Game update #4
Before we all get vicious, a few disclaimers on behalf of the Tigers.
We look terrible, true, but keep in mind we are playing what many think is the best team in the country. We are nowhere near their level of program, and it's being illustrated here.
Chase Daniel fumbled, but any time you get helmet to the hands, there will be a fumble, regardless of the carrier. His interception looked bad, but watch the replay and you'll see the defensive back jump the route. It was more a great defensive play than a mistake on Daniel's part.
That being said, this is for a BCS game. A win here and you get national spotlight and a huge opportunity for your program.
Once again, and I'll finally admit it, Missouri failed to rise to the occasion. In two years, this team has played big in one big game and that was KU last year. Other than that, we don't show up to the important ones.
No one expected Missouri to win, or even threaten. But not this. This is an embarrassment. Worse, it's on ABC. This means that while we get hammered all over the field, Brent and Kirk get to laugh and verbally massage every player on the OU roster.
On the plus side, when games get this out of hand, second stringers come in and we get to see Mizzou score a little ... I hope. With defense like this though, I can't see that happening.
As my media relations friend said, "I would kill you to have coverage like this." And he means that.
The biggest loss of the night has to go to Arrowhead Stadium and the Big 12 for their food selection, however. At Faurot Field, the box has chicken, pasta, potatoes -- the works. Here, in the biggest game of the season for the conference, the best they can muster up is chips and grapes. Sigh.
Worst call of the night has to go to the writer next to me working for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that ranked the top three as follows: "Oklahoma #1, Texas #2, Florida #3, and I feel bad leaving Texas Tech out." Well, there are a few problems I foresee with that.
Best call of the night goes to the PA announcer for the box who said "pass complete to Frank Broyles for the touchdown."
I'm a little surprised that he's capable of catching a TD pass in a college game at his age, but against this defense, almost anyone could. Runner-up goes to Musberger.
While he and Herbstreit have loved every moment of this game, turning ABC into a mouthpiece for how awesome Bradford is, going into the fourth, they said, "Musberger: That'll bring the quarter to an end. Oklahoma indicating that the fourth quarter is theirs. Along with the first ... second ... and third."
Biggest win of the night goes to me. After arriving at kickoff, I find there is no seat for me. Television is first-come-first-served on the stools.
Since I have a laptop, that is not going to be too good. I spied an open seat at the tables and swooped in.
The Big 12 Conference welcomes the Lawrence Journal-World. Not anymore. I removed the placard and made it my home.
Looks like Missouri beat Kansas after all.
Game update #3
First mistake, and it's a lethal one. Daniel on what looked like a designed run, surrenders the ball after a cracking blow from a helmet to his hands. The defense needs a pick or a fumble or this one is over quick...
No such luck. Missouri trails 24-7. This one could be ugly.
The Missouri offense needs to get out of hand in a hurry if they're going to make up this kind of ground. If this game isn't within ten by halftime, the Tigers won't last.
During the commercial break, they ran the footage of the players of the year in the Big 12.
It was an Oklahoma highlight reel -- just a friendly reminder from the Big 12 the kind of odds stacked against us.
Oklahoma's defensive line is just too much for the Tigers as they're forced to punt yet again. Does anyone have an answer? Does this need to be made into "The Jeremy Maclin Show" for us to win? Lord give me an answer.
In the meantime, it seems like the refs are getting their money's worth out of the flags tonight. Taunting, reviews, illegal formations, even when there isn't a penalty, we get to see the yellow flag fly.
Another drive. This is getting ludicrous. The Sooner offense cannot fail. With five minutes to go in the half, it looks like they just do whatever they want until third down. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't.
Success is unimportant, however, because on third, Bradford will undoubtedly find Juaquin Iglesias over the middle, and they'll get to play around some more.
Missouri forced a fourth-and-5, but no worries Sooner fans, he found Johnson for a first down.
For all the University of Texas fans out there, I'm sorry, but Oklahoma looks like they should have passed you in the standings.
After dropping over 60 points on both ranked opponents they've faced on their way to Kansas City, they look well on their way to doing it again.
