Missouri silences critics in blowout of Illinois
The Missouri football players had heard all the doubts. They had seen all the underwhelming predictions. They had heard about all the critics. And in just over three hours they managed to silence all of them. In an opening game demolition of Illinois, Missouri made its statement. They made it loud and clear. Missouri football is here to stay.
“All I know is we bust our butts,” said defensive tackle Jaron Baston. “We want to prove to the world that Mizzou football is here to stay.”
We are only one game into the 2009 season, but so far, that’s exactly what the Tigers have done. Already critics are backpedaling. ESPN writer Tim Griffin, who was less than kind to Missouri this off-season wrote on Sunday:
“We might have written off the Tigers’ chances to contend in the North Division a little too early if Saturday’s performance is any indication.”
Monday at media day, Baston joined in on ripping another ESPN writer, Kirk Herbstreit. Herbstreit had predicted that Missouri was the number one team on the decline this season. Baston made a point Monday to poke fun at him.
“Somebody (talking about Herbstreit), said we were the first to go down or something like that,” Baston said with a smile on his face. “Hey, I guess he did a good job of making that decision or whatever he said,” the starting tackle continued jokingly.
The players were expecting to beat Illinois, but not even linebacker Sean Weatherspoon could have predicted the total beat down that Mizzou handed the Illini.
“I expected it to be a better game,” Weatherspoon said. “I thought it’d be a lot tougher. But when you go out there and prepare the way we did, you can’t be surprised when it goes like that.”
In case you missed it, the “like that,” that ‘Spoon’ was referring to, was a complete dismantling of an Illinois team that was supposed to be the program’s most talented roster in years.
On offense, defense, and special teams, Missouri was completely dominant. They made a veteran Illinois team look ill prepared, demoralized, and just downright bad.
When first time starter Blaine Gabbert wasn’t distributing passes all over the field, he was making plays with his feet. When a clearly improved Missouri secondary wasn’t forcing Juice Williams into bad throws, the defensive line was harassing him. As former Missouri standout Jeremy Maclin told Weatherspoon following the game, Mizzou’s performance, “Almost brought tears to his eyes.”
Following Missouri’s drubbing of Illinois it would be easy for the team to get overconfident. However, Head Coach Gary Pinkel is making sure that will not happen as Mizzou prepares for its home opener this Saturday against Bowling Green.
“Every player has things they can do to improve,” Pinkel said. “We’re not good enough to be overconfident.”
After yet another victory in the Arch Rivalry, the Tigers are looking forward to returning home to “The Zou.”
The University is trying to get the nickname, “The Zou,” to catch on this year. The nickname has been added to the new scoreboard and the sides of the stadium. Whether you call it Faurot Field or The Zou, Pinkel just hopes it is filled this weekend.
“I’ll be real disappointed if we don’t have 70,000 people there in gold,” he said. We’re trying to create that as one of the toughest places to play in the United States.”
Weatherspoon agrees with his coach about Saturday’s attendance.
“I’ll be disappointed as well [if there aren’t 70,000 in attendance].
If Missouri plays like they did last Saturday, not only will they not be disappointed about attendance, but also their outcome on the field.