ST. LOUIS -- They haven't done anything yet.
That's not your average sportswriter waxing objective about his journalism school's football team. That was Missouri's own coach for much of the offseason. Apparently, a school-record 12 victories and a Cotton Bowl victory followed by the highest preseason ranking in school history were enough to impress everyone else except the guy who drew it all up.
|Chase Daniel does his usual thing, throwing three TDs along with a head-scratching INT. (US Presswire)|
Would you gush over the most entertaining flying circus since Monty Python if it was still chasing the school's first conference title in almost 40 years? That's the dilemma faced by those giving their hearts and souls to the most anticipated season in Missouri history, a history that includes a career winning percentage of .537.
• By circus, we mean a national intro to the 2008 season in Missouri's 52-42 victory over No. 20 Illinois. Unless some defensive coordinator comes up with an antidote expect to see more of these types of shootouts. The nation's No. 6 team gave up 388 second-half yards and five touchdown passes by a running quarterback. Maybe the good news is the Tigers had to be talked into enjoying the moment.
"My players were a little disappointed," Pinkel said. "That upsets me a little bit. I've been in this business a long time. When you win, you enjoy winning. We beat a top 20 team."
That's more than can be said about every other team in the country this weekend, except Alabama and East Carolina. Despite what you heard about that game in Atlanta, Missouri-Illinois was the marquee game of the day and lived up to the hype. Which, then, is more impressive, coming close to blowing a 25-point lead (Missouri led 45-20) or nuking some I-AA scrub as half the top 10 did on Saturday?
No one could actually answer that question because it's hard to compare USC's lambasting of an awful Virginia with Missouri's win over Illinois. The Trojans probably felt a lot better about themselves than the Tigers, though.
"I think that just comes from an expectation level around here," Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel said. "There is a fine line. You've got to be upset to the point that you know you've got to go back to work next week but enjoy the win. It's a win over a BCS opponent. They were in the Rose Bowl last year."
• By circus, we mean Missouri All-American Jeremy Maclin, who was all-everything Saturday night as long as Illinois kept kicking to him, which was most of the time. Maclin's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was part of a 234-yard all-purpose night.
Maclin was knocked out of the game in the second half with a twisted ankle. X-rays were negative but when something like that happens, a state holds it breath. Ask Ohio about Beanie Wells.
"I can't speculate whether he'll be out a day or two weeks," said Pinkel who added that his star will get a precautionary MRI next week.
• By circus, we mean Daniel being Daniel. Missouri's Heisman finalist quarterback tossed three touchdown passes and one gosh-awful interception that gave Illinois its only lead in the first half.