Sports have many narrative similarities to your favorite TV shows like Game of Thrones or a soap-opera like Days of Our Lives. The bigger events like Conference Championships or Bowl Games can feel like blockbuster movies. Rock M Reviews is a series designed to treat Mizzou Football games like a film critic would your favorite show or movie. This fall, Alec Blome has agreed to review Missouri Football games in that spirit for Rock M Nation.
One year prior the Tigers of Missouri survived an unexpectedly gruesome encounter in the Gateway City with the resilient Illini. Today, fresh off a strong 2007 season, they begin a new life full of hope, national attention and championship aspirations. But lurking in the shadows of The Arch is a familiar foe from the past hell-bent on revenge. His name: Juice. His weapon of choice? Wide open receivers.
3.5 stars (out of 5). You're killin' it, Smalls!
Was this game a sequel no one asked for? You betcha. Did I enjoy it? Yes, yes I did. Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't perfect. Like me, you may have been asking yourself by third quarter's end, "Really? This again?" for the story was essentially a retread of '07's Mizzou v Illinois. Lacking, however, was the same nail-biting, suspenseful third act of its predecessor. Aside from that, this game displayed the polish you'd expect from a now experienced team and for the most part improved upon of the first installment’s glaring missteps, making for a vastly superior viewing experience. But like I previously mentioned, it wasn't perfect.
Right off the bat we're treated to the tried-and-true "getting the band back together" montage which see's our old friends from last year putting together a rather impressive, first quarter touchdown drive. In under five minutes, it's a quick reminder of what we loved about last year's squad: an up-tempo offense led by superstar Vinnie Chase Daniel (323 yards, 3 TDs). We are also re-introduced rather early on to Juice Williams (451 yards, 5 TDs) - the main antagonist you love to hate - and Will Judson (5 rec, 177 yards, 2 TDs) - the scene-stealing, wide receiving henchman. As you may recall, we caught a glimpse of Juice last year but due to injury was relegated to an underdeveloped, cameo role.
After the early Tiger fireworks, the story drags a bit with a couple questionable turnovers before eventually picking up in intensity with the emergence of the game's first conflict via a Juice-to-Judson touchdown. Not long after, our hero Chase throws a demoralizing pick-six leaving the Tigers shaken, bloodied and trailing 13-10. It wasn't quite M. Night Shyamalan plot twisting but it’s safe to say I did not see it coming. Like Shyamalan twisting, however, I did not care for it. But as it often plays out in the action genre, our heroes regroup and start kicking wholesale ass. And if we're being honest, isn't that exactly what we came to see?
Baby-faced Jeremy Maclin shines once again, this time in a supporting role as kickoff returner, scoring from 99 yards. (For what it's worth, I think that kid J-Mac is gonna be a star!) Washington - the newcomer - scampers 40 yards into the end zone followed quickly by a Chase-to-Chase (Coffman) touchdown, pulling the Tigers ahead 31-13. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the on-screen chemistry of Daniel and Coffman. Just a delight to watch them work together again.
Worth noting, the lone comedic relief is provided in the third quarter by the aforementioned limber tight end, Chase Coffman, and his never-ending, physics-defying quest to leap tall buildings and defensive backs.
His undeniable charm and relentless dedication to his craft is not lost on this critic. Personally, I would have loved to see more of the charismatic hurdler's comedic side in this one but I'll settle for 120 yards and a touchdown on 9 catches. Oh, wait… we’ve got another one!
The Coffman hijinks are limited, though, as the beautifully crafted back and forth brawl between Chase Daniel and Juice Williams commences in an offensively impressive, yet defensively forgettable action-packed third and fourth quarter rife with explosive plays and visually stunning touchdowns. But as awesome a display as it was, a questionable move by defensive coordinator/producer Matt Eberflus to not guard Illinois receivers in the second half left me baffled and unsatisfied. If there were ever an appropriate time during the game to yell colorful obscenities (PG-13) while throwing popcorn at the screen in disgust, this would be it.
Like in 2007, Illinois pulled within 10 points. Unlike last year, that would be as close as they would come. We did receive similar defensive heroics, however. The quiet, understated Sean Weatherspoon filled the Pig Brown role of a year ago with a crucial late-game interception (his second of the day), this one being returned for a touchdown.
With the game all but decided, Illinois' ill-fated attempt at one last "I'm not dead yet" cheap scare fell on deaf ears as they again pulled within 10, this time as the credits began to roll. A silly ending if you ask me.
52-42. The heroes win.
Summary: Despite its cliched sequel-like tendencies, Pinkel's Mizzou v Illinois II delivers on more fronts than it doesn't. You'll enjoy Weatherspoon's surprise heroics, the buddy-duo of Chase 'n Chase and, to a certain extent, the heel turns of Juice Williams and Will Judson. It's not by any means a classic but it is super fun. At the very least, it's without a doubt better than anything M. Night Shyamalan has produced in the past 5 years.
What do you think? Rate the game below using the Smalls-o-meter and find out what the rest of Mizzou Nation thinks.
Rock M Reviews Ratings
*You’re killin’ it, Smalls (60% or more Mizzou fans rated the game positively)
*You’re killin’ me, Smalls (59% or fewer Mizzou fans rated the game positively)
Action, Adventure, Thriller / Rated PG-13 (for language directed toward the TV, football violence, excessive hurdling and questionable defense)
Starring: Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Derrick Washington, Juice Williams and Will Judson.
Featuring: Sean Weatherspoon and Jeremy Maclin.
Produced by: Dave Christensen and Matt Eberflus
Directed: by Gary Pinkel