I love the history of American football. I find it fascinating from the collegiate level, the NFL, and the Canadian level. Growing up, you could find me exploring college and pro football references or searching for YouTube clips from old games.
Also, I love Missouri Tigers football history. On Saturday, Missouri will return to St. Louis to play the greatest sport in the world for the first time 2010 as it takes on Memphis. It's a part of the “Mizzou to the Lou,” which helps promote athletic exposure in STL.
The Tigers not only have a unique history in the Gateway to the West, but a long historic one that dates back over 120 years. Most people remember the more recent Arch Rivalry series against Illinois from 2002-2010 but prior to the 21st century, the Tigers have played 40-plus games in the city. Now, I wish I had the time to go through every game, but instead I’ve picked eight games between 1890-1970 to revisit. Let’s start with the infant years of the football program.
Washington University 28, Missouri 0
November 27, 1890
Significance: In 1890 the University of Missouri picked up the sport of football. The Tigers' inaugural schedule included just three games over a two-month span. Its first game came against a team of Engineering students in Columbia, which resulted in a 22-6 victory.
Over a month later, the Tigers faced its first opposing University by traveling to Sportsman’s Park, just 23 years old at the time, to face Washington University, a program three years older than the Tigers. Wash-U hadn’t lost a game in its program’s history at that point and was 5-0 between 1887-1890. In front of 5,000 fans, the Bears defeated the Tigers 28-0.
Missouri 6, Washington University 5
October 27, 1900
Significance (an ancient classic): Remember how you felt when Andrew Baggett struck the left upright in the orth end zone of Faurot Field against South Carolina in 2013? You remember? (editor’s note: NO, Jaden, we’d like to forget that nightmare) Well, that’s probably how 2,000 Wash U fans felt leaving League Park 113 years before that game occurred. Missouri raced out to a 6-0 lead before the Bears came back, closing the margin within a point. But, towards the end of the game, the Bears quarterback (also the kicker) hit the left upright preserving a close Missouri victory.
Missouri 14, Washington University 0
October 14, 1939
Bill Connelly wrote about this one a while back. In 1939, Missouri, for the first time, became relevant on a national stage.
Significance: In front of 10,000 fans, the Tigers gashed the Bears for 400-plus total yards on offense behind Paul Christman, arguably the greatest Tiger quarterback until Phil Bradley. Despite moving the ball on the ground, the Tigers mustered just 14 points but allowed zero on its path to an Orange Bowl berth. It was also the last time the Tigers played Washington University as the program closed up shop in 1943. MU closed the series with a 14-9-2 advantage against the Bears in St. Louis.
Great Lakes Navy 17, Missouri 0
October 31, 1942
Significance: Like 1941, Missouri would repeat as Big 6 champions in 1942 with all of its losses coming during the non-conference slate. One of those losses came to the Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets.
As described by the St. Louis Post Dispatch: “The Sailors were too big, too strong and too experienced for the Tigers...The Great Lakes men were rough, too, and in their eagerness to break a losing streak that must have been painful to a squad so rich in brilliant talent, they even forgot about the prescribed rules. The Bluejackets were penalized for 125 yards in a shutout victory. The Tigers rebounded its Halloween shutout with a 20-point victory in Lincoln, a tie in Norman, and a victory against KU wrapping up a conference title. They also lost to Fordham while defeating Iowa Pre-Flight. The next season though, Faurot briefly left the Tigers for that very same Iowa Pre-Flight team after one of his brothers went missing in the Pacific Theatre.
Missouri 60, St. Louis 7
October 1, 1948
Significance: This wasn’t the first meeting between Missouri and SLU in St. Louis. The two programs met 14 times before in St. Louis, with the Tigers holding a 7-6-1 advantage, but this 1948 ended up being the last.
It would also be the second to last season of Bilikens football before the University closed the program for good. Combine this with Missouri still in a post-Great Depression renaissance you get the biggest butt-kicking by a Don Faurot-led Missouri team. 14,832 spectators at Walsh Stadium watched the Tigers put up an offensive clinic against the Billikens, including long touchdown runs by Mike Ghnouy and Bus Entsminger. The momentum carried over into next week as Missouri stunned Doak Walker and fourth-ranked SMU 20-14 at Memorial Stadium (A bit of time before it was officially Faurot Field).
Missouri 37, Illinois 6, & Missouri 38, Baylor 0
September 27, 1969 & September 11, 1970
I group these two games in two different seasons together because they both feature a common denominator — his name is Joe Moore. Yes, the father of Joe Moore III, the current Tigers defensive end.
Missouri had its best offense ever during the 1969 season, which featured Moore who during that season became the last Tiger to rush for 1,000 yards until Devin West 19 years later. In week two of the 69 season, the Tigers demolished the Fighting Illini 37-6 in front of 48,000-plus in the four-year-old Busch Memorial Stadium. Moore was the game's most dominant player rushing, for 185 yards, the third most by a Tiger at the point, on 22 carries.
Missouri didn’t recapture the same magic as it did in 1970, but Moore was still electric in the five games he did play where he rushed for 610 yards. Against Baylor in the season opener at Busch Memorial Stadium, he gashed the Bears for 185 yards on 36 carries in a 38-0 victory. Unfortunately for Moore, injuries sidelined him for the final season of his collegiate career, but he would be selected in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
Air Force 37, Missouri 14
September 26, 1970
Two weeks later, ninth-ranked Missouri once again returned to St. Louis to face No. 20 Air Force where it lost 37-14. It was a revenge game for the Falcons, as the MU miraculously came away with a last-second victory to start the ‘69 season. Air Force raced out to a 30-0 lead behind quarterback Bob Parker and handed the Tigers its first of six losses that season. It was the only losing season for Dan Devine as MU’s head coach.
For the next two decades and some change, the Tigers wouldn’t return to play in the Gateway of the West until Aug. 31, 2002 against Illinois. That’s where Parker Gillam will pick up for part 2.