Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tigers break down in last trip to Lincoln

From the beginning, when the public address announcer boomed, “Husker fans, this is gameday, and there is NO PLACE like NEBRASKA!” during the pregame ceremony, this was an ambush. Before the 309th straight sellout at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, the Huskers shattered illusions about Missouri being a national title contender.

The start of the game was surreal. Three and out by Missouri. A 66-yard touchdown run by Roy Helu Jr. on Nebraska’s first play. Three and out by Missouri. Nebraska field goal. Four plays and another punt by Mizzou. A 40-yard touchdown pass for Nebraska. Another Missouri punt. Helu with a 73-yard touchdown run. 24-0 Nebraska after 12 minutes. “Is this even real?” my friend Brent yelled.

The game was over at 24-0. The Huskers simply avoided risks and held on for the 31-17 win. With Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez out in the second half, backup Zac Lee threw all of three passes that half, completing one. Helu buried Missouri with a school-record 307 rushing yards.

Missouri was cripplingly one-dimensional. The Tigers ran 76 offensive plays. Gabbert threw 42 passes, 24 of which were incomplete. Six of the other plays were sacks. For a rough estimate, say half of Gabbert’s 16 non-sack rushes were designed runs and the other half were scrambles. (Missouri running backs combined for 12 rushing attempts.) That works out to 56 of 76 plays being called passes, about a 74-26 pass-run breakdown. So much for balance.

With Nebraska knowing passes were coming, the strong Husker secondary smothered the Tiger receivers, leaving Gabbert to dance around, running from both the real and perceived pressure that Nebraska generated with usually only three or four pass rushers.

And, in the most hostile environment he’s ever played in, facing relentless pressure and tight coverage, Gabbert freaked out. He took plenty of hits, but he also rolled out of decent pockets, away from phantom pressure. Missouri burned all its second-half timeouts in about nine minutes, and then Gabbert frantically signaled for a timeout he didn’t have in a goaline situation.

Why Missouri didn’t try running is a mystery. Maybe they thought they couldn’t. Maybe it was because they fell behind 24-0 so quickly. But I think if that’s the case, then you can say the coaches panicked a bit. After Nebraska went up 24-0, Missouri still had nine drives during the rest of the game. There were nearly 48 minutes of game time left at that point. The next three drives after this point featured one run by a running back.

However, Missouri (7-1, 3-1 in Big 12) still has plenty to play for. They are tied with Nebraska for first in the North, even though the Huskers now own the head-to-head tiebreaker. But if Nebraska (No. 7 BCS, No. 9 AP) loses one of its last four games, Missouri (No. 12 BCS, No. 14 AP) could win out and represent the North in the Big 12 title game. Also, an 11-win season and BCS bowl berth are possible.

Next Mizzou plays at Texas Tech (7 p.m. on ABC). Tech is struggling some under new coach Tommy Tuberville (4-4, 2-4 in Big 12), but they have skilled offensive players in Taylor Potts, Baron Batch and Detron Lewis. Mizzou will need a more balanced effort to get back on track in Lubbock.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tigers smash through Sooner roadblock

Missouri fans will likely remember Saturday, Oct. 23 for a long, long time. From the early morning, when ESPN’s College Gameday show broadcasted from the picturesque and passionate Francis Quad on campus, to the electric 36-27 win over BCS No. 1 Oklahoma that night before a national audience on ABC, this was a day, the day, for the Tigers.

A sellout crowd of 71,004 packed Memorial Stadium beneath the bright lights. The game began with a thunderbolt, an 86-yard kick return for a touchdown by Gahn McGaffie that set the tone.

Twice Missouri clawed for touchdown leads, twice Oklahoma tied it. Missouri benefited from two first-half Sooner turnovers inside the Tigers’ 20-yard line.

After Oklahoma grabbed a 21-20 lead late in the third quarter, Missouri fans could’ve been thinking, here we go again. The Tigers had lost seven straight to the Sooners and 19 of the last 20. But this Tiger team just kept playing, roaring with the crowd to a 36-21 lead and holding on for the epic win as thousands of jubilant Tiger fans stormed the field and carried the goalposts off to Harpo’s in downtown Columbia.

It was very possibly the biggest home win in Missouri football history, on Homecoming, over the No. 1 team, finally taking down the mighty Sooners who had so often in recent years stood in the way of the Tigers’ aspirations of rising as a program. It’s in the running for biggest Missouri win ever, though for now I’ll still give the nod to the 2007 “Armageddon at Arrowhead” win over Kansas.

