Ames, Iowa — The forecast in Ames, Iowa, for Missouri’s contest with Iowa State was the focus of plenty of conversation earlier this week: a 30 percent chance of snow with a near 100 percent chance of Coffman.
But the 46,013 fans who showed up to a frigid Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday night didn’t get either one.
Chase Coffman, Missouri’s senior tight end and the NCAA all-time leader in receptions at the position, missed his second consecutive game for the Tigers with a sprained right big toe, despite sounding confident he would play after missing last week’s 41-24 win over Kansas State in Columbia. Coach Gary Pinkel said Monday it was “very likely” the tight end would play, and though he suited up again, it was freshman Andrew Jones racking up receptions while Coffman could only try to keep warm and subtly hum the chorus to the John Fogerty tune, “Centerfield,” imploring Pinkel to “put me in, Coach.”
“He probably could have gone, but I don’t know if he could have finished,” Pinkel said. “We’re just trying to get him healthy.”
Jones, who earlier in the season said he felt confident he could contribute this year if given the opportunity, made the most of his second start, amassing career highs in both receptions and receiving yards before the end of the first quarter with three catches for 28 yards.
“Until tonight, I think I did a lot of thinking instead of a lot of playing,” Jones said. “Tonight I felt like I just played like what I’m capable of playing."
Jones finished with seven catches for 61 yards, highlighted by a pair of catches on Missouri’s final drive of the first half and a key third-down reception at the end of the first quarter.
“We knew that Iowa State, they always drop their linebackers deep on two-minute stuff,” Jones said. “I just run the underneath drag. I just knew I had to catch the ball, get as many yards and get out of bounds quick so we could have enough time for a field goal.”
Senior kicker Jeff Wolfert capped off the final drive of the half with a 30-yard field goal to put Missouri up 31-7 at the half.
Only sophomore receiver Jeremy Maclin, who finished with eight catches for 103 yards, was more productive than Jones in the win, and nearly half of Maclin’s yards came on one catch: a 43-yard touchdown with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter.
As Coffman’s game-time decision was tilted to a “no” by coaches just after final warm-ups, Jones’ second start was a bit of a surprise.
“This week I just prepared like I did last week because I didn’t know if I was going to start,” Jones said. “I just felt like I got a lot better throughout the game.”
With the Tigers heading into a bye week before playing Kansas in Kansas City, a game meaningless in the standings, Pinkel said Coffman would “for sure” play against the Jayhawks with the Big 12 North title in hand.
Even with Missouri’s all-time leader in touchdown passes on the sidelines, quarterback Chase Daniel came away impressed with the freshman’s play.
“He made some tough catches in some tough situations,” Daniel said. “He didn’t play like a freshman tonight.”