Sunday, August 27, 2006

MSU is coming to town (and I don't mean SMS)

By Tiger Fan

With less than a week until kick-off, it’s time to get serious. No more reveling in Brad Smith’s glories of old. No more tales of days gone by. It’s time to look ahead and see what’s coming. And the first team coming? Murray State.

I’ve never heard of the state of Murray, so I got out a map to find it. Still unable to locate this fine institution, I turned to Google. As it turns out, Murray is not actually a state… but Murray State University is located in Murray, Kentucky. It’s also known as Kentucky’s Public Ivy University, whatever that means. But lest you think I am making fun of the good folks at Murray State, I’ll point out that they rank in the top ten among public master’s level universities according to U.S. News and World Report, coming in two spot’s behind Missouri’s own Truman State University (FYI: the state of Truman has also eluded me). Also, some of you may recall that the Racers nearly beat the Tiger basketball team in 2004 in a very forgettable 59-55 game in Columbia. Unfortunately, their football team has not received the same level of acclaim. Despite a somewhat proud history that includes eight conference titles, the Racers finished 2-9 last season competing in the Ohio Valley Conference of NCAA’s I-AA class. Their lone foray into Division 1 last season was a 38-6 loss to Mississippi State. To put it bluntly, if Pinkel loses this one, he should be fired on the spot. Not in the locker room. Not in a post-game press conference. Right there, on the field, after he finishes shaking hands with the Racers coach. Why? Let’s break things down:


After last season’s disastrous campaign, the Racers fired coach Joe Pannunzio and replaced him with Matt Griffin – who at the time was the coach at conference rival Tennessee-Martin. Griffin seems like a good guy (he loves spending time with his wife and three kids), but his coaching resume is rather short: He was the head coach at Tennessee-Martin for three years, leading them to one winning season (last year’s 6-5) mark. Really not enough there to know what he’s got, so as much as I hate to do it, I have to say Pinkel has the edge. However, it’s worth noting that MSU has produced solid coaches in the past, like Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Arkansas’ Huston Nutt. If Griffin is on par with those guys, look out.

Advantage: Mizzou


The Racers return eight starters, led by QB Ryne Salyer who threw for 1,062 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago. But three others – including Marshall transfer Zac Barnard – are all vying for the starting position. Whoever earns that spot will be handing off a lot to RB Chad Cook. The senior led the team in rushing last season with 635 yards and three touchdowns. Jonathan Eiland and Rod Harper headline the wide receiving corps. I’m sure these guys are fine, but they’re not match for Chase Daniel, Tony Temple, Will Franklin, Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker, etc.

Advantage: Mizzou


Seniors Gerald Goldberg and Barry Thomas lead a thin defensive line and could be paired with two freshman for the opener against the Tigers. Nathan Williams, a junior, leads a linebacking corps that also has its share of question marks. The most solid defensive unit for the Racers is the secondary, led by free safety and team captain J.R. Webber. Again, Mizzou’s athleticism will win out in the end. Comparing the units side-by-side, its hard to see how the Racers can match up with a Mizzou d-line that goes seven or eight deep and a secondary highlighted by All-Big XII candidate David Overstreet.

Advantage: Mizzou

Special teams

Murray State returns punter Tim Wright and place-kicker Gary Cross from last year’s squad. Wright averaged more than 35 yards per punt last season. As we all know, Mizzou’s special teams can be, well, special. The kicking game should be hit and miss again this season. But as we’ve seen against I-AA teams in the past, it doesn’t always matter how good the kicker is. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers bust through and block a kick or run one back.

Advantage: Mizzou (but not by much)

Bottom Line:

Let’s see, a Big XII team at home against a team that finished 2-9 last season in the OVC. Even if the Racers and dig deep and hang around for a while, they’ll eventually succumb to Mizzou’s superior athleticism. I’ve complained often about Pinkel, but I don’t even think he can screw this one up. It will be exciting to see what Chase Daniel can do, but Tigers fans should be wary of using this game as a barometer for the season. I’m picking the Tigers to roll, 42-10… setting off a rash of unreasonable expectations in the Tiger nation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Who's ready for some football?