Now Missouri has smashed through the familiar Sooner roadblock, and Tiger fans are dreaming like it’s 2007, that wild, beautiful year that saw Mizzou come within a win of playing for a national championship and finish No. 4 overall. It was a wacky year that saw the No. 1- and 2-ranked teams lose a combined 11 times. Three weekends that year No. 1 and 2 both lost.

Missouri’s win on Saturday was the third straight week a No. 1-ranked team lost, all in road games at that week’s College Gameday site. (To be fair, Oregon was No. 1 in the AP and Coaches’ polls last week. Oklahoma was No. 1 in the BCS, a combination of polls that determines who plays in the national championship game.)

Missouri is No. 6 in this week’s BCS rankings and the only undefeated team left in the Big 12. On Saturday they play at Nebraska (2:30 p.m. on ABC) in a game that will likely decide the Big 12 North Division winner. The Huskers (No. 14 BCS, 6-1 overall, 2-1 Big 12) are a formidable challenge.

Nebraska has lofty hopes for its final season in the Big 12. After a 5-0 start, the Huskers were dealt a bitter 20-13 loss to Texas in a game they desperately (perhaps too desperately) wanted to win. They recovered to beat a strong, previously undefeated Oklahoma State team on the road, 51-41. It was bizarre seeing Nebraska's stout defense give up 41, and equally bizarre to see the Huskers roll up 51 after looking so inept against Texas, when they couldn't get out of their own way or haul in passes when they were wide open. Freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez has been a sensational surprise for the Big Red, the Texas disappointment (not nearly a strong enough word for Husker fans) notwithstanding. Keeping him bottled up will be key if Missouri is to pull the upset. (The Tigers opened as seven-point underdogs.)

The stakes keep getting higher each week. A win would virtually seal up the North and put Missouri in position to remain in the national title picture to the end. It's also Missouri's last ever trip to Nebraska's storied "Sea of Red" as the Huskers are moving to the Big Ten next year. It should be a thrilling showdown between two fine teams with plenty on the line and, hopefully, another day for Tiger fans to remember in what is becoming a special season.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mizzou barrels into Sooner showdown

Last Saturday, Missouri (6-0, 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play) traveled to Texas A&M and turned in one of the finest all-around performances of the 10-year tenure of coach Gary Pinkel. The Tigers rolled up over 400 yards of offense, kept Texas A&M out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter (helped by three sacks from the ferocious Brad Madison), and rolled to a 30-9 win.

The win propels Missouri (No. 16 in Coaches’ Poll, No. 18 in AP, No. 11 in BCS standings) into a big-time Homecoming showdown with Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0 in Big 12) at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Columbia (televised on ABC). Oklahoma (No. 3 in Coaches’ and AP) is No. 1 in the BCS standings, which determine who plays in the National Championship Game.

So this game will impact both the national and Big 12 title races. ESPN’s College Gameday show will be broadcasting from Columbia. The eyes of the nation will be on this game.

And, perhaps even more, Missouri has a chance to take down the mighty Oklahoma Sooners at their peak. Under Pinkel, Missouri has not defeated Oklahoma or Texas, who have combined to win eight of the last 10 Big 12 titles. Mizzou finished 12-2 and No. 4 in the nation in 2007, but both losses were to the Sooners. This would be a breakthrough win.

12th-year coach Bob Stoops has rolled up a 123-29 record, an 80-17 mark against Big 12 competition, and six conference titles in the last 10 years, plus a national title in 2000. The sign in the Oklahoma locker room reads, “No excuses, win the Big 12.”

With that record of success, it’s perhaps not surprising that Pinkel and Mizzou have played Elmer Fudd to Stoops’ and Oklahoma’s Bugs Bunny: always chasing, never catching. Mizzou has lost 19 of 20 to Oklahoma, and Pinkel is 0-6 vs. Stoops.

Fortunately, if my childhood memory serves me, Fudd did defeat Bugs once, in the “What’s Opera, Doc?” episode. It’s a parody of an opera, and, as Richard Wagner’s classic “The Valkyrie” plays in the background, Fudd calls on typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, smog (bizarrely) and lightning, which strikes down Bugs. (Cartoons were different then; but don’t worry, Bugs breaks character and lifts his head at the end, saying, “Well, what did you expect in an opera? A happy ending?”). It’s a classic, ranked as the No. 1 cartoon of all time by a fairly authoritative 1994 book on cartoons.

