Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tigers Go Back to Their Roots Mizzou Ends Skid by Staining Eagles in the Grass 28-7

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tigers Go Back to Their Roots Mizzou Ends Skid by Staining Eagles in the Grass 28-7

Article excerpt

It took all of 10 seconds Saturday night for the University of Missouri football team to begin to purge the memories of its ghoulish decade on Omniturf and rekindle the embers of a bygone era. In a scintillating, almost poetic return to a grass playing field at Faurot Field, Mizzou kick returner Kenyetta Williams returned the University of North Texas' opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.

The return, alas, was called back because of a penalty for illegal use of the hands. But it nonetheless set the tone for a night of splendor in the grass, as the Tigers ended a home losing streak at seven games and stomped North Texas 28-7 before 47,214 fans at Faurot Field.

"Even though it didn't count," sophomore tailback Brock Olivo said, "that still told everybody we were going out and we meant business."

Mizzou, with eight first-time starters in the lineup, greeted North Texas back into the ranks of Division I with an overwhelming rushing game and smothering defense to provide second-year head coach Larry Smith with his first home victory.

"You bet I was conscious of that," Smith said.

Any observer, of course, would have been conscious of the change in MU's playing field. And no one seemed to relish it more than the Tigers' ample backfield: MU rushed for four touchdowns and 347 yards, the most the Tigers have had in a game since plundering Kansas for 471 on Nov. 19, 1988.

Olivo led the Tigers with 129 yards on 28 carries, and fullback Ernest Blackwell rushed for 92 yards - including a 60-yard touchdown. Freshman Devin West ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

The Tigers also created eight turnovers, including six interceptions, and held North Texas to 200 yards total offense. Defensive back Clayton Baker tied a school record with three interceptions.

Deflated as they could have been by the exhilarating but potentially exasperating opening play, the Tigers promptly displayed the resilience Smith had clamored for - and had been so glaringly absent through Mizzou's 11 successive losing seasons.

With North Texas on the scoot and facing second and 9 at the MU 41, quarterback Jason Mills' pass was deflected by linebacker Darryl Chatman into the alert hands of Baker. His first career interception gave the Tigers the ball at their own 32, and Mizzou methodically barged 68 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead.

The 5-minute 17-second drive, buoyed by eight Olivo carries for 34 yards, was capped by Brandon Corso's 8-yard play-action pass to freshman Jake Stueve. Stueve, MU's third-string tight end, was marooned in the end zone by the bamboozled North Texas defense but had to leap to secure Corso's high pass.

Mark Norris' first career extra-point attempt was good, making it 7-0 Tigers with 2:22 left in the first quarter. MU, though, bungled abundant scoring opportunities on two of its next three possessions. …

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