Game update #2
A brief note: contrary to popular belief, tonight's game is NOT two-hand touch. Missouri is just playing like it is.
DeMarco Murray is injured, but that doesn't stop Chris Brown from effectively shredding our defense for a TD
First bit of luck tonight: the Sooner Schooner breaks down on the Missouri 20. I view this as an omen for things to come. The resulting Missouri drive will tell me whether or not I'm foolish to be so superstitious.
Tommy Saunders runs big for a save on third-and-8, and Tiger trickery was rewarded with a pass interference.
After a one-yard run, Missouri finds itself at third-and-9, and moving to the second quarter.
Interesting fact: time of possession for both teams is equal -- 7:30.
Following the break, Daniel finds Saunders for a first down over the middle (he's making my pre-game call look better and better). The press box is buzzing the prospect of a Missouri answer and this being at least a contest.
After averaging 3 yards per play for a grand total of 49 in the first quarter, the dormant Mizzou offense is not exactly lighting up the scoreboard.
Check that, Jeremy Maclin is in the building. After a reception over the middle, J-Mac outran the secondary for a TD.
Saunders got caught taunting, which I think is a good thing. OU seems to be shoving, mocking and fighting on every play, something that could easily intimidate the undersized Tigers.
It's good to see a little swagger from the black and gold.
Defense, you're up.
Game update #1
Following what was a high-arching, majestic miss from Jeff Wolfert, the Tigers find themselves still down three.
The defense is, I can't believe I'm saying this, effectively pressuring Bradford, and seems to be -- gasp -- adjusting to the Sooner scheme.
Oklahoma's penchant for getting into physical disputes is paying dividends early for the Tigers, as an unsportsmanlike conduct put OU deep in their own territory for a short punt.
Arriving at the stadium moments before game time offered a whole new perspective on a contest of this magnitude.
An abandoned parking lot stained with beer and charcoal awaited me as I made my way from the other ZIP code in which I parked.
Parking attendants and security moved like specters between the cars, coughing and uttering profanities as they went about their assignments.
Ahead of me, Arrowhead beamed light into the sky like a beckoning oasis.
The roar of thousands of fans rose from within, made it seem as though I were approaching the Roman Coliseum rather than a football stadium. No trash talking outside, no cheering. Everyone was already inside and waiting.
The only thing offered in the way of support was a text message I received from a friend in the Army: "good luck tonight buddy."
As the Sooners moved from their ten yard line to ours in seemingly seconds, then marched into the end zone to make it 10-0, it looks as though we'll need a whole lot of luck to keep this within reach.
Guess I spoke to soon about the defense.
Oklahoma-Missouri a schematic nightmare
Statistically, there is no chance. The best shot the Tigers have at a win over Oklahoma is if their bus got a flat tire on the way to the game.
I can tell you that didn't happen, so the game must at least be played.
The Sooners bring a stronger, faster and bigger team to the field. Even with their injury-plagued linebacking core, they have more than enough firepower. With English out at defensive end and Austin Box being the most recent injury at LB, second stringers are in and the defense is seemingly weakened.
But keep in mind these are Oklahoma's backups. These guys are 6 feet 3 inches or 6 feet 4 inches tall, 230 pounds and probably good enough to start on nine of the Big 12 teams.
J.R. Bryant put in time against Texas Tech and looked like he's ready to start, and Mike Balogun didn't miss a beat against Oklahoma State. They may not even factor in as it is.
Against the Texas Tech University spread, the Sooners ran a nickel defense, which means three safeties and the linebackers aren't as critical. Expect them to do the same thing against the Tigers.
On offense, they're a nightmare. Heisman front-runner (which seems to be a title reserved for whoever Brent and Kirk are idolizing in a given week) Sam Bradford captains an offense the puts up over 40 points like the U.S. Postal Service -- rain, snow or shine.
You know the names already, so let's save some time and say there's plenty of NFL to go around on that side of the ball. Scheming against them would be a challenge for any coaching staff, especially one that had trouble solving the mystery of Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier.
So how can the Tigers win this game? I offer up some advice.