And if Fudd can defeat his longtime nemesis, then the Tigers can defeat the Sooners. Tiger fans and players have skyrocketing confidence. The Missouri crowd will be roaring for their Tigers. Mizzou has a strong defense, which is critical for beating the big boys.

This Missouri team doesn't have any great, great players, but it has several good ones, Pinkel says. It's a fun team to root for. It's a team on the brink of something big. This could be an epic win. Time to get excited.

* * *

And now, for those of you who enjoy ancient cartoons, here is the aforementioned clip of Bugs and Fudd. The action starts about the 0:47 mark, when Bugs' fairly obvious disguise falls off.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tigers enter defining four-game stretch

The Missouri Tigers’ 26-0 win over Colorado last Saturday to open conference play was at times not a thing of beauty, but Missouri thoroughly outplayed the Buffaloes to earn the big win.

The defense was especially impressive. The Tigers (5-0, 1-0 in Big 12 play) came up with stop after stop when Colorado got into Missouri territory, handing Colorado another shutout to go with Missouri’s 58-0 demolition of the Buffaloes in Columbia in 2008.

The defense has impressed so far this year. Last year, Missouri intercepted eight passes all season. This year, Missouri has already picked off nine passes.

It’s an encouraging sign as Missouri begins a crucial four-game stretch that will largely define the season. Starting Saturday, Missouri plays at Texas A&M, home vs. Oklahoma, at Nebraska and at Texas Tech. It’s a strong test: three road games, two games against top-six teams, a variety of offensive styles.

Winning one is a must, winning two is an ambitious goal, and winning three means this will be a transcendent season. It won’t be easy. Missouri is 1-7 in its last eight games against Big 12 south teams. Missouri hasn’t started conference play at 2-0 since 2006 and hasn’t started conference play at 3-0 since 1998.

But it’s fine to be optimistic. This is an undefeated, ranked (No. 19 Coaches, No. 21 AP) Missouri team. Let’s take a look at these four upcoming tests.

At Texas A&M, Oct. 16 (11 a.m. on Fox Sports Net): Missouri was 6-0 in 2006 and lost a tough 25-19 game in College Station. The “Home of the 12th Man,” Kyle Field, can be a daunting place to play, although the Aggies haven’t defended it well lately, going 9-11 in Big 12 home games since 2005. Texas A&M is 3-2 with both losses to top-20 teams away from home. Missouri opened as a slight underdog, but this is nearly a toss-up game.

Home vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 23: This game could be to get Missouri to 3-0 in Big 12 play, which last happened in 1998, also the last year Mizzou beat Oklahoma. Missouri has lost 20 of 21 to the mighty Sooners, despite being ranked coming into the last five meetings. Beating the No. 6 Sooners will be a tall order, but this is Missouri’s Homecoming, and this is college football.

At Nebraska, Oct. 30: Likely the North Division Championship. Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, the Sea of Red, is another rugged environment. The No. 4 Huskers have an ongoing streak of 307 straight sellouts and the kind of lockdown defense that makes crowds get loud. I think Missouri can win in Lincoln, but Missouri will probably need to have an edge in turnovers.

At Texas Tech, Nov. 6: Tech is still a mystery, but they appear to still be able to score plenty, hanging 45 points on Baylor last Saturday. Still, this is likely the easiest of these four games (Mizzou may even be favored in this one). Hopefully Missouri will have energy left for this one after the heavyweight bouts with Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Old Man and the Sea (of Red).

Some thoughts and perspective on Thursday's delightful Nebraska-Kansas State college football matchup (6:30 on ESPN).

In one corner on Thursday night, you have the Big Red. For pride (okay, maybe a bit of arrogance), sportsmanship and fan support, they may have no equal. No other program can touch the 307 straight sellouts Nebraska boasts, despite the state's relatively tiny population. It is one of the nation's most storied programs, by cold numbers the best since 1970, with five national titles, three Heismans and 25 more wins than any other program during that time. They are one of the giants of the sport.

The Huskers did, like all the great programs, have a down stretch during the just-completed decade, with a 7-7 record in 2002 and losing records in 2004 and 2007. But now they appear to be back, ranked No. 6 or 7, depending on your preferred poll, and the meat grinder defense, the Blackshirts, is back in full force. One of my favorite sports storylines is when a great player or team falls a bit and then rises again. This year, Nebraska has conference and even national title aspirations. But it's a young season. And the Huskers have a young quarterback. Winning titles takes some good fortune along with talent.

