Sunday, August 4, 2019

Mizzou 50: 1992 Tigers... the first Faurot night game and Handy's record passing

The 1992 Missouri Tigers had another losing season, the program’s ninth straight, but they did at least provide some excitement. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Handy had his first full season, and he would go on to throw for 6,959 yards from 1991-1994, which set the school career passing yardage record. Even with the proliferation of passing stats in football in recent decades, Handy is still fifth on Missouri’s all-time passing yards list. He also has two of the top-10 single-game passing yard totals, which both happened in 1992.

Handy is also seventh in career passing touchdowns at Mizzou with 39. He broke Phil Bradley’s records for career passing yards and touchdowns when he set those marks in the 90s.

Despite Handy’s passing success, the Tigers got off to a terrible start, losing 24-17 at Illinois, 26-13 to No. 7 Texas A&M in Columbia, and 20-10 at Indiana. (Man the American Sports Fan was treated/subjected to a lot of Missouri-Indiana football games in the late 80s and early 90s.) Texas A&M was the toughest of those opponents, rolling to a second of three straight Southwest Conference titles that season.

On Oct. 3, Missouri finally got a win the new-fashioned way, by paying a I-AA team to come in and hopefully lose. The Tigers won 44-21 over Marshall, which would eventually make the move up to Missouri’s I-A level, called the Football Bowl Subdivision today. Marshall was a very respectable opponent, but this game was the first step in the modern trend of playing FCS opponents (and charging full or near-full ticket price for them).

On Oct. 8, a Thursday, in Colorado’s first game back at Faurot Field since the Fifth Down Game, the Tigers gave a spirited effort against the No. 9 Buffaloes. But Missouri had more spirit than points, and Colorado eked out a 6-0 win in tough weather conditions.

This game was noteworthy in that it was the first night game in the history of Memorial Stadium. The stadium was 66 years old at the time. Up until then, every game had been played in the sunshine, an afternoon kickoff. The Missouri-Colorado game was on ESPN, and the network brought in huge temporary lights so they could have a Thursday night game at the stadium, which had no lights at the time. Missouri would add permanent lights later in the decade.

It was a chilly, windy, wet night, and Mizzou shot off fireworks at halftime. Nowadays, night games are common (when the SEC TV schedule cooperates), but that must have been a fairly surreal night at Memorial Stadium.

Next, on Oct. 17, Missouri traveled to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. The Cowboys won 28-26, although Handy threw for 480 yards, a single-game Missouri record that stood until Drew Lock threw for 521 against Missouri State in 2017. So 27 years after the fact, Handy’s 480 yards remains the most for a Tiger in a conference game, and in a game against an FBS team. (Missouri State is in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly called I-AA.)

The Tigers then hosted Nebraska at Faurot Field. The Huskers were ranked No. 8 and would win the Big Eight that year. Handy threw for 424 yards, still the 10th most passing yards by a Tiger in a game, but Nebraska won 34-24. Also, his 904 yards over back-to-back games is pretty impressive.
The week after playing Missouri, on Halloween, Nebraska and Colorado played in Lincoln with both ranked in the top 10. The Big Eight title was on the line. Nebraska crushed the Buffaloes 52-7, and Colorado’s run of winning/sharing Big Eight titles was over. But the Buffs remained a good team throughout the rest of Bill McCartney’s time in charge.

While that beatdown was going on, Missouri suffered a fairly grisly Halloween loss of its own, falling 28-14 to Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium. It was the Cyclones’ fifth straight win in the Telephone Trophy rivalry.

Missouri was now 1-7, and 0-4 in Big Eight play, and going nowhere. But they had to go to Norman next. Oklahoma was not great in 1992, but the Sooners still cruised to a 51-17 win over Missouri, five days after Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush to win the Presidency and Mel Carnahan was elected Governor of Missouri.

The Tigers did end the season on a decent note, with two home wins over schools from Kansas. Missouri beat Kansas State 27-14 on Nov. 14, their first I-A win of the season. The Tigers then hosted No. 22 Kansas on Nov. 21 and won, 22-17. Tiger kicker Jeff Jacke set an MU record by making five field goals in the game.

It wasn’t much, but the two wins over decent teams before sparse home crowds to end the season at least gave the Tigers the slightest glimmer of hope heading into 1993.

1992: 27 years ago, tied for 6th in the Big Eight

Record: 3-8, 2-5 in Big Eight

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