COLUMBIA - Chase Daniel said on Monday that everything would have to go perfectly for him to come out of the game before halftime.
Rock Bridge alum Chase Patton trotted out onto Faurot Field with over four minutes to play in the second quarter.
"That's what we expect, no matter the opponent, no matter if it's USC, Alabama, SEMO; it doesn't matter," Daniel said. "We want to score every single time we touch the ball."
For the game's first 30 minutes, the No. 6 Tigers toyed with Southeast Missouri State, from Cape Girardeau, countering every SEMO flicker of hope with a crowd-pleasing haymaker on their way to a 42-0 lead. That allowed reserves and freshmen to scrub up the mess for the third and fourth quarters en route to a 52-3 win.
After an impressive first-quarter drive inside the red zone by Southeast Missouri State, Missouri's defense suddenly hardened, defending three consecutive shots at the end zone by Redhawk quarterback Houston Lillard and sending the ensuing field goal sputtering toward the SEMO sideline.
"When teams are having a good drive like they were, it can always hurt the offense when you make big plays like that," junior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. "It's kind of like putting your foot on their throat, and that's what we tried to do."
Four plays later, the Tigers took a 21-0 lead on a gadget play after Daniel, fresh off catching a pass while lined up as a wide out from receiver Jeremy Maclin, found Derrick Washington in the end zone. Why the Tigers used a play usually reserved for a rough night offensively, or to soften up an overbearing defense, was the question on most minds after what seemed like an unnecessary exercise. Pinkel, though, seemed less than concerned about tipping his team's hand.
"We run a lot of stuff," Pinkel said, heavily emphasizing "lot." "I'll yell at (offensive coordinator) Dave Christensen for running that thing."
Daniel added that the Tigers installed the play in preparation for Illinois in the season's first week, but Christensen never got a chance to radio it in.
Washington's grab from the cross-field throw even had SEMO coach Tony Samuel's head spinning.
"They gave us at least seven different looks from what we've seen on this year's film," Samuel said. "That's just what they do."
For a half, at least, the Tigers executed an unapologetic gameplan.
The lone mistake for the Tigers in the first half came in the form of a personal foul from safety Justin Garrett, flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact on a hit that sent Redhawk receiver Walter Peoples to the bench for the rest of the drive with a bloodied forehead. Even with the lopsided final score, the Redhawks made at least one new fan with their performance.
"How they played, how they competed, how hard they pursued, and how hard they competed to the very end ... I was so very, very impressed," Pinkel said. "That says a lot about their program."
Few would have expected Weatherspoon to equal All-American Maclin's touchdown total two weeks into the Tigers' historic season. However, that's exactly what the Jasper, Texas, native did Saturday, trotting into the end zone 65 yards after intercepting Lillard on the second play of a second-quarter drive that began in Missouri territory.
Although the junior lines up in the defensive backfield, he said his performance over the past two weeks validates a request he's made for at least a season.
"Me and Willy Mo, we always try to get in there, make sure we can get us an offensive package before we leave," Weatherspoon said. "But who knows?"
For Daniel, it was a near-flawless night against a clearly overmatched opponent in a performance Tiger fans have come to expect from the senior signal-caller.
In his six drives, he certainly didn't hurt his Heisman chances, completing 16 of 17 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. The Tigers scored 42 points before he gave the reins to Patton and then freshman Blaine Gabbert, who split time in the second half.