Mizzou's New Wave

It was a Dali painting of a Fellini film set to a Tom Waits soundtrack.  When victory became inevitable, fans searched for novel ways to entertain themselves.  Under the black of night, a sea of gold unleashed a wave that gathered momentum, and for a time, seemed to gain consciousness.  A beach ball bounded lively on the alumni side.  Tens of thousands lingered at Faurot Field until midnight to soak in the sultry, surreal atmosphere despite the fact that the outcome had been decided an hour earlier.

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It was a Dali painting of a Fellini film set to a Tom Waits soundtrack.  When victory became inevitable, fans searched for novel ways to entertain themselves.  Under the black of night, a sea of gold unleashed a wave that gathered momentum, and for a time, seemed to gain consciousness.  A beach ball bounded lively on the alumni side.  Tens of thousands lingered at Faurot Field until midnight to soak in the sultry, surreal atmosphere despite the fact that the outcome had been decided an hour earlier.

I thought, for a moment, it might have been a dream.  

After so many 40-point beatings at the hands of Tom Osborne's Nebraska teams, it was hard to fathom.  But the Missouri Tigers gave the Cornhuskers a methodical, decisive drubbing on Saturday night in Columbia, and they made it look easy, while the Huskers looked helpless.

The Osborne era had unofficially ended in the same place in October 2003, when the Tigers handed Dr. Tom's hand-picked successor a 41-24 defeat.  Despite a 10-3 record that year, Frank Solich was fired for clinging to an antiquated system and for falling to Missouri, a team the Cornhuskers had handled without fail for a quarter century.  With the option gone the way of the dinosaur, and with pro-style passing the wave of the future, Nebraska turned to an NFL coach who immediately burned up the recruiting trail.  But the two-star results delivered thus far by Bill Callahan's five-star talent clearly weren't what the people of the corn had in mind.

On this stunning Saturday, it was like Freaky Friday, with the programs trading places.  Missouri dominated like the Nebraska dynasty of the 1990s, while the Huskers toiled as listlessly as some Tiger teams of the late 1980s.  Even the fans seemed to swap, as Mizzou's notorious tailgaters filled Faurot full and filled it early.  A half hour before kickoff the stands were packed and crackling with energy.  The faithful came to their feet for Marching Mizzou's pre-game show, an occurrence unprecedented in my experience, and they rose to the occasion every time the Tigers' defense needed a boost.  It was a ferocious display by the fans, whose craving for victory was palpable.  I had feared that hours of sun-drenched preparations might sap some energy, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  The "M! I! Z!" chant emanating from the students hit us alumni side geezers with a physical force.  I've been at Faurot Field too many times to count, but I've never witnessed anything like that.  It wasn't just a good night at the stadium, it was the Platonic ideal of the college football experience.

Does Saturday's result portend the breakthrough we've long hoped for?  We'll see.  But on one spectacular fall evening, it sure felt like Missouri football had arrived.

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