In the other corner is a 70-year-old man. Most of the other Big 12 schools are terrified of him. He took over the worst college football program in America, Kansas State, a team that had lost 27 straight. An assistant coach would later say that when the new staff arrived, they had probably two legitimate Division I players. Two. The program was located in the haunting Flint Hills, in seemingly hopeless Manhattan (turns out it's actually a delightful town). Never mind that 800 program wins talk, K-State was the only program to ever lose 500 games when Snyder took over in 1989.

He went 1-10 that first year, but he talked of the potential for a turnaround, he kept working so many hours, he told his program that losing was not who they were. He even designed a new logo to symbolize the new chapter for K-State, that Purple Powercat logo now painted on barn roofs and limestone rocks and mailboxes and grain elevators all across rural Kansas.

Slowly, impossibly, Snyder lifted K-State. They rose past all the other Big 8 schools (starting in 1996, past the other Big 12 North schools) except for mighty Nebraska. People pointed to Snyder's soft nonconference schedules, saying it wasn't a true power program. Then came 1998. Nebraska had defeated the North's have-nots, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and Missouri, every single year for 20 years. Every. Single. Year. The Big Red had won 29 straight vs. the Wildcats. Finally, Snyder and his group of have-nots stood up to the emperor. This year, with Tom Osborne retired, K-State beat the Huskers in Manhattan, a program legitimizing win. It was the defining win for the Wildcat program until a certain game in 2003. More on that in a minute. (Yes, I have to say, as a Nebraska fan, a ghastly missed facemask call dramatically aided K-State, but it was still the win for K-State athletics. Google "K-State Nebraska 1998 facemask" if you want to see the carnage.) Many programs point to their first win over Nebraska in however many million years as a defining win, but for no program is this more true than K-State in 1998.

The Wildcats finished that regular season undefeated and ranked No. 1. But in the Big 12 title game, on the brink of an incomprehensible berth in the national championship, the Wildcats broke down feet in front of the finish line tape, blowing a double-digit lead in the 4th quarter, losing in overtime.

From 1998 to 2004, the Wildcats challenged Nebraska for North supremacy, beating the Huskers five out of seven years. There was some chippiness. In 2003, Bo Pelini, then Nebraska's fiery defensive coordinator, went after Snyder after K-State won big in Lincoln, screaming that Snyder had ran up the score. That wide margin of defeat may have factored in Husker coach Frank Solich being fired at the end of the season. Then-AD Steve Pederson, now a reviled figure in the state, said when announcing Solich's firing, "I refuse to let this program gravitate toward mediocrity." He also said, "We will not surrender the Big 12 Conference to Oklahoma and Texas." His failure to mention or recognize K-State in that last statement rankled the folks in purple.

It seemed especially silly when K-State destroyed No. 1-ranked, supposedly invincible Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 title game. It was unthinkable as a watched it, but Darren Sproles kept shaking loose, Ell Roberson kept throwing touchdown passes, and the Wildcat defense beat the heck out of Jason White, the Sooners' gimpy Heisman-winning quarterback. It's become the Wildcats' calling card, going into to battles with a massive chip on their shoulder, punching the bully in the face, showing no fear in pulling improbable upsets. Even after Snyder retired, coach Ron Prince's K-State teams beat Texas back-to-back years. (While I've got you Googling, search "Ron Prince high step vs. Texas." Thank me later.)

The thing is, not only did Nebraska gravitate toward mediocrity after 2003, K-State did so as well. After the stunning Big 12 title in 2003, K-State has had exactly one winning season since. The slipping of these two programs did clear the way for the Missouri-Kansas Armageddon at Arrowhead game, but it also changed the Big 12 landscape.

But both seem to be coming back. Nebraska's surging status was outlined above, and Snyder returned from a three-year retirement last year to lead K-State to a 6-6 season. The Wildcats nearly won the North, with Snyder game-planning to perfection and outfoxing other coaches despite his outgunned team. Nebraska and K-State met last November to decide the North, like it was the late 90s all over again. The Huskers won, but K-State remains a wild card and may have the best coach in the nation.

Snyder is known for bamboozling opponents, as I saw at his original last game in 2005, when I saw his four-win team defeat Mizzou and Brad Smith in Manhattan before a purple-clad, rocking, electric crowd. He conjured up four straight home wins against the Huskers from 1998 to 2004.

