NCAA tournament at Walton Stadium in Columbia Nov. 16 and 18. It’s the third trip to the NCAAs for the No. 23 team and Big 12 Coach of the Year Bryan Blitz since he joined the program.
Other Mizzou teams are heading west. Coach Gary Pinkel leads his football team in its last “away” game Nov. 17 at Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. With BCS No. 2 Oregon losing last night, this game — and all that follow — takes on even more significance for the BCS No. 5 Tigers and other top Big 12 teams. (On a side note, there’s a Chase Daniel for Heisman campaign underway, and fans can add their vote.)
While the football team’s season is heading toward a climax, Mizzou basketball is just getting started. Mike Anderson’s squad takes on Southern Nov. 16 at home in Mizzou Arena, then goes to Kansas City for the last rounds of the CBE classic Nov. 19 and 20.
Speaking of Kansas City, that’s where coaching legend Norm Stewart will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Nov. 18.
Like I said, there’s a lot happening.
After a 40-26 win over Texas A&M in Columbia, Mizzou football fans are letting themselves think big. The Big 12 North divisional title seems well within reach. So does the Big 12 championship — and Mizzou is now a top-5 BCS team.
Among all the big hopes, here’s a big fact: The Tigers have won nine times this season, something the team hasn’t done since 1969 and something the team has done only four times in school history.
The win column isn’t the only way nine was the magic number this week. No. 9 Jeremy Maclin caught two touchdown passes, including one for 82 yards — the longest Mizzou reception in 31 years.
This team already has made history, and it can make more over the next few weeks.
The University has a new mass notification system for use in campus emergencies, be they natural or man-made. If there is an emergency, the University will call a student, faculty or staff member’s cell phone and leave a voice message, send a text message, and send an e-mail.
People need to update their contact information to receive this notification. MU Alert has details about updating your info and how the service works.
Mizzou football is on the road this week, but faithful Tiger fans can still gather in Columbia to watch the game with the roaring masses — right after taking in some Mizzou basketball.
Coach Mike Anderson leads his squad in the exhibition opener against the University of Missouri-St. Louis at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Mizzou Arena. Then fans can stick around to watch on the arena’s video screens as Coach Gary Pinkel and the football team take on Colorado at 5:30.
The Mizzou athletics site has details.