By Tiger Fan

Well folks, football season is FINALLY right around the corner. In case you're not ready yet, here's a look back at the 10 best Mizzou plays from the last five seasons. If these highlights don't get you excited, nothing will. And if I missed anything, let me know!

10. Justin Gage takes a bubble screen to the house - Oct. 26, 2002
Yes, yes... we all hate the bubble screen. But it worked this time to the tune of 62 yards... the longest pass of the Gary Pinkel era. Unfortunately, Gary has been trying to replicate it ever since.

9. Jason Simpson strips away Nebraska's shot at victory - Oct. 22, 2005
In the third quarter, Terrence Nunn was on his way to a touchdown that would have given Nebraska the lead. But Simpson managed to chase him down and rip the ball away around the 10-yard line. David Overstreet fell on it at the 3. Ten plays later, the Tigers were in their endzone, on the way to another win.

8. Shirdonya Mitchell snatches victory from the hands of defeat - Oct. 2, 2004
With the Tigers leading by 8, Colorado was driving for the game-tying score. It looked like Joel Klatt had connected with Evan Judge for a touchdown, but Mitchell wrestled the ball away for an interception with 6:47 to play to seal the win.

7. Brad Ekwerekwu revives his QB skills - Oct. 8, 2005
With 34 seconds left in the first half, the Tigers got the ball back after an OSU fumble in Stillwater. Ekwerekwu took advantage, taking a reverse from Brad Smith, pulling up and throwing into the end zone for Sean Coffey. Coffey managed to fight off the defender and make a circus catch.

6. The longest run of Brad's career - Oct. 22, 2005
Brad Smith had many historic runs, but none was longer than this one. He took the snap and ran right up the middle untouched. He went 79 yards to the house for his second rushing touchdown of the game.

5. Chase Daniel's coming out party - Oct. 15, 2005
We all know the story by now. Brad Smith goes down against ISU with five minutes to play and the Tigers trailing by 10. In comes Chase Daniel. Daniel's 4-yard touchdown pass to Sean Coffey in the back of the endzone with 20 seconds to play tied the game at 24 and send it to overtime.

4. Marcus King makes bowl history - Dec. 30, 2005
There were a lot of big plays in Mizzou's historic Independence Bowl comeback, but none was bigger than King's 99-yard interception return. South Carolina was leading 21-0 and driving for another score when King snagged the ball on the one and raced 99 yards for the score. It was the longest INT return in Mizzou history and set an Independence Bowl record. It also turned the tide of the game as the Tigers went on to win, 38-31.

3. Brad Smith's coming out party - Oct. 5, 2002
The game is legendary: 213 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, 178 yards and a touchdown through the air. Mizzou's near-upset of No. 1 Oklahoma made Smith a household name nationwide. And his 25-yard TD with 10 minutes to play to put the Tigers ahead 24-23 would have been the biggest score of his career... were it not for The Fake I. Still, it was the birth of third-and-Brad. On the play, the Tigers needed just a few yards. Brad smashed into the pile and found nothing. But when he bounced it to the outside, he needed only to juke past one OU defender to take it all the way.

2. Outlaw to Smith - Oct. 11, 2003
We all know what Brad can do with his feet and arms. But on this rainy October night, we got a taste of what he'll be doing in the NFL: using his hands to catch passes. If his 47-yard dash to the endzone against Nebraska was any indication, he's in for quite a pro career. Smith took the lateral pass from former QB Darius Outlaw and got behind of a wall of blockers who escorted him to the endzone and a 14-7 lead.

1. The Fake II - Oct. 11, 2003
Sesay, Sesay! Boom boom, Sesay! It's all Kadlec could say... and who could blame him. It seems Gary Pinkle learned something from Bob Stoops the year before. Trailing 24-21 with 12 minutes to play, the Tigers lined up for what appeared to be the game-tying field goal try. Instead, back-up QB Sonny Riccio rolled out and hit tight end Victor Sesay for a 15-yard touchdown pass. Mizzou took the lead 28-24 and never looked back. They went on to beat Nebraska for the first time in 25 years.