But even still, the Huskers always seem to be the team Snyder and his Wildcats are chasing. His record against the Big Red (5-13, .278) is his worst record against any Big 12 school, no doubt hurt by the nine straight losses Tom Osborne's machine teams. Nebraska has won five straight against K-State, although three of those were against Ron Prince. (Snyder is a stout 49-19 against the other four Big 12 North schools since 1990.) Aside from those four straight K-State wins mentioned above, Nebraska is 34-3-2 all-time in Manhattan, and the Huskers lead the overall series 77-15-2, owing to the history of each program. Nebraska's famous statue outside its stadium is of an absurd six Nebraska defenders tackling a poor K-State running back.

And so, with Nebraska going to the Big Ten next year, this game has an even more nostalgic feel. This is one of three Husker trips to old Big Eight stadiums, and the others, trips to Stillwater and Ames, won't come close to moving the needle like Thursday night's game will for these programs. K-State rose up and provided Nebraska with a high-stakes rival to fill the void left by the breakup of the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry. The two programs offer intriguing contrasts, yet similarities in their rural natures and the single-minded devotion of their fans.

On Thursday night, Nebraska's fans, the Sea of Red, will one last time fill great portions of K-State's stadium, now named Bill Snyder Family Stadium. It will be Snyder's 71st birthday. One last time Snyder will try to gameplan to outduel his most challenging rival. K-State fans will rock to the Wabash Cannonball. With both team's defenses and running emphasis, the game on the field could be a bit unsightly. But the scene will be beautiful. One last time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why I love the land

My parents till the land, growing life and food and a living. So did my grandparents. So did my great-grandparents. So did my great-great grandparents. Ancestors as far back as I presently know were largely all farmers. They likely farmed in the Fatherland, Germany, and in Indiana, where my great-great-great-grandfather, John Herrold, was born in 1831. My ancestors, cut open the great endless sod of Nebraska, literally living in homes made of the earth and sod. And they have farmed the hills and bottoms of old Missouri. Generations have grown and been grown from the land.

I am, at present, not a farmer. I'm always a country boy, and I farm with varying skill on weekends at home. But my beloved farm is a part of me. It's pull is strong.

I can close my eyes and see its landscapes. I guess I don't even have to close my eyes, I can just stare in the middle distance, closer than the horizon but farther away than just in front of my face. They are the silhouettes and panoramas and vistas of my home. I can see the farms, the corridors of trees at the edge of fields, the waving crops or cold dirt in all seasons and weather. The contoured hayfields of the East Farm, the sharper hills around the ancient cemetery on the Home Farm, the ever-changing wall of trees fronting the Forty, as seen from my grandparents' picture window. I've studied them for hours while hunting and driving tractors.

I am, as you can probably see, quite proud of my home. In an era when people have never been more distanced from their food and the land and things that are natural and real, I get to see, touch, taste, live that reality.

The rural life surely has its faults. People who get an education usually leave the farm, seeking better opportunities as the industry continues to face assaults on multiple fronts. Rural North Missouri is the Sahara when it comes to unmarried women over 18 and under 30. The roads are awful.

And, simply, farm life can be hard. It's part of why I'm giving this writing thing a try. You work long hours. You work in the elements. For the most part, you don't get rich. You go out on cold nights when a heifer is having a calf, and she has no idea what's going on, and it's snowing. You pull calves, deal with death and bankers, and are subject to prices and weather. Rains in Brazil and Russia can dramatically affect your livelihood. This powerlessness despite such effort keep a person humble. It shows a person how dependent we are all on God.

But it teaches lessons and values. You have to do your best, really strive to do your best, then let God handle the rest. This simple lesson of striving and faith is one I'm still working to get in my head and put into practice.

It's taught me the folly of materialism, the value of using the talents God gave you, that no one person is born better or more entitled than another. Live simply, enjoy the wonder of the natural world. I'd rather see the Grand Canyon than some ancient cathedral in Europe. God's own monuments top anything built by man.

I know people who seem to be embarrassed or ashamed if they come from working class or small-town backgrounds. It's rapidly becoming one of the few things that can rankle my cool demeanor. (If you know me, you see a bit of sarcasm in that last line.)

I have to say here, because it may help explain things, that I am crazy proud of my parents. They lost their farm and their livelihood once, but they kept digging, they bought new farms, they made sure their kids could grow up on the farm and appreciate the simple joys and lessons of farm life.

I remember in my freshman year of high school, I joined the FFA, like pretty much all kids worth anything did in school. The real kids played basketball and were in the FFA. We learned some key skills that year, such as tying a tie. (Comes in handy when you meet the President.)

