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Mizzou Accomplished
October 29, 2007
With a more relaxed coach Gary Pinkel loosening the reins, Missouri has a newfound swagger, scoring points in bunches and showing it can play a little defense too
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October 29, 2007

Mizzou Accomplished

With a more relaxed coach Gary Pinkel loosening the reins, Missouri has a newfound swagger, scoring points in bunches and showing it can play a little defense too

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THE QUESTION was shouted to John Shetley in the waning moments of the rout. Shetley, a beefy, senior environmental studies major at Missouri, is responsible for striking Big Mo, the upright, six-feet-in-diameter drum that sits on the sideline at Tigers games. � What's the proper term, he was asked, for a big-ass drum like that? � "A big-ass drum," replied Shetley, who then raised his mallet and smote Big Mo six times in celebration of another takeaway. With just under three minutes to play, Missouri had just collected its fourth interception of Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, the final indignity in the Tigers' 41--10 blowout last Saturday that, in keeping with the theme of this college football season, defied expectations from the get-go.

This Big 12 showdown between two of the nation's most prolific spread offenses figured to be an aerial orgy, right? So what happened? During yet another turbulent week that saw No. 2 South Florida fall at Rutgers, No. 6 South Carolina vanquished at home to Vanderbilt and No. 10 Cal collapse in a loss to UCLA—vanishing from the national title picture just days after being so close to the No. 1 ranking that the Bears could taste it—Missouri coach Gary Pinkel went all Bill Parcells in Columbia. The 15th-ranked Tigers, boasting the fifth-ranked passing attack in the land, decided the time was right to play ball control, rushing 50 times for 212 yards. Quarterback Chase Daniel, who had averaged 45 passes in his first six games, threw 19 times (completing 14, for 210 yards and a TD) and was ecstatic afterward. His modest line proved "we're not just a throw-it-around-50-or-60-times-a-game team," he said.

Before setting foot on Faurot Field, a.k.a the 'Zou, 22nd-ranked Texas Tech had piled up a nation-leading 500.4 passing yards and 50 points per game; Missouri was No. 100 in pass defense. So what happened? The Tigers put together possibly the most impressive defensive performance of the seven-year Pinkel era, limiting the Red Raiders to a touchdown and a field goal. Yes, Harrell completed 44 of his 69 passes for 397 yards, but they were largely quiet yards between the 20s. Remarkably, Tech never ran a play in the red zone.

In addition to throwing the four picks—one more than he had tossed in 347 attempts going in—-Harrell was sacked three times, twice on the same fourth-quarter possession that resulted in fourth-and-43. Walking off the field following that soul-killing series, his head bowed, Harrell was the picture of a beaten man. His body language did not go unnoticed by the Tigers.

"You could see it in his demeanor," exulted senior strong safety Cornelius (Pig) Brown. "Our coaches always tell us, 'Make 'em want to quit. Be a nightmare.'"

Growing up in Adel, Ga., Brown was a voracious eater who failed to keep a tidy room. His mother pinned the nickname on him. And there was something greedy and porcine about the way Pig flew around the field on Saturday, as if intent on making every tackle. As it was, he racked up 14 (4 1/2 for losses), intercepted a pass and broke up three others.

As Pig and the aggressive Tigers D harassed Harrell, Daniel cheered from the sideline. On his head rested a Mizzou ball cap, and in that haberdashery lies a short but telling story.

I WAS WALKING by his office on a Tuesday, and he was whistling," Daniel recalls. "And I thought, This is the perfect time to ask."

So the quarterback poked his head into Pinkel's sanctum and, after being invited to take a seat, repeated a request he had been making for three years. "I asked him if the quarterbacks could wear [baseball] hats on the sideline," Daniel says. "It's something I did in high school, something I'm comfortable with, something I like to do."

For two years Pinkel had said no. On this afternoon, three days after the Tigers had won 38--25 at Ole Miss to go to 2--0, the coach said, "Let me think about it."

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