COLUMBIA — Welcome to the Daniel J. Devine Pavilion.
The air is stale, the temperature is uncomfortably warm, and for the second day in a row, you will find more than 100 caged Tigers desperate for a second lease on major college football life.
Senior wide receiver Marcus Lucas was wearing red at practice Wednesday after suffering a minor hamstring strain. Cornerback John Gibson (ankle) and wide receiver Wesley Leftwich (hamstring) were in red, no-contact practice jerseys for the second straight day.
Meanwhile, freshman defensive tackle A.J. Logan, who has been dealing with a knee injury, finally shed the red jersey at practice Wednesday.
Coach Gary Pinkel is experimenting with sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in fall camp. He has used the former five-star recruit as a kick returner and on the punt block team, citing his speed and long arms as assets on special teams.
"It's just something I have to get used to," Green-Beckham said. "I never did punt blocks, even in high school."
Former Missouri wide receiver Danario Alexander suffered the fourth torn ACL of his career, the San Diego Chargers announced on Tuesday. The injury will require Alexander to have a fifth operation on his knee.
"It just broke my heart when I heard it," Pinkel said Wednesday.
There are only 19 days of fall practice before camp breaks and the season officially opens. This is Day 7. And it’s raining again.
So, with the Tigers’ natural outdoor habitat out of the question, there is only one place to turn: The Daniel J. Devine Pavilion, where punts bounce off the ceilings, and the artificial turf is firmer to the touch than natural grass.
Defensive lineman Michael Sam cannot impersonate the tinkling keys of the Eagles’ “Desperado,” but his voice cuts through an uncharacteristically quiet patch of practice with the words of Glenn Frey and Don Henley."Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?You been ridin’ fences for so long nowOh you’re a hard oneI know that you got your reasonsThese things that are pleasin’ youCan hurt you somehow"
The Missouri football program’s SEC song was transposed to a minor key this past season. Some setbacks were expected, but not the loss to Vanderbilt. Not the loss to Syracuse. Not the bid for three straight wins at Texas A&M's Kyle Field that ended with a shattered psyche and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny (Manziel) Football."Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boyShe’ll beat you if she’s ableYou know the queen of hearts is always your best bet"
There was always room for Kansas on the schedule. Bowl hopes could rely on it year in and year out. But now, a visit from Texas A&M at the end of this year’s calendar might be Missouri’s last chance at a postseason bid. The difference is startling."Now it seems to meSome fine things have been laid upon your tableBut you only want the ones that you can’t get"
The Big 12 was comfortable enough, but sensing future unrest, the Tigers decided to roam. It was a big risk for a group of black and gold that had not tasted the oasis of the Bowl Championship Series since it began in 1998. Thousands of Tigers have come and gone since then. Some of their pictures hang high above the field as reminders of where hard work might lead."Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no youngerYour pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you homeAnd freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’Your prison is walking through this world all alone"
There is a cloud above coach Gary Pinkel that was not there before. The man who led the Tigers out of the darkness saw pressure come full circle last year. He knows five wins will not cut it. Not when naysayers expected Missouri to fail in its new habitat. The Tigers are hungry. They will always survive, but no one is promised a permanent home."Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shineIt’s hard to tell the night time from the dayYou’re losin’ all your highs and lowsAin’t it funny how the feeling goes away?"
The end of August will bring about a nice feast: Racers, Rockets, Hoosiers and Red Wolves. But then fate will launch the Tigers headlong into the wilderness. They must step onto the territory of Commodores, Bulldogs, Wildcats and Rebels, and will receive unfriendly visits from Gators, Gamecocks, Volunteers and the hated Aggies. None of their foes will roll over. Jayhawk season has passed."Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?Come down from your fences, open the gateIt may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above youYou better let somebody love you before it’s too late"
The weatherproof jungle halts another punt. The offending light fixture swings crazily after impact, but eventually dies down. Undeterred, the Tigers continue their hunt for progress. When today’s work is finished, they roar as one, and hope tomorrow brings the sun.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.