On offense, we cannot depend on the deep ball. Too many sideline deep routes were being run against Kansas, resulting in tips and picks. We have to do what we do best: short plays that move the ball and allow our athletes turn short gains into big runs.
The Missouri spread offense is one of the quickest, devastating and most vicious entities in college football when it's being run correctly. A return to form is paramount to success. Speaking of, Chase Daniel will need to exorcise some demons tonight.
In what could very well be his last game on a stage like this, he needs to find that bravado, that cool, calculating leader inside him again. He'll need everything -- arm, feet, head, and heart -- for 60 straight minutes.
Tommy Saunders needs to be a rock. When we need a big possession play, he has to be a sure thing. Alexander and Ray can make some big plays, but Saunders needs to be automatic.
Mr. Coffman? It's show time. We have the best TE in college football. Let's see if they can stop him.
Washington MUST carry the ball 25 times or more. He is too good to waste, and Missouri needs to control the ball for more than 3 minutes a drive. Using him will expose the linebackers without exposing Jeremy Maclin, and keep the defense off the field to rest.
While they're on the field, we need a return to last year. Bend don't break, and get that big play. That's how we got it done last season, and if there's any chance to do it again, Willy Mo needs to play to his capacity.
Weatherspoon will be there making tackles, but Moore needs to exert his will. Get to the quarterback, make Sam Bradford feel that hand injury.
After a stop for a field goal, the Missouri offense marched the field and looks poised to answer.
Like something from a movie
It seems strange to think that is was only 14 weeks ago that I sat in the press box against SEMO and mulled over all the possible endings this season could yield.
With endless possibilities in front of them, the Tigers stormed into the arena for the home opener and administered a thorough drubbing in front of a sell out crowd.
Over the course of the season, whispers of a national title grew to discussions, which in turn grew into war cries. These were hushed after Oklahoma State and silenced after Texas.
The following weeks Mizzou supporters seemed to be fans without a purpose. We cheered, we hoped, we prayed, but to what end?
The national title was gone, and the Big 12 North was a foregone conclusion. Then the Tigers stumbled again, dropping a heartbreaker to KU in Kansas City.
So 12 games later, here we stand.
We return Arrowhead a week after our third loss to face our white whale. A loss to Oklahoma would be the third in two seasons, acting as a final punctuation mark on Bob Stoops' dominance over Gary Pinkel, and the claims that Missouri -- while entertaining and extremely talented -- is not ready for big time football.
The Sooners are simply better in every aspect of the game, and everyone knows it. Their quarterback -- the new anointed deity of college sports -- seems like a superhero. Their running backs and receivers are NFL-bound, and their defense is strong, big and terrifyingly fast. Missouri, once expected to contend with teams of this caliber, has been written off for this game.
Chase Daniel, formerly in the running for best quarterback in the NCAA, is all but forgotten. Abandoned by pundits and scouts, forgotten by his fans and facing a mountain of doubt, he walks into the toughest test of his career.
Can he find in himself the great leader that vaulted him into national spotlight?
Can he put to rest the questions surrounding his ability?
Or will he lie down and accept this end?
No matter what happens, this game will define Missouri football for a long time to come.
Even with a disappointing season, even with a loss to a 6-5 KU team, how did they respond? After all the comebacks, blowouts and national attention, what was their answer when the big moment came?
It will take the perfect game. No turnovers, no mistakes, no room for error. Both sides of the ball must operate flawlessly. Every slip will be exposed, and each one could be fatal.
So the question is: Can Missouri make a miracle happen? Like in every sports movie, the underdog is beaten, battered, and on their last breath. They're overmatched and the cries of support are drowned out by the overwhelming roar of those looking for a massacre.
Their leader has fallen from grace, their stars are in doubt, and their legacy is on the line. But thousands of people have come to watch them fight. Standing in the cold, in the wind, they raise their voice one more time for the Tigers.
So stand tall, Missouri, and leave no doubt when you're done that you did everything you possibly could to win. If there's any magic left, we just may see a Hollywood ending.
Note: J.J. Bailey is a journalism student at the University of Missouri at Columbia.