COLUMBIA — Inflatable amusements were stationed at the north end of Memorial Stadium before the Black and Gold spring game started Saturday.
There was an inflatable orange bounce house, an inflatable Truman the Tiger, an inflatable ball toss. People waited with their kids in lines at two different spots for balloons that were twisted into the shape of a Tiger and worn as hats. A giant inflatable jersey billowed in a slight breeze.
Projected starters James Franklin, Elvis Fisher, Sheldon Richardson, Eric Waters and Brad Madison sat out of the spring football game with knee injuries, as did 2011 leading rusher Henry Josey, who still needs a second surgery on his injured knee.
In the first half format, the reserves beat the starters 34-10 (they started with a 14-0 lead). In the second half format, the defense beat the offense 5-3.
Corbin Berkstresser, the first-string quarterback in Franklin's absence, completed 13 of 20 passes for 187 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Austin Glaser completed 14 of 25 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Jimmie Hunt led all receivers with 110 yards, which included an 88-yard touchdown. Marcus Murphy rushed for 87 yards on 10 carries, and Kendial Lawrence rushed for 69 yards on six carries.
Linebacker Donovan Bonner returned Berkstresser's interception 65 yards for a touchdown in the first half, while linebacker Will Ebner and defensive end Kony Ealy each forced fumbles.
During halftime, the most improved players of spring practice were announced:
Offensive line: Mitch Morse
Defensive line: Matt Hoch
Wide receiver: Gahn McGaffie
Linebacker: Donovan Bonner
Tight end: Eric Waters
Cornerback: Randy Ponder
Safety: Kenronte Walker
Running back: Marcus Murphy
Quarterback: Corbin Berkstresser
The jersey was not one of the new uniforms. Those were revealed during a ceremony at halftime that itself was quite blown up.
A wall of vapor from a fog machine spread in front of the locker room tunnel, and geysers of the smoke shot up as players from the women’s soccer, volleyball and basketball teams strutted past a strobe light and out to the flashes of cameras. Music by LFMAO and the Spice Girls blared from the stadium speakers. Men’s basketball players Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon hopped around and snapped their own imaginary photos of teammate Laurence Bowers. All that was missing was a runway.
It all led up to the new football uniforms, modeled by three students. A Lil Wayne song played, and a group of former football players moved a little closer to the horde of media to catch a better look. Others chose to look up and watch on the scoreboard screen instead.
The whole thing took nearly as long as either half of football. The game itself was like a sideshow at the carnival.
The uniforms have the word Mizzou across the chest with the Southeastern Conference logo, the tiger head, and the Nike swoosh above it. The tops came in white, black and gold, while there is an additional pair of pants that are anthracite gray. The helmet has the oval tiger head decal on the side with two gold stripes running down the middle. A second helmet is all black and has a bigger, painted gold tiger head on the side. Don Barnes, director of equipment operations, said that helmet is planned to be worn once a season.
Contrary to what some might believe, the uniforms hadn’t been locked up in a vault the last few months. Barnes kept them in his garage. His kids apparently joined him in the effort to keep the new look a secret.
“They’d get mad at me when I’d open the garage door,” Barnes said.
Recruits got to peek at the jerseys when they visited Columbia, and Barnes said more recently the chancellor’s staff did, too. It didn’t matter who it was, though — Barnes and his staff made sure no pictures leaked.
On Friday night, the uniforms were revealed to players and then boosters at the Blue Jean Ball, which featured an even more ostentatious show put on by Daryle Bascom, the director of facilities and events who used to choreograph the shows of bands such as the Flaming Lips. More than one person compared it to a rock concert.
Offensive coordinator David Yost said he doubts that the uniforms have been the deciding factor in any recruiting victories, but all the hype has had a purpose.
"It's an exciting element," he said. "You build excitement to build the program up. If people are talking about Mizzou football, that's good for us."
Once revealed, the jerseys proved to be much less flashy than ones seen at other schools around the country. Head coach Gary Pinkel called them “first class.” Former players such as Danario Alexander and Chase Daniel were enthusiastic about Pinkel’s decision to embrace the newest marketing tactic.
“Missouri’s going to be one of the freshest teams in college football next year,” said Alexander, a wide receiver for the St. Louis Rams. “It’s a big deal… They’re very fashionable.”
“He (Pinkel) has changed a lot since I first got here,” said Daniel, a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. “He’s letting players have more input. I’m happy for him.”
Changes to the field are up next. New turf will be installed either in the next few weeks before camps are held on Faurot Field in May or this summer before practices start again in August. The new border will be gold, and the the tiger head at midfield will be expanded six yards. The diamonds will remain in the end zone, but "MIZZOU" will also be written across it.
Once Barnes finished talking about the production of Saturday's uniform ceremony, he did mention one unresolved practical issue going forward. Many SEC schools have grass fields, and right now the Tigers plan on wearing the white tops and white pants for away games.
This could make the weekly load of wash significantly harder for Barnes' staff.
"I'm going to push hard for the black pants," Barnes said.