NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Missouri Tigers (5-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) arrived at Vanderbilt Stadium a little after 4 p.m. Saturday.
The team unloaded off the bus and was welcomed by Tiger fans who had formed a tunnel for the team to walk through. Players smiled and gave high fives to their faithful following.
As senior guard Max Copeland neared the stadium entrance, something caught his eye — a giant poster of his face. What was more important was who was holding that sign, Copeland’s sister. He stepped out of line to embrace her with a loving hug.
Copeland’s family made the trek to Nashville, Tenn., to cheer him on, and they weren’t alone in their Tiger black and gold. They were joined by an estimated 7,000-8,000 other Missouri fans.
Missouri running back Henry Josey took a pitch on the right side from quarterback James Franklin and pivoted hard on his left foot, darting toward the Vanderbilt end zone, finally spilling over the goal line.
The touchdown gave Missouri a 26-7 lead over the hosting Commodores and as Josey’s teammates hoisted him into the air in celebration. It was not the silence of the stunned home crowd that filled the void at Vanderbilt Stadium.
It was the fight song of the Missouri Tigers that rung heartily through the air, followed by chants of “MIZ-ZOU!”
“Might as well say it was a home crowd,” senior receiver L’Damian Washington joked after the game.
Missouri’s fan group was a mix of students and alumni. Tiger’s Lair, Missouri’s student cheering section, lined the front row of the visitors' corner. The group picked Nashville as their annual road trip.
Missouri alumni showed up in style, not only taking over the Commodores’ stadium but also taking over their city. There was almost as much Tiger spirit as Commodore pride around the city of Nashville leading up to game time.
Even men’s basketball coach Frank Haith made the trip down to cheer on the Tigers.
Missouri jumped out to a 20-0 lead before Vanderbilt was able to find the end zone for the first time. The frenzied Missouri crowd drowned out the Commodores. It felt more like a neutral site game than a home one for Vanderbilt.
Even the Commodore fans couldn’t stand the Missouri cheers. Late in the second quarter, after Josey’s touchdown, one fan in the end zone seating area looked desperately toward the Missouri section and cried, “Oh, just shut up!”
The Commodore fans began their exodus with 1:15 left in the third quarter, when the Tigers took a 44-21 lead. It was right after this that the Missouri fans performed MU’s famed “Missouri Waltz.” The reaction from the Commodore fans was one of curiosity and bewilderment, the opponent was performing home traditions in their stadium.
“Our fans get it,” Washington said. “SEC play, and our fans stepped it up tonight. That was big time, to see that sea of gold over there.”
“I’m so proud of our fans tonight,” senior defensive end Michael Sam added. “I love our fans. Hopefully they keep supporting us and we keep on winning. I’m proud to be a Tiger right now.”
By the middle of the fourth quarter, there were only a few Vanderbilt fans left scattered across the bleachers. The student section was whittled down to the front row faithful.
Missouri fans stayed until after the final whistle. When the clock struck zero, the Tiger fans sat and waited. They waited for the players to shake hands and say their congrats. They waited for them to come over next to them on the field.
Then, together, the fans and players sang the Missouri fight song before erupting in cheers as the Tigers left Vanderbilt Stadium as victors.