Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Opening-Game Jitters? Mizzou Usually Waits a Week Bowling Green Is Hurdle to First 2-0 Start since '87

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Opening-Game Jitters? Mizzou Usually Waits a Week Bowling Green Is Hurdle to First 2-0 Start since '87

Article excerpt

Ah, the memories of Bowling Green State University.

Larry Smith, Bowling Green Class of '62 and current University of Missouri football coach, remembers his college days with fondness. Singing the fight song after victories, hunting for rabbits in nearby fields . . .

That's all nice, but today, Mizzou plays Bowling Green at 1 p.m. at Faurot Field.

"I'm at Missouri and all that old sentimental stuff goes out the window," Smith said. "I coach at Missouri and they're our enemy."

Got it, Coach. After all, the second game of the season has been something of a demoralizing mess for Mizzou the last two years. In MU's last two second games, the Tigers have been outscored 115-0.

"I know about it; you don't have to say anymore," Smith snapped, taking a step away from reporters. "I don't want to talk about it."

If Smith seems a little snippy this week, that's because he is unusually intense. Players say that they've never seen him this focused. The usual post-practice joking around has been missing all week. Smith has been happy to reflect on his days at Bowling Green, but he has almost always ended his reveries by referring to the Falcons as the "enemy," or as the "challenging opponent."

Smith knows that if he can shake the specter of the dreaded Second Game - Mizzou has only won one in seven years - the Tigers will be 2-0 for the first time since 1987. Coincidentally, the uniforms Mizzou is wearing this year (with one minor change) were last worn in 1987.

While much has been made of Missouri's lighter-than-usual schedule, Bowling Green is one of the heavies. Sure, Bowling Green sounds more like an academy for bocce ballers than a football power, but the Falcons have finished the season in The Associated Press' top 30 teams several times recently. Their highly regarded coach, Gary Blackney, has drawn interest from Michigan, Duke and Maryland, and said he would have considered the Mizzou job two years ago if anyone had asked.

Over the last four years, Bowling Green has the eighth-best winning percentage in the country. That's better than Colorado, Michigan, Notre Dame and nearby Ohio State.

Bowling Green was the preseason favorite to win the Mid-American Conference and has been the league champion two of the last four years, but who would know? …

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