Missouri football's new upper deck takes backseat to ESPN-televised game

Saturday, November 30, 2013 | 7:58 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The view from Mick Deaver Drive looked different Saturday.

Memorial Stadium’s east side stands 30 feet taller now thanks to a new addition of concrete stands that will sit empty until next fall. Now the structure’s shadow lingers a little longer on Deaver before dying at sunset.

More than seven months ago, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden stood behind the south end zone at Faurot Field and promised big changes to the venue. The improvements would allow the Tigers to compete in the SEC at a high level.

Boosters, alums and even former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel applauded a future that seemed at least a year away.

But Saturday, the Tigers hosted an ESPN-televised game with national title implications. Needless to say, the success is well ahead of schedule. The new upper deck — “the future” — will not be the story of the night in another underwhelming SEC season.

Unfinished, it will simply sit empty while Saturday's sellout crowd packs Faurot’s more traditional sections to cheer on the No. 5-ranked Tigers.

It’s fitting that there are still three upper deck sections left to complete on the east side. The Tigers may still have three games left on their journey: Saturday against Texas A&M, next week in Atlanta (supposing a win over the Aggies) and whatever bowl destination waits after that. 

The “old” version of Faurot’s seating chart gets one more game — and what a game it is. Earlier in the evening, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel trotted past the exact spot where Alden gave his speech in April.

He is one of the many distractions the Tigers have dealt with this week. The buzz around the game is palpable. “The biggest game at Faurot in 53 years,” people say.

The dog and pony show is here: ESPN trucks and cameras are omnipresent. Fans push up against the southeast railings to get a glimpse of Manziel and the Aggies when they arrive.

The redshirt sophomore gutted Missouri for 439 total yards during a 59-29 blowout in 2012, and has been mired in controversy since becoming the youngest player to ever win the Heisman Trophy.

"Hey, Johnny!" countless fans yell.

One holds up a sign: "I paid Johnny Manziel."

More distractions: It’s Senior Night. Sugar Bowl representatives are here. Cotton Bowl representatives are here. A national audience sits at home awaiting a dramatic end to its outstanding day of college football rivalries.

“The future” looms over it all. But right now, no one cares.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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