Texas has not played a home game the week after OU since it beat No. 3 Nebraska, 24-20, in 1999. So, here come the Tigers who -- in several respects -- are almost a spitting image of the Horns.
Both teams have dazzling running quarterbacks but with suspect arms. Both teams lean heavily on a pair of gifted tight ends. Both teams have improving defenses anchored by an award candidate at WLB. And both teams are desperate for a solid win over a ranked opponent to help ease the hangover of a previous loss.
"Any time you lose, you lose a part of yourself as a football team," Brown said. "You have to re-group and get it over"
No Orangeblood needs reminding of what happened last weekend in Dallas, but how did Missouri fall 24-14 to Troy last month? After all, Missouri was a favorite to win the Big 12 North and Troy had been playing D-I football for less than four years.
Missouri dominated most of the statistical categories in that September 9 affair and actually jumped to a 14-0 lead during the first eight minutes of the game. But Troy scored on a trick play (a lateral pass from the WR to the RB) and then added another TD when an O-lineman advanced a fumble 63 yards for the score. Meanwhile, the Troy defense forced Tiger punts on each of its last five possessions of the second quarter. Missouri had three costly turnovers following intermission (two INTs, one fumble) and Troy would add another TD off a busted play.
"We're not going to count that one," Brown said. "You look at the film but that's not who they are."
Now, the team from the Show Me state wants to show us something. The Tigers are 4-1 but 2-0 in Big 12 play for only the second time since the league formed in 1996. The conference wins have come against Colorado (17-9) and Baylor (30-10), but Mizzou wants to show it can win a road game against a nationally ranked, traditional power.
Then there's Texas. Following a shutout loss to its archrival and a near miss against the only other decent team (Arkansas) on its schedule, Texas has arguably more to prove. Four of Texas' next six opponents are ranked in the Top 30, all have winning records, and three of those games are on the road.
But there's only one game in town Saturday. And the outcome will go a long way toward revealing a true paper Tiger in this league.
Two words: Brad Smith.
The junior is already the program's leader in total offense (8,055) and, with 84 yards on the ground Saturday, will become the tenth leading rushing QB in college football history (he currently has 2,735 career rush yards). His 1,406 rushing yards last year was the fourth-highest single season total in D-I football history. He is 464 yards shy of the program's career rushing mark (Jeff Handy, 1991-94).
"He looks like a Heisman Trophy candidate," Brown said. "He's big, strong and tough. He's the captain. The thing that amazes me from his earlier days, and I haven't seen him much, is the accuracy in his passing. He doesn't get sacked much and that's the danger."
Smith is 86-of-152 passing for 1,010 yards (202 ypg) this season, including 10 TDs and three INTs.
The offense is designed to get Smith into the open spaces and wait for him to create.
Like Texas, much of MU's scheme is to operate out of the shotgun and use zone reads, but coaches will also try to spring Smith through counters, leads and misdirection plays.
"We're probably more of a zone read team than they are," OC Greg Davis said. "I don't think they emphasize the shotgun runs as much as we do. But I would think there would be a lot of similarities in the way (both offenses) look."
Junior TB Damien Nash is the leading rusher with 464 yards on 98 carries (90.6 ypg) followed by Smith's 363 yards on 60 attempts.
"I like their running back," Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson said. "That guy is just a little motorscooter (listed at 5-11)."
Similar quarterbacks can breed similar offenses. The biggest difference, Brown said, is in the passing game.
"They've got a junior and a senior receiver who are really good," Brown added, "and (Smith) has played a bunch of snaps. He's stayed healthy. It's hard to get a shot at him."
Junior FL Sean Coffey is a target at 6-5, 220 and paces his team with 18 catches for 308 yards, including four TDs. Senior H-WR Thomson Omboga ranks fifth on the MU career reception list with 103 catches. This season, he's posted 15 grabs for 149 yards.
"They have the big-body type wide receivers who go up and get balls," Robinson said.
Mizzou probably wouldn't trade its TE tandem with anyone. Senior Victor Sesay is second on the squad in both receptions (16) and receiving yards (189) but it's RS-freshman Martin Rucker who's listed atop the depth chart (despite missing most of spring drills with an injured shoulder). Rucker has 138 yards on nine catches in 2004.
"They've got older offensive linemen and they're a good team," Brown said.
Older, yes, but not necessarily experienced. The O-line lost four starters from last year's squad, returning only junior WG Tony Palmer (24 starts in three seasons).
Mizzou is averaging 196.4 rushing ypg (NCAA No. 24) and 215 ypg through the air (NCAA No. 50). It's third down conversion rate of 47 percent (39-of-83) trails only Oklahoma (59 percent).
When you think Missouri football, you think Brad Smith. However, MU's primary identity right now lies with its defense. Mizzou sits atop league standings in total defense, allowing an average of 259.4 ypg (NCAA No. 8), compared to last year's squad that gave up 381 ypg (NCAA No. 64). The Tigers are currently ranked 10th nationally in passing defense (161.4 ypg) and No. 18 against the run (98 ypg). The 63 combined points through five games are the fewest Missouri has allowed in 23 years.
So, how did Mizzou manage so much defensive improvement in so short a time? For starters, the Tigers return nine starters. Then, ignoring the fact that neither Oklahoma nor Texas Tech are on the Tigers schedule this season, and that those defensive stats have been compiled at the expense of Arkansas State, Ball State, Troy and Baylor...
"They have a lot better team speed than they've had," Brown said. "They're stopping the run, obviously, at 98 yards a game, as good as anybody. They disguise well. And (QB) Brad Smith stays on the field."
The anchor of the Tiger defense, which may be the most blitz-happy of the teams remaining on Texas' schedule, is WLB James Kinney. Kinney needs 45 tackles to break the MU career record of 415. He's posted 41 tackles through five games but has averaged more than 11 stops per game the past two seasons.
Junior DT C.J. Mosley ranks second in the Big 12 in TFL (1.4 per game) and fourth in sacks (.60 p/g).
Junior CB Marcus King is stepbrother to Texas SS Michael Huff and is tied for the team lead with most take-aways (2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery). CB Shirdonya Mitchell is considered the D's fastest player but is clearly the Big 12's master thief this season. His three INTs top the league and are fifth overall in D-I football. Junior FS Jason Simpson is MU's second-leading tackler with 39 stops, 21 solo. Mizzou's defense has tallied 10 INTs through five games after grabbing just nine all last season.
The Tigers base out of the 4-3 but have shown a 4-2-5 set on passing downs.
OLD TIMES SAKE
The 1894 origination of the Texas-Missouri series ties it with Texas A&M as UT's oldest active opponent. The teams have met just 18 times, with Texas holding a 13-5 series lead. Missouri's last win against the Horns came during John Mackovic's final season in 1997, a 31-29 decision in Columbia. Texas took the most recent decision when it upended the Tigers on their own turf in 2001, 35-16. The Tigers last series win in Austin came in 1896.