Tribune Online Sports

[Back | Archive]

Story ran on October 23, 1994

While Missouri coach Larry Smith spoke of opportunity in preparing to play
Nebraska, it was missed opportunities that played the main role in yesterday's

The No. 3 Cornhuskers defeated the Tigers 42-7 at Faurot Field, but Smith had
few complaints with how his team performed in the first half of play.

But the second half was a different story.

Smith gave his team a verbal lashing in the locker room after the game and
emerged to tell reporters that he is ``searching for fighters.''

``I don't like losing, I hate losing, I despise losing,'' Smith said. ``I'm
not going to get used to losing, and I'm not going to let them get used to

Yet the outcome couldn't have been much different as the Tigers (2-5, 1-2 Big
Eight) struggled to score and had a defensive collapse against Nebraska (8-0,
3-0) in the fourth quarter.

Granted, most teams have struggled offensively against Nebraska, which had the
fifth-best rushing defense in the nation entering the game.

While the Tigers could muster just 198 total yards compared with the
Cornhuskers' 482, a combination of gaffes and bad luck were more telling than
the numbers.

The Tigers' offensive woes were apparent during the first drive of the third
quarter. The Cornhuskers were called for holding on the kickoff and were stuck
at their own 15. Two plays later, quarterback Brook Berringer fumbled after
being pressured by outside linebacker Chris Singletary. MU halfback Clayton
Baker recovered at the Nebraska 10.

But the recovery didn't come easily as Baker related the experience as if he
were in the county fair trying to get a handle on a greased pig.

``I was trying to pick up the ball, but I have bad hands for some odd reason
and the ball was like grease,'' Baker said. ``I picked it up, dropped it.
Picked it up, dropped it, and then I just fell on it.''

Smith couldn't have conceived much of a better chance at scoring. After MU
tailback Brock Olivo ran for 9 yards, the Tigers had second and goal from the
1. But then tailback Joe Freeman had too close of an encounter with Nebraska
cornerback Barron Miles' helmet.

``He had it in his left hand, and I put my face on the ball and it just came
out,'' Miles said.

NU linebacker Ed Stewart scooped up the ball, squelching the Tigers' hopes.
Smith said he felt that was key to the game. Had the Tigers scored, they would
have closed the gap to 14-6 and would have gained some confidence.

``I think it was real pivotal,'' Smith said. ``I think that was the key for
us, the whole key to the game. For us to win a game like this you've got to
take something like that and turn it into seven points and make it tight. It
gives you momentum; it gives you motivation; it gives you everything.''

The Cornhuskers didn't score on the recovery, but Miles intercepted a Jeff
Handy pass. A few plays later NU had a first-and-goal opportunity at the 7,
but MU's defense showed some resolve. But before it could escape unscathed,
another bizarre twist emerged. NU scored on fourth and 1, but the Tigers
appeared to have been short staffed.

Defensive guard Steve Martin said he thought that MU was without two players
when the Cornhuskers scored.

``We didn't get everybody in on that drive, we were short two guys,'' Martin
said. ``We were missing an interior lineman and I think a secondary guy.''

As if that weren't enough, Berringer made amends for his fumble on NU's next
drive. While facing third and 15 from MU's 30, Berringer connected on a
30-yard pass to split end Brendan Holbein.

But what appeared to incense Smith even more was that NU scored twice in the
final seven minutes of the game, leaving no doubt that the Tigers would still
look to 1978 as the last time they beat Nebraska.

``When you have a whole quarter of play, anything can happen,'' Smith said.

So futile was the Tigers' effort in the late going that Smith said it
overshadowed the progress they made in the first half. Defensively, the Tigers
got off to a strong start holding Nebraska without a first down for the first
15:10 of the game.

Smith did praise the efforts of wide receiver Rahsetnu Jenkins who had a
career-high eight receptions for 90 yards.

Jenkins had seven catches in the first half, and his 34-yard touchdown
reception from Handy was the longest play from scrimmage this season.

``Every dog has a day, and I guess I was a dog today,'' Jenkins said.

But Smith is still trying to figure out exactly what kind of team he is
working with these days.

Though the Tigers didn't beat Colorado, Smith came away feeling good about
their effort. Last week, they won on the road against Oklahoma State. But this
week, he insisted, was digression.

``We need 11 guys on the field who will play their butts off,'' Smith said.

Losing, he insisted, will not be tolerated. When asked if there were any
players who accepted defeat, Smith said anyone who had those thoughts had
better get their spirit examined.

``I want to make damn sure, because if they were'' accepting defeat ``they
better not come back.''



A trio of Nebraska tacklers take hold of Rahsetnu Jenkins. (Lisa D. Finger

Missouri tight end Bill Lingerfelt, left, and guard Mike Morris have their
heads down in the fourth quarter. (Lisa D. Finger photo)

[Back | Archive]

Send questions or comments to: