Although Missouri’s Homecoming game is Oct. 23 against Oklahoma State, Saturday’s game at Texas will be a homecoming for many of the Tigers.
There are 23 players on the Missouri roster who will face old high school opponents when the Tigers travel to Texas to play the No. 9 Longhorns.
Wide receiver Brad Ekwerekwu, from Arlington, Texas, said playing the Longhorns