COLUMBIA — For Terry Bryant, Saturday's game is a first.
He sits outside Gate 1 at Memorial Stadium in the shadow of the Missouri scoreboard, a rare Toledo fan in a sea of Missouri fans wearing all gold. It's his first trip to Columbia.
Bryant doesn't like to miss Rockets football games. A Toledo fan since 1976, he has been making road trips for Toledo games for more than 20 years, he estimates. He graduated from Toledo with an associate degree in 1988. He went back to finish his bachelor's degree in the late 1990s.
He can't get enough of Toledo.
Bryant remembers sitting in the stands at Beaver Stadium when Toledo beat Penn State in Happy Valley in 2000. He made the drive from his hometown of Luna Pier, Mich., to Ann Arbor, Mich., when the Rockets took down Michigan in 2008. His Toledo fandom has taken him from the blue turf in Boise, Idaho, to the campus of the University of Central Florida.
Bryant has even braved what he calls the "mean people" at Marshall University, who shouted profane insults at the alumni bus as it rolled into Huntington, W.Va.
So on Friday night, Bryant left his house for another stop on his college football checklist: Columbia, Mo. Nine hours of driving and nearly 600 miles later, he and his friends were in Columbia, which Bryant considers one of the friendlier stops in his years of traveling.
Bryant enjoys the road games more than the home games at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio.
"We have more fun on road trips," Bryant said. "It gives us an opportunity to see the country. I never would have come to Columbia if Toledo wasn't coming here."
There will even be a familiar face on the sidelines for Saturday's game. Former Toledo coach and current Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
As more Toledo fans gather around Bryant with game time approaching, the Toledo alumnus recalls the Pinkel era. The big Mid-American Conference's wins and the upsets on the road. But his fondes memories are the weekly chats with Pinkel, who made an effort to connect with alumni and fans.
"He was just another guy in the neighborhood," Bryant said. "He just happened to coach football, too."
So Bryant understood when Pinkel decided to move on in 2000. While many people at Toledo were upset by Pinkel leaving after 10 years, Bryant didn't blame one of his neighbors for tripling his salary.
"We knew we would lose him at some point," Bryant said. "He was just too good of a coach."
He's also too good of a coach not to understand what Toledo is capable of. Bryant witnessed the upsets. Pinkel experienced them firsthand.
On Saturday, Pinkel will be on the opposite side, trying to prevent the Rockets from doing what they have done so well in the past: taking a trip to a BCS school and returning home to Toledo with a win.
"Gary knows what could happen," Bryant says with a smile, just under an hour until kickoff. "Toledo can lay an 'L' on anybody in the country."
Missouri is favored in the game by 17 points. Bryant thinks that's too much. He fields calls from friends as the group of Toledo fans around him grows. They walk through the gates of Memorial Stadium, and Bryant adds another stadium to his list.
By the end of the day, Bryant hopes to be celebrating another Toledo road win with the few Rockets fans in attendance.
That's the list he really wants to add to.