20 interesting facts about Missouri football
Think you know Missouri football? It would be impossible to keep track of every tidbit of information from the Tigers’ long and storied history, which began in 1890.
Here are 20 facts you may or may not know about Mizzou football:
57-54-9: Mizzou’s all-time record in the Border War with Kansas, a name that reflects guerrilla warfare between the bordering states during the Civil War. The 1960 result is disputed, as the Jayhawks won, but later forfeited due to an ineligible player who scored two touchdowns in the game (some say the all-time series record is 56-55-9). The two teams played football every year from 1919 to 2011, when Missouri left the Big 12 in favor of the SEC.
Truman The Tiger: Casual fans may immediately recognize the first half of the team’s mascot, named for Missouri-born United States President Harry S. Truman. But did you know the “Tiger” portion of the name traces back to Civil War times? As Mizzou’s official website describes it, “plundering guerrilla bands habitually raided small towns” like Columbia, Mo. Bill Anderson, one of the most brutal Confederate guerrilla leaders, often targeted Union loyalists in Missouri. Rumors spread that he intended to sack the town of Columbia, which organized an armed guard of citizens (called “The Missouri Tigers”). The Tigers built a blockhouse and fortified the old courthouse. Anderson and his marauders never showed, perhaps detouring around the city once the reputation of those Tigers reached his ears.
.554 winning percentage: The Tigers claim an overall record of 663–534–52 during 124 seasons, per the school’s official record-keeping.
The Original Homecoming: Many institutions claim the first-ever college football homecoming, but only one gets credit for it from the NCAA, Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. “What is Missouri?” would be the correct answer. Before 1911, the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association passed a rule requiring conference games to be played on campus, preventing the annual Border War between Missouri and Kansas from taking place in Kansas City. Fearing a sparse crowd in Columbia, Mo., then-head football coach and athletic director Chester Brewer invited alumni to “come home” for the game.
Fifth Down: Missouri unfortunately was part of one of the most blatant, clear-cut, factual errors by an officiating crew in college football history on Oct. 6, 1990. Facing the eventual national champion Colorado Buffaloes, Missouri held a 31-27 lead in the game’s final seconds with CU driving. The chain crew did not flip the down marker after second down. The Tigers stuffed Eric Bieniemy short of the end zone and backup quarterback Charles Johnson spiked the ball with two seconds left on fourth down, forgetting the team already had run three plays. The officials forgot as well, apparently, awarding CU a “fifth down,” during which Johnson may or may not have scored a touchdown. But Colorado officially won the game, 33-31.
Move Aside, Maclin: Jeremy Maclin may have been a two-time All-American at Mizzou and a Pro Bowl receiver in 2014. But it’s the 5-foot-8 Marcus Murphy who now holds the team record for most combined kickoffs and punts returned for touchdowns (7). Murphy finished his college career with 2,837 punt and kickoff return yards.
15: Conference championships in Missouri football history. Most of those came in the Big Eight, with coach Dan Devine securing the most recent title in 1969 (shared with Nebraska). It’s been 46 years since the Tigers won a conference championship, but coach Gary Pinkel has led the team to five division titles, including back-to-back SEC East crowns.
Faurot Field: The namesake of Missouri’s football field, Don Faurot, helped lay the original sod at Memorial Stadium in 1926. A three-sport star at Missouri and later the athletic director for many years, Faurot’s most notable contributions came as a coach. He helped the team erase more than $500,000 in debt and invented the Split-T offense, leading Mizzou to its first bowl game in 1939 and becoming the first coach in program history with more than 100 wins. In 1995, the university converted the playing surface from artificial back to natural grass, and Faurot installed the final square of sod. He died later that year at 93 years old.
202: Number of NFL draft picks in Missouri football history. Mizzou as an NFL pipeline isn’t a recent phenomenon, as the program sent dozens of players to the pro league prior to 1960 and even produced five NFL draft picks in 1940.
Line Of Scrimmage League, Line Of Scrimmage Team: Missouri has produced 35 All-Americans in its history, and 19 of those have played along the offensive or defensive line. The Tigers are a great fit for the SEC in that the team boasts of a dominant defensive front. But this isn’t the first golden era for Mizzou’s defensive line: Harold Burnine (’55), Danny LaRose (’60) and Conrad Hitchler (’62) all earned All-American status at defensive end within an eight-year window.
