Beaten but not broken
Farmer stays in one piece, stakes claim.

By JOE WALLJASPER of the Tribuneís staff

Story ran on Sunday, September 30 2001

Cattle prods and polygraph detectors are two items no longer allowed inside Memorial Stadium because of heightened security. Both would have been needed to force someone in the Missouri interview room to admit that Kirk Farmer is now MUís fulltime quarterback.

Mark Schiefelbein photo
Missouri quarterback Kirk Farmer absorbed this hit from Nebraska's T.J. Hollowell (17) and Scott Shanle but made it through the game unharmed. He completed 15 of 39 passes for 128 yards.
"I donít make that decision," Darius Outlaw said.

"I have no idea," Farmer said.

"I donít talk about the depth" chart "after the game," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel snapped.

Actually, there was quite a bit Pinkel wouldnít discuss.

When asked what positives he extracted from yesterdayís 36-3 loss Nebraska, Pinkel responded: "I canít think of any." When asked why he started Farmer, Pinkel said "the factors are personal."

It requires the intuitiveness of Miss Cleo to get any answers about this team. But if we read the context clues, we can surmise that Farmer is Missouriís quarterback of the present and future if he stays healthy.

A quick postgame check of Farmerís moving parts revealed that everything was operational - a moral victory of the first order for the hard-luck quarterback. Although Farmer had a tough day, completing 15 of 39 passes for 128 yards, Pinkel used Outlaw only for a pre-planned series in the second quarter and mop-up duty at the end.

If Pinkel is willing to start and stick with a struggling Farmer three weeks after he suffered a torn medial-collateral knee ligament, that speaks volumes. And it is good news for a team that needs every bit of offensive continuity it can get if itís going to win a few more games this year. Unless Iím missing something here, Farmer gives Missouri its best chance to win.

Farmer and Outlaw split time with the first unit in practice last week. After deciding that Farmerís knee was strong enough, Pinkel picked him as the starter on Thursday. The move left the normally happy-go-lucky Outlaw grumpy.

"Of course I was mad, but thereís nothing I could do about it," said Outlaw, who completed 1 of 4 passes for 10 yards.

By now, the rest of the Tigers donít bother to have public opinions on the matter. Only the seniors have known anything but instability at quarterback. Maybe Farmer can change that. Or maybe heíll break his ankle on the way to church today.

Pinkel guessed that Farmer has only practiced 10 times this season because of hand and knee injuries. The rust was apparent in yesterdayís game. Farmer started well enough, hitting seven of his first 12 passes to help the Tigers to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter he had attempted 20 passes, completing nine. But as the game wore on, Farmerís accuracy waned.

On an important third-and-3 play from Nebraskaís 45-yard line in the third quarter, Farmer had wide receiver Shirdonya Mitchell open in the left flat but overthrew him. Shortly thereafter, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch made his 95-yard run that gave the Cornhuskers an insurmountable 22-3 lead.

"He was frustrated," Pinkel said of Farmer. "He had some balls dropped and he missed some throws, but I thought he did some good things. Heís rusty, very rusty. He came out and threw better in the beginning than he did later on, but I also think they wear on you a little bit.

Nebraskaís defense didnít get many chances to unload on Farmer. He got great protection most of the game. He suffered his first and only sack in the fourth quarter - an impressive statistic considering how often Missouri threw the ball.

Because of the offensive lineís ability to pass protect and inability to run block, and because the only big-play threat on the team is wide receiver Justin Gage, the 43 passes you saw yesterday might be the wave of the future. If thatís the case, it behooves Missouri to have Farmer on the field as much as possible.

Reach Joe Walljasper at (573) 815-1783 or