COLUMBIA — By 7:30 p.m. Saturday night more than 70,000 Missouri fans will be caged inside Memorial Stadium – or as the athletics department likes to call it: The Zou.
Twelve hours earlier, fans roamed freely behind ESPN’s "College GameDay" set on the Francis Quadrangle. It was transformed into a black and gold jungle.
Cutting through the normally airy and Frisbee-filled quad required 10 minutes of non-stop pushing.
Deep within the forest of fans, it was nearly impossible to distinguish your location. A thick skyline of signs blocked every legitimate view of the stage.
They read everything from the classic "MIZ-ZOU" to "Bieber has Gabbert Fever."
One of the show's hosts, Kirk Herbstreit, said it was the most signs he’s ever seen at "GameDay," which wasn’t all that surprising considering the Wal-Mart on Grindstone Parkway sold out of poster board Friday afternoon.
"I sure haven’t seen that before. We had all kinds of varieties and we had extras and they’re all gone," a Wal-Mart employee said.
It all looked nice on camera, but for the fans it was basically a blind cheering recital. One of the show’s producers got on the microphone before the show started to get the crowd ready for the spotlight.
"And in 5…4…3…2…"
An overhead camera rigged up like a zip-line flew overhead. Another one attached to a 10-foot long arm swooped in front. Everyone on the quad tested his or her vocal cords.
This repeated about 15 times.
And each time thousands of fans stood up on their tippy-toes, trying to be part of the action. The once luscious grass quad looked more like an old football field after a muddy game.
Once the live broadcast began, the fans became even more disconnected from the show. While there was a Jumbotron and loud speakers, not much could be seen or heard.
Every time anyone heard anything that resembled Missouri or caught a glimpse of black and gold on the screen, the crowd went wild, cheering at the back of the hosts’ heads.
Yelling and chanting came naturally after a producer cued the crowd, but when the crew analyzed other games, most fans stood slightly awkwardly, not quite sure how to behave.
At the final minute of the show, Lee Corso made his famous prediction by putting on the mascot head of the team he thought would win. After first pulling out a Missouri helmet, Corso tossed it aside and instead went inside the Sooner mascot.
Even from hundreds of feet away and with, basically, no view of the stage, everyone knew it was time to boo.