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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Missouri sheds old image, dominates Cornhuskers

Coach Gary Pinkel said his team hasn't played a complete game in a long time.

Oct. 9, 2007

From the moment then-No. 17 Missouri stepped through the smoke and strobe lights and onto a boisterous and overfilled Faurot Field on Saturday night, the game felt unlike any that Columbia had seen in a long time.

When the lights settled on the Tigers' 41-6 victory against the then-No. 25 Nebraska Cornhuskers, Missouri had done something the team hadn't done in a long time: completely dominate in a big game.

Junior quarterback Chase Daniel threw for 401 yards and two touchdowns, ran for two more and led an artful and efficient Missouri offense.

Daniel made the Husker secondary look foolish on multiple occasions, including when he connected with sophomore wide receiver Donario Alexander for a 48-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, which sent the crowd of 70,049 into a frenzy.

The crowd was the largest since Faurot Field was reconfigured in 1995.

Coach Gary Pinkel said he hadn't seen Missouri play a complete game like this in awhile.

"I was so proud of my team," he said. "This is as complete a game as I can remember. The effort we had holding them to six points. That's what it's all about."

And although the offense was stellar, the defense was the story.

The six points MU allowed marked the first time the Tigers kept the Huskers out of the end zone since 1958.

Senior defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams said the bye week to prepare for the Huskers paid off.

"We were just able to prepare more," he said. "They had to worry about Iowa State when we didn't have to. And then when we got out there we made plays when they came to us."

The rush defense, which had been porous to this point, shut down Nebraska's junior running back Marlon Lucky, who came into the game leading the Big 12 in rushing.

Lucky was held to 67 yards rushing, and the Huskers were just 6-for-16 on third down, something Lucky said was a testament to the MU defense.

"The (Missouri) defense just held us," he said. "They came out and played a great game. They got what they wanted."

The Tigers did everything they wanted to do, something that surprised even senior tight end Martin Rucker.

"Nobody thought it'd work out that way," he said. "I thought it'd be a battle, but we have a special group of guys."

Rucker led the Tigers with nine catches for 109 yards, and junior Chase Coffman and senior Will Franklin had six receptions each.

Pinkel said Rucker has continued to improve and impress as the season wears on.

"Rucker made amazing plays," he said. "He's a lot better than he was a year ago."

Rucker attributed his play to being energized by the golden-clad crowd and said it was unlike any environment he had experienced.

"This is the best atmosphere I've ever played in," he said. "The crowd tonight was phenomenal. I just wish it could be like this every game."

Missouri already took a step Saturday night toward shedding the old image of MU, a team that could never perform well in a big game.

"To those who call us the same old Mizzou, everyone gave it their all tonight," Rucker said. "We came out tonight to say that we're not the same. This year is different."

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