Sunday, October 28, 2007

Deja Vu All Over Again

Saturday's win over a struggling ISU Cyclones team wasn't sparkling, or noisy, like the W's over Nebraska and Texas Tech, but was a win nonetheless in a season of convention going the way of the T-Rex in college football. Regardless, the Tigers were 7-1 overall, 3-1 in the Big 12, and found out Sunday afternoon they had vaulted to #9 in the Coaches', AP, and BCS polls.

And we left the game feeling like we got kicked in the stomach.

We frantically sent text messages and made calls describing what had happened. We listened for Gervino to relay the news on the post-game show. We scoured the interwebs upon arrival at the house looking for an update. An update on our injured star defensive player.

Pig Brown writhed in pain on the turf of Faurot Saturday, with the game hovering in garbage time. His leg was de-mobilized, and he was carried and carted off the field, towel-over-dome, defeated and in obvious pain.

For those of you who haven't heard, Pig Brown, he of two Big XII Defensive Player of the Week awards, has been lost for the season with a ruptured achilles tendon. Brown would have been a top contender for conference defensive player of the year.

Sound familiar?

October 21, 2006. The Tigers had just knocked off Kansas State at home, rebounding from a loss in College Station the week before, to go 7-1 overall, 3-1 in the Big XII. The win, though, was horribly tempered by the loss of Missouri's all-time sacks king and the biggest playmaker on their defense, defensive end Brian Smith. A broken hip had ended his playing career.

The Tigers lost their next three games, and four of their last five.

The vibe was not of the jovial manner it could have been Saturday night in CoMo. It's because we've seen this all before - promise, build-up, even the unwarranted air of expectation surrounding the ballclub. And then the other shoe drops... or the broken hip, or ruptured achilles.

So where from here? Mizzou has lost, arguably, their most irreplacable piece besides Chase Daniel. Justin Garrett and Del Howard are part of a secondary that has been free-wheelingly rotated throughout 2007, so at least they aren't completely green. The litmus test won't come this weekend in Boulder against the Buffs' offense, which is a modest 10th in the Big XII, though any game in the thin air is tough goings. Mizzou has lost their last 4 contests in Boulder, and only won once (1997) there since anyone on their roster has been on earth (1983).

The defense will look to the Sean Weatherspoons, Darnell Terrells, Stryker Sulaks, Brock Christophers and Ziggy Hoods of the world to elevate their games. Garrett and Howard know the shoes they will try to collectively fill are colossal in nature. That D that looked stout against Nebraska, and downright impressive against T-Tech, knows they have a whole new challenge on their hands.

And we'll just try to shake that familiar sinking feeling.

-Note: this post also appears on the new ESPNU@MIZZOU blog... and I think you should give it a look.

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