M-I-Z: The date was Sept. 25, 1976. The No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes hosted Missouri in Columbus, Ohio. Mark Beindorff, a clarinet player in Marching Mizzou, suggested the band adapt its own version of the Buckeyes’ traditional “O-H!” “I-O!” chant, which it implemented at halftime. Missouri pulled off a huge road upset, 22-21, and the M-I-Z! Z-O-U! chant became a program staple. Today, the student section yells out “M-I-Z” at games, followed by a return volley of “Z-O-U” from alumni.
32.2%: Of the school’s 31 all-time bowl appearances, coach Gary Pinkel is responsible for 10. The winningest coach in school history (113 victories), Pinkel led a streak of seven consecutive years with a bowl appearance that ended in 2012. Since then, he’s won back-to-back SEC East titles. Pinkel has coached Mizzou to a combined five division titles in the Big 12 and SEC. He’s also one of two coaches in all of FBS who owns the career wins record at two different schools (Missouri and Toledo).
Unbeaten Seasons: Yes, that’s plural. The Tigers finished the 1909 football season 7-0-1 with a Missouri Valley Conference title, bolstered by coach Bill Roper, who eventually won four college football national championships at Princeton. Then, in 1960, the team went unbeaten and untied — a perfect 11-0 — if you count the previously-discussed forfeit by Kansas. Missouri entered that game ranked No. 1, holding eight of its previous nine opponents to single digits. The Tigers lost, 23-7, but Kansas later forfeited due to Bert Coan, who scored two touchdowns in the game, being voted ineligible.
31.5: Mizzou’s career sacks record, held by Brian Smith. Players like Shane Ray, Aldon Smith, Michael Sam and Justin Smith have produced huge single-season totals, but none have come close to the four-year production of the less-heralded Brian Smith (2003-06), who built up huge career numbers as a situational pass rusher early in his career.
Take A Rock: Mizzou’s rock “M” guarding the embankment behind the North end zone is one of the most unique landmarks in college football. A group of zealous freshmen created it in 1927, celebrating a win against Kansas State by organizing some leftover rocks from the construction of Memorial Stadium. Today the “M,” whitewashed by incoming freshman before the start of the fall semester each year, measures 90 feet wide and 95 feet tall. Senior football players take a piece of the rock when they leave Memorial Stadium for the final time.
12,515: Passing yards by Chase Daniel during his four seasons at Missouri (2005-08), setting the all-time record. Daniel also passed Brad Smith’s school record for total offense, throwing for a remarkable 72 touchdowns during his final two seasons in Columbia.
Coaching Hotbed: Gary Pinkel, Dan Devine and Don Faurot make a fine trio of top historical coaches, but they’re not the only strong leading men in Tigers football history. Of the team’s 12 inductees in the College Football Hall of Fame, five are head coaches, including Bill Roper, Jim Phelan and Frank Broyles. The latter launched his head coaching career at Mizzou in 1957 before accepting the same job at Arkansas in 1958.
Nov. 24, 2007: One of the greatest dates in Missouri football history, the Tigers entered Arrowhead Stadium as the No. 3 team in the nation, preparing to face then-No. 2 Kansas. No. 1-ranked LSU lost to Arkansas in three overtimes the day before. Quarterback Chase Daniel completed 40-of-49 passes as Mizzou ruined Kansas’ perfect season and ascended to No. 1 in the nation, coming within a Big 12 championship game of playing for the BCS national title.
The Original Spread Offense Dual-Threat: Brad Smith, a four-year starter at Missouri (2002-05), became the first player in NCAA history to throw for more than 8,000 yards and run for more than 4,000. (For comparison’s sake, Florida’s Tim Tebow threw for 9,286 and ran for just 2,947.) Smith, second to Chase Daniel on the school’s all-time passing list, still holds Mizzou’s records for career rushing yards (4,289) and career rushing touchdowns (45).
Border War, Part II?: Missouri’s current annual crossover game with the SEC West pits the Tigers against Arkansas, which also happens to share a border with the state. Missouri and Arkansas have played six times in history, rather than 120. But the series does date to 1906, when the Tigers beat the Razorbacks, 11-0. Mizzou holds a 4-2 all-time advantage, defeating Arkansas, 21-14, last season in the teams’ first-ever meeting as conference opponents.