MU football team prepares for Nebraska

Monday, September 22, 2008 | 10:11 p.m. CDT; updated 2:54 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 15, 2009
Chase Daniel was intercepted twice and Missouri lost 34-20 to Nebraska in 2006, the last time the Tigers played in Lincoln, Neb.

COLUMBIA - It was embarrassing. He said Missouri was bright-eyed, overwhelmed. Two years ago, as a sophomore starter, quarterback Chase Daniel remembers staring down Nebraska's famed "Sea of Red" crowd. He blinked, and it washed away his ambitions and swallowed him whole.

"When we went up there, we got embarrassed," Daniel said of the 34-20 loss during MU's last trip to Lincoln in 2006. "We didn't play well. We turned the ball over.

"It's going to be an adverse situation. We'll be better prepared this time. "

Should MU win at Nebraska on Oct. 4, the Tigers will have passed another landmark on their journey toward national supremacy.

Beat Colorado in Boulder for the first time since 1997? Missouri did it last November.

Win in Manhattan against Kansas State for the first time since 1989? Ditto.

"I could give you a list of things our players have had to overcome since we got here," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "It's a long list. Our players are very well aware of it. We'll get their (NU's) best shot."

The Cornhuskers will fight to keep alive one of their few remaining streaks from the Tom Osborne era. Missouri hasn't won in Lincoln since 1978 when tailback James Wilder ripped Nebraska's defense for 181 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a 35-31 upset victory over the then-No. 2 Cornhuskers.

MU's last trip to Lincoln didn't go well. Nebraska jumped to a 27-6 halftime lead and never allowed Missouri to climb closer than two touchdowns. The Cornhuskers intercepted Daniel twice, and the Tigers' defense was unable to force a turnover. Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor scorched Missouri's secondary for 208 passing yards and two touchdowns, and tailback Brandon Jackson totaled 111 rushing yards. With the victory, the Cornhuskers gained sole possession of the Big 12 North lead and, a week later, they clinched the division title by beating Texas A&M.

Before the Cornhuskers can turn their attention to the Tigers, they will face a difficult test. On Saturday, Nebraska hosts Virginia Tech in the first meeting of a home-and-home series that was announced in 2006. The Cornhuskers will travel to Blacksburg, Va., next year.

In the meantime, MU will use its bye week to prepare. Will Missouri be able to escape its checkered Lincoln past?

Time will tell.

"It would feel real good," defensive tackle Ziggy Hood said. "We're going to take this off week and get well-prepared."

MU-NEBRASKA ON ESPN: ESPN selected the Missouri-Nebraska game to be televised at 8 p.m. It will be the Tigers' second appearance on the network this year. ESPN aired Missouri's season-opening victory over Illinois in St. Louis. Last year, the network televised MU's home victory over Nebraska at 8:15 p.m.

DANIEL AND ‘SPOON HONORED: Daniel and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon received Big 12 Conference player of the week honors for their performances in Missouri's 42-21 victory over Buffalo on Saturday.

Daniel, who completed a conference-record 20 consecutive passes on his way to throwing for a career-high 437 yards, was named offensive player of the week. It's the fourth time he has earned the award. He also received it following games against Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska last year.

Weatherspoon, who made a career-high 20 tackles Saturday, was named defensive player of the week. He leads the team with 58 tackles and ranks third nationally with an average of 12 per game, behind New Mexico State's Derrick Richardson (19) and Florida Atlantic's Frantz Joseph (13.5).

DEFENSE DEVELOPING: Pinkel insists Missouri's defense is better than last year. Missouri ranks No. 77 nationally in total defense and has surrendered an average of 378.5 yards per game. The Tigers rank No. 30 in rush defense (99 yards per game) and No. 110 in pass defense (279.5 yards per game). MU has given up eight passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.

"We're definitely farther along than a year ago," Pinkel said. "It's not even close.

"I think we're doing a lot of things better. I think we did a lot of good things this past Saturday, except for one big play (a 32-yard touchdown pass from Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy to wide receiver Ernest Jackson).

"We're improved. We have a big test in a couple of weeks. Hopefully our best football is ahead of us. "

BYE WEEK PHILOSOPHY: Pinkel said he has three goals for the bye week. He wants players to become rested, to have them focus on academics and for his staff to start preparations for Nebraska. He said coaches would spend the week recruiting and constructing a game plan.

"For us, that's the way it works out," Pinkel said of the bye week schedule. "We'll get about twice the number of practices on Saturday that we would normally get for a game."

MU's second open date is on Nov. 22, a week before the Kansas game in Kansas City. Like this year, the Tigers enjoyed a bye week in 2007 before opening the conference season against Nebraska.

Pinkel will make appearances at various ESPN productions today in Bristol, Conn.

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