We also had to memorize the FFA Creed. I'm surprised how much of it I remember. It was written by E.M. Tiffany in 1930, a pretty darn scary time to be a farmer. It was revised at the end of the 80s, like much of the FFA organization (during this time it was changed from the "Future Farmers of America" to the "National FFA Organization") to reflect "the changing nature of agriculture." The phrases "farm" and "farming" were changed to "agriculture" and "agricultural pursuits." Farming as a way of life seemed to be collapsing in the 1980s. Farmers were protesting at USDA offices in Chillicothe, Mo., and banks were failing in rural areas like it was the Depression. Throughout the Midwest, horror stories emerged, tales of farmers losing everything, no longer able to provide, going crazy, killing bankers and themselves. Meanwhile, the President joked that he wished he could import farmers.

But the creed kept one farm reference. And farming survived the 1980s, as it has all other crises and challenges. Tiffany's words still ring true, 80 years later, saying what I struggle to: "I believe that to live and work on a good farm... is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold and inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny... I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life[.]"

I have, simply, a link with and a love of and a longing for the land, my land, and the natural world, one that is difficult for me to explain. Writing this gave me ferocious writer's block, trying to give words to how I feel about my family's spread of the world in Daviess County. But when it comes to the land and the farm's way of life, I just keep thinking, This is who I am. And I love it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Fifth Down Game(s)

This Saturday, Missouri will open conference play against Colorado. It will probably be the last time the Tigers and Buffaloes will face off for some time, as Colorado is moving to the Pac-10 Conference next school year.

Missouri has owned the series lately, winning four straight. The Tigers have outscored Colorado 149-27 in the last three games.

This week also marks the 20th anniversary of what is likely the most famous (infamous) moment in the series history, the Fifth Down Game. Now if you’re vaguely familiar with football and are thinking “Fifth Down Game” is up there with “Free $7.99 Buffet” and “Fuel-Efficient Hummer,” then you realize the absurdity of this game.

On Oct. 6, 1990, 12th-ranked Colorado was in trouble late, trailing unranked Missouri 31-27 in Columbia. The Buffaloes drove inside the five, and were, in theory, supposed to have four attempts to get the ball into the end zone for the win.

To make a medium story short, the officials failed to switch the down marker to third down during a timeout, essentially giving Colorado two second downs. On fifth down, with the down markers showing fourth down, Colorado backup quarterback Charles Johnson scored on a one-yard touchdown run as time expired, giving the Buffs a 33-31 win. Colorado finished the season at 11-1-1 and shared the national title with Georgia Tech.

Missouri chancellor Haskell Monroe Jr. asked the Big Eight to declare Missouri the winner. Commissioner Carl James said the mistake was “not a post-game correctable error” and the result would remain.

I was all of 3 at the time, but looking back I wonder, how did Missouri coach Bob Stull not run on the field and body slam someone? Or, perhaps more wisely, tell officials the four plays that had just happened?

Colorado coach Bill McCartney drew the ire of Missouri fans after the game, saying he would have forfeited the win, but didn’t because “the field was lousy.” Apparently Missouri played on something called Omniturf at the time.

As though the situation weren’t bizarre enough, McCartney later founded the Promise Keepers men’s ministry. At a Promise Keepers event in 1998 in Columbia, McCartney admitted mistakes in how he handled the situation. Again, times change.

They particularly changed from 1940 to 1990. In 1940, Cornell and Dartmouth played the original Fifth Down Game. Cornell was ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and trailed unranked Dartmouth 3-0 late in the game. After Cornell failed to score on fourth-and-goal, officials mistakenly gave them another down, and they scored the winning touchdown.

The officials discovered their error after reviewing the game films, though it boggles my mind that they had game films in 1940. Those Ivy Leaguers are cutting edge. In a perhaps more baffling (and pleasantly surprising) development, the Cornell players, coach, athletic director and president all agreed they should forfeit. The NCAA records the game as a 3-0 Dartmouth win.

(Also, Miami and Tulane had their own Fifth Down Game in 1972, with Miami using the extra down to score a decisive touchdown.)

What a difference 50 years makes. And now, what a difference 20 years makes. Missouri is ranked (No. 22 in the Coaches Poll, 24 in the AP Poll), and Colorado has struggled mightily over the last four years. Missouri has won 22 more games over the last four years than Colorado.

Colorado did beat the morass formerly known as Georgia football on Saturday. It was an encouraging win for them, even if Colorado fans' storming the field after beating a 1-3 team is pretty ridiculous. So Missouri can’t sleepwalk to a win, but the Tigers remain a heavy favorite and should win by double digits. It would probably take more than five downs at the end of the game for Colorado to win this one, even if the Buffaloes are improved.