The first time I was asked my prediction of the outcome of the 2012 Missouri football season was during the third week of fall training camp. I was a guest on The Big Phat Sports Show on KFNS in St. Louis. I was hesitant, I stumbled plenty as I began to try to come up with two numbers that might be able to sum up the season. I stopped stumbling and finally said that I couldn’t really make any predictions until after I see Mizzou play an SEC team for the first time, my crystal ball couldn’t be clear until after the Georgia game.
If there was one thing I could predict long before fall camp, it was the atmosphere of the Missouri vs. Georgia game at Faurot. During SEC Media Days, wide receiver TJ Moe said the atmosphere would be similar to that of the Oklahoma game in 2010 (when OU was ranked number one and ESPN’s College Gameday made its first visit ever to Columbia) multiplied by 1.5. I agreed. By 5pm on game day ( an hour and forty-five minutes before kick-off) the press box was packed, a little under an hour before the coin toss, the sidelines were packed with famous Missouri alumnae like ESPN’s Michael Kim and Detroit Pistons guard Kim English. A never-ending line of Missouri recruits made its way down the south end zone to a roped off seating section by the 40 yard line. The stadium was filled by the time the time both teams were warming up. A sea of Georgia red over filled the designated visitors section on the southwest corner of the stadium. Red invaded almost every back corner of Memorial. An “M-I-Z-Z-O-U” chant clashed with “GOOOOO GEORGIA BULL DOGS” at kick-off and by Missouri’s 2nd possession of the game, I was deaf.
From the first through third quarter, the score was what I presumed. I honestly, somewhere deep inside of me mixed with the knowledge I have of the team -the veteran linebacking core, the impressive defensive line and its depth, James Franklin as a dual threat quarterback, an all-conference corner in EJ Gaines, running backs Kendial Lawrence and Marcus Murphy with extra confidence coming off their power performances against Southeastern Louisiana- coupled with the four suspended players on Georgia , I thought Missouri would win this game, not by much, but still a win.
The game was a battle of two really great defenses, Missouri’s led by Sheldon Richardson and Georgia’s led by Jarvis Jones. After three and a half quarters, a win for Missouri was within reach. Missouri was down by a touch down and extra point. A little under Eight minutes left to play and that win began to pull out of reach when Jarvis Jones was unable to be contained by Missouri’s handicapped offensive line (Jack Meiners was out of the game for a sprained knee and Elvis Fisher had to go to the trainers room for an MCL strain). Jones intercepted Franklin’s pass and that would set Georgia up at the Missouri 1 yard line. Georgia’s freshman, Todd Gurley, ran the 12 inches into the end zone. Marshall Morgan’s kick was good and the score was 34-20 Georgia. Seven and a half minutes left to play, Missouri’s third and two at the Missouri 31, Georgia’s Jones breaks through the offensive line and sacks Franklin. The red corners of Memorial Stadium simultaneously begin “OLD MAN FOOTBALL” chants and the aisles toward each exit began to fill with black and gold. Jones ended the night with nine tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and an the interception that changed the momentum of that fourth quarter. Georgia won that game 41-20.
It began to sink in that my expectations were not met, this loss was something I didn’t see coming, mostly because in the five football seasons I’ve lived in Columbia, Mizzou had not lost at home in the beginning of the season. The last time the Tigers lost in Columbia early in the season was the first home game of 2005 against New Mexico. It felt strange.The game against Georgia was an historical game for Missouri, it’s first conference game as members of the SEC, and it would have an unhappy ending- early in the season- for the home team.
Post-game was not what I expected either. Franklin took longer than usual to come out of the locker room. The scrum of media surrounded the door that Franklin would emerge from. We stood there for close to ten minutes, jumping at the creek of the door when different players would walk in and out. Finally, Franklin quietly walked into the room with his eyes facing the floor. After he moved his way into the middle of the scrum, he looked up at the cameras, the lights and into the eyes of each reporter asking questions to expose his glossy eyes, red in each corner as his congested-sounding voice answered each question quieter than usual, with a sad undertone. The left side of his face was cut up with purple scratches and bruises, one that met the corner of his eye. He looked beat up and he didn’t seem like himself. He was less upbeat and seemed incredibly sad, much sadder than the quirky quarterback we’re all used to. Franklin maintained his “Yes sir” s and “No Ma’am”s and even shared a glimpse of his ultra white smile about five minutes into the presser.
The best and worst parts about each football season comes from when the unexpected occurs or when expectations are not met. Even after watching Missouri vs. Georgia I still can’t make a prediction for the rest of Missouri’s season. Missouri displayed so much talent but at the same time, made so many mistakes and had too many turnovers in the fourth quarter that would result in a loss. I think it’s safe to predict that Missouri’s first season in the SEC will just be…unpredictable.