The Missouri Tigers opened the 85th season of play at Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening against McNeese State, a team from the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision. It was a gorgeous, cloudless Missouri September evening as the Tigers rolled to a 50-6 win.
Yes, only the last 15 years have regularly included night games (the first night game was in 1992 with portable lights; permanent lights were installed before the 1996 season), but the game under the lights felt like the right way to kick off another season at the natural bowl that is Memorial Stadium. (The playing surface is named Faurot Field, often used to refer to the entire facility.)
Under the lights and twilight, everything seems more intense, more colorful, faster.
Adding to that speed was Henry Josey, Mizzou’s freshman running back. Josey was a wonderful surprise, running for 112 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries. Josey was the first Mizzou freshman to run for 100 yards in a game since Corby Jones in 1995.
The problem was the Tigers were playing McNeese State, so we can’t get too carried away over the results. It was certainly encouraging to see Josey run all over and the defense look suffocating and receiver T.J. Moe rack up catches, but Missouri was largely overwhelming McNeese State with its athleticism.
The teams aren’t on the same level, given that Missouri, as a Football Bowl Subdivision team, is allowed to give nearly three times as many full scholarships as FCS schools. However, a stunning five FBS teams have lost to FCS schools in the season’s first two weeks, so credit Missouri for taking care of business in such convincing fashion.
I know playing FCS schools is part of college football, but the purpose of the nonconference schedule should be to get the team ready for conference play, and I’m not sure that this game with McNeese State did anything to help with that.
To be fair, Missouri no doubt scheduled its series with Illinois thinking the Illini would provide a season-opening test, but they have done nothing of the sort, save the wild 2007 game.
This Saturday, in another 6 p.m. home game (available on pay-per-view), Missouri will get more of a challenge when they face San Diego State, a middle-tier team in the very respectable Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs went 4-8 last year, but generated some preseason buzz as a team on the rise. They also likely have the most talented receiving corps in the MWC.
History is on Missouri’s side, as the Tigers have won 19 straight regular-season nonconference games. The last loss was to New Mexico, another MWC team, in my first home game as an MU student. The Aztecs have lost 15 straight road games to BCS conference schools, with the last win coming against another Big 12 school, Kansas.
Mizzou is again a strong favorite, but this should be a reasonable test for the Tigers.