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Column: Players, fans bring A game

Oct. 9, 2007

Texas A&M has the 12th Man, a term depicting the immense support the Aggie faithful generate each game. Duke has the Cameron Crazies, the overwhelming cheering section at home basketball games. And Saturday night, Missouri fans took a giant leap toward joining that elite fan base.

With ESPN coverage and a win worth ramifications that many players and fans have never dreamt of experiencing, Saturday's game meant everything to this university.

The athletic department called for a Gold Rush, Gary Pinkel requested support and the students and alumni answered by providing the largest home crowd at Faurot Field since 1984. As an enthused MU team stormed the field, the players were met by even more energized fans. From the opening kick off, Missouri never stumbled and scored two touchdowns on its first two possessions.

As for Nebraska, concentration quickly became an issue, and the fans forced an opening drive false start. While Missouri never looked back, Nebraska could never recover. As play continued, junior quarterback Chase Daniel took it upon himself to make a statement. He connected with eight different receivers in the first half for 222 yards in the air and rushed for 54 yards on the ground, totaling more yards than the Nebraska trio of running backs combined.

In addition to the already astounding statistical assault, Daniel ran and threw for a touchdown. The second half was much like the first: The offense continued to dominate, and the defense refused to be outshined, allowing only two first half field goals and, literally, nothing more.

Nebraska senior quarterback Sam Keller was limited to only 104 passing yards, and the Nebraska running game only achieved 40 more yards. Daniel, on the other hand, was far from finishing the finest performance of his career. Daniel added both another rushing and passing touchdown, giving him four total for the game. The day was oddly similar to 2003, when, like Daniel, quarterback Brad Smith single-handedly beat Nebraska in a game Missouri had to win. Fittingly, Daniel trails only Smith for the greatest single performance in Tigers' football history.

But, despite the exceptional performance of Daniel, the real stars of Saturday's romping were the Missouri fans. "M-I-Z! Z-O-U!" chants became recurrent, as did a 20-minute wave across the stadium. Daniel even got into the pandemonium and started his own chant to the tune of a familiar chorus: "hey, hey, hey ... goodbye."

As the game concluded, Missouri had the class and poise to act as it had been there before. Despite the intrigue and desire to charge the field after the big victory, the fans understood Missouri was the favorite and to charge in front of national television would poorly represent their school.

As a consolation, the players stormed the bleachers, celebrating the victory with the fans they knew they could not have done it without. Tiger fans knew they needed to represent at the highest level, and accordingly, they did not disappoint.

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