October 19, 2006

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

How bout them Tigers? That saying was made famous by coach Jimmy Johnson in the hay days of the Dallas NFL team when he would regularly open his press conference with a “How bout them Cowboys” hoot after a big win.

Well, we Missouri football fans haven’t had a lot of opportunity to use our version of the chant, but now that Mizzou is off to a 6-1 start we have plenty to cheer about. A perfect 6-0 start before this week’s tough defeat at Texas A&M, marked the first time since 1973 that MU had gone this deep into the season without a defeat.

It’s been somewhat of an unexpected surprise, as most of us that follow the Tigers did not know what to expect with superstar quarterback Brad Smith taking his game to the NFL and the New York Jets.

I must say that I didn’t know what to anticipate. I got a bit of a sneak peak when MU Athletic Director Mike Alden, and Mizzou broadcasters Mike Kelly and Gary Link made a trip up to Memphis this summer to meet with school boosters at an informal rally at Keith’s Café.

One generally expects unbridled enthusiasm from these folks who make a living at the university. Still I could not help but leave that evening with a glimmer of hope for what they were forecasting as an opportunity to have a very successful football program in 2007.

That anticipation fueled a trip to Columbia to the season opener as Mizzou routed an out-gunned Murray State 47-7 in a contest that saw sophomore quarterback Chase Daniel set a new school record with five touchdown passes. The impressive performance did wonders making many of us forget that for the first time since 2001 that it wasn’t Smith taking snaps at Faurot Field.

Of course the Racers were just 2-9 last season, so the victory did not immediately cure all of the skeptics.

Next week’s 34-7 win over a much better Mississippi squad helped many clear some of those hurdles of doubt. Yet another step came next week when Mizzou traveled to New Mexico and picked up a crucial 27-17 win that proved the team could win in a tough environment.

After a 31-6 thrashing of Ohio in week four, Mizzou started popping up on the national radar and earned a #25 ranking in the AP Poll. But even at 4-0 it was a bit too early for much recognition outside of the Show-Me State.

Daniel was again the star for Mizzou as he threw four TDs in a 28-13 win over Colorado. The blasting of the Buffaloes helped Mizzou climb further up the standings and got the program some national exposure as the TBS Superstation picked up the following week’s contest at Texas Tech to broadcast to its viewers across the U.S.

Plenty of folks must have been tuned in for the show as Mizzou’s defense scored twice in the first quarter and led the #23 ranked Tigers to a 38-21 demolition of the #24 ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock, TX.

It quieted many of the skeptics that said Mizzou’s #10 ranked defense really had not been challenged by the team’s soft schedule to open the year.

The team picked on Red Raiders’ signal caller Garham Harrell, forcing the NCAA’s fourth ranked quarterback into four turnovers that fueled the win.

The first loss saw Mizzou struggle with turnovers of its own, giving away several fumbles that helped the Aggies hand MU its only loss of the year, 25-19. Texas A&M now has a mirror record of the Tigers, 6-1 and 2-1 in the Big 12 and the game was played at College Station, the team’s second straight visit to the Longhorn State, so it really wasn’t that much of an upset.

We have a 6-1 record. We have a standout quarterback (who is only a sophomore) as well as top-ranked defense. But that’s not it. Mel Kipper, Jr. (yes the infamous football talent expert often seen on ESPN) says that Mizzou has the nation’s most talented tight end tandem in Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker. They have combined for 49 receptions and six touchdowns to make Missouri proud. Coffman, a sophomore, hails from Peculiar, MO, while Rucker, a junior, grew up in St. Joseph.

I don’t want to leave out junior running back Tony Temple. The junior from Kansas City is another standout on the offense along with the team’s top receiver, Speedy William Franklin, a junior from St. Louis who has team highs in receptions (29), yards (484) and TDs (4).

I haven’t even mentioned the defensive stars and I’m already running out of space. To say I’m enthused about MU would obviously be an understatement.

So if this isn’t enough to get you excited, I don’t know what to say except, “How bout them Tigers!”

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