COLUMBIA — Urban Meyer was the football coach at Bowling Green when the Falcons beat Missouri 20-13 in 2001 and 51-28 in 2002, the last two times the schools played.
After the 2002 season, Meyer left Bowling Green for Utah where he won a Fiesta Bowl with the Utes. He has since moved on to Florida, where he has won two national championships. Gregg Brandon took over for him at Bowling Green, but was replaced by Dave Clawson after last season.
Gary Pinkel remains coach at Missouri, but heading into Saturday's game between the Tigers and Falcons, Clawson said there's a difference since the last time Bowling Green played Missouri.
“I think the thing that’s happened at Missouri is we’re not playing against just a good team, we’re playing against a good program,” Clawson said Monday in a teleconference.
Clawson credited Missouri, which this week entered the AP poll for the first time this season at No. 25, for its ability to remain successful after the loss of key players.
“It’s the third quarterback in this system,” Clawson said, referring to Blaine Gabbert, who followed Brad Smith and Chase Daniel. “And they graduate players, and they lose guys to the NFL Draft, and they come back and play the way they do against Illinois, and they look very good doing it. They were very efficient. That’s what happens when you have the same head coach and the same system for eight, nine, 10 years.”
Clawson said Gabbert, this week's Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week, looked impressive when Clawson watched film of Missouri's win against Illinois.
“I think everybody knew he could throw the ball and he was big and he was powerful,” Clawson said. “I was impressed with his athleticism. He really made some plays with his feet and throwing the ball on the run.”
Missouri defense also impressed him.
“They made some changes, and they look comfortable in what’s really kind of a new system,” Clawson said. “Even though their coordinator was promoted from within, they did some different things, and they looked really fast on defense, and they’re really good up front, and they were really disruptive against a really good offense in Illinois.”
Clawson, who served as offensive coordinator at Tennessee last season, opened his tenure at Bowling Green with a win Thursday against Troy. His team fell behind 14-0 before coming back to win 31-14.
“I was really proud of how our football team responded,” he said. “Our defense really stepped up. We had some big third and fourth down stops. We shut them out in the second half and returned an interception for a touchdown against a Troy offense that we think is very explosive and has a lot of good skill players.”
He said his team is playing with the attitude that it can repeat what Meyer’s teams did, and upset Missouri. The Falcons have five wins against BCS-conference opponents since they last played the Tigers.
“Every week we prepare to win the game, no matter who we play,” he said. “I think to ever go into a game with a different mindset is really doing your team a disservice.”