Fans of University of Missouri football are long suffering. Somehow the ball never falls on the right side of the goal line. Whether the referees give their opponent a fifth down or whether a kicked ball in the end zone results in a last minute loss against the number one team in the country, Mizzou football fans rarely can get drunk enough to numb the pain. An early 90’s coach once summed up the feelings of his fans when asked in a halftime interview what he hoped to do differently in the second half.
“Score points, ” he said.
Which is why most fans started drinking early on Saturday. The third head coach in ten years announced he was starting redshirt freshman Brad Smith as quarterback against Illinois. The Illinois that went 10-2 last year. The tailgate keg taps didn’t close for several hours. Redshirt freshman, a coach named Pinkel, and a nationally televised game. That sounded just about right.
And then this freshman did something a little surprising. He rushed for 138 yards. He completed 15 of 26 passes. He…um…won.
What was even more surprising was this…he didn’t talk a bunch of smack. He acted the role of the neophyte, just happy to be playing the game. No “Bring on Nebraska!” No “Orange Bowl here I come!” Just a kid ten years younger than me (damn, almost eleven), playing the game and being happy about it.
Of course, we can credit a strong offensive line that didn’t allow one sack. We can credit a perfectly pathetic Illinois team that couldn’t figure out which guy was their quarterback. We can credit the Illinois offensive line for doing its best impression of swiss cheese.
But we can also credit this kid who just enjoyed playing the game.
Now, I’m no Missouri optimist. It’s one game against a team that probably should have stayed home for the day. It’s one kid that could get really cocky if he continues to do well. It’s one win at the beginning of a very long season. The…um…powerhouse Ball St. has to go to Columbia next week. That could spell doom for the boys from the ‘Zou.
But, damn, it’s nice to win one.
Even if it is…just one.