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While Tigers stroll to Homecoming victory, fans leave for other festivities

Saturday, October 15, 2011 | 7:06 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Robb Herrelson stood in the parking lot across from the Tiger Store waving a gold-tinted dustpan back and forth in one hand and holding his cup of Seagram’s Seven in the other. There was still more than a quarter left in the Homecoming football game, but Missouri already led 45-10.

“We’re sweeping them up,” he said. “That’s why I’ve got this dustpan.”

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Herrelson, 67, wasn’t done watching the game for the day. He had returned to his bright red 1949 Oldsmobile to “slam” another drink and revel in the Tigers' first conference victory before re-entering Memorial Stadium.

But in Missouri’s 52-17 victory over Iowa State, many fans left at halftime or early in the third quarter. The Tigers were up big, and after all, it was Homecoming. There were other things to do.  

Komi Paniah graduated from MU last spring but drove to Columbia from Kansas City to see friends who still go to school. They were able to get him a student ticket, and he still had his student ID to help get him into the student section. Early in the fourth quarter though, he decided it was time to leave.

“It’s 45-10; we got it under control,” Paniah said. “It’s 3 o’clock, about time to do other things, go to other parties and meet other people.”

For Jerry Brown, the party across the street from Hearnes Center had continued shortly after halftime — or sometime around then. Asked what the score was when he left, he responded, “Well, what’s the score now?”

It didn’t really matter — Missouri was winning, and there were burgers left to eat and Bud Light left to drink at the tailgate he had set up at 8 a.m. Saturday. This is all new for him. Brown, 48, has lived in Colorado the last 22 years but came home for an extended stay three months ago to see his mother and 12 siblings. He had not been home for 10 years. Brown is not sure if he’ll be able to make every home game before returning to Colorado, so he said he’s enjoying every minute of it.

“Just being back home and hanging out, I love it,” he said.

The Missouri football players had places to be, too. Quarterback James Franklin was eager for postgame interviews to finish so he could watch his girlfriend’s volleyball game and see his parents. He understood why fans left early, especially on this day.

“When they leave it’s hopefully because we’re up by a lot and not because we’re doing so bad,” he said. “It’s definitely a good feeling to have fans support us, but once they get enough, they can go. They have things to do.”

Right tackle Dan Hoch got tickets for 20 friends and family members traveling from Iowa. He didn’t know what his plans were for later on Saturday, but like Franklin, he had a good reason to want to get out of the media room.

“My parents stayed at my house last night, and I think they cooked for us this morning,” he said. “I can’t wait to get home and eat.”

Wide receiver L’Damian Washington, who had two long catches for 70 yards, said he appreciated the Homecoming game being earlier in the day this year. After the victory over No. 1 Oklahoma last season, he didn’t get home until after midnight. This year would be different.

“I get to go home, watch a little bit of football and then go out and enjoy Homecoming,” he said. “I don’t go out much, but hey, I think tonight is a great night to celebrate a victory like this and Homecoming.”

Paniah said he was too nervous to rush the field last year, and though he walked downtown to Harpo’s with the goalpost, he now regrets not descending down the stands. He wanted a Missouri win after the team’s recent struggles, but he had hoped for another close game.

Herrelson simply wanted another chance to act goofy. He said he comes to about half of the home games and wears a different costume every time. On Saturday he had a Hawaiian theme complementing his long, narrow, gold-dyed beard with black MU stickers on it. He said more than 50 people had asked to get their picture taken with him.

When Missouri scored to take the 45-10 lead, he figured it was time for more pictures.

“I wasn’t expecting a blowout like this,” Herrelson said. “I’ll go back in, but I had to come out, see the crowd and let my public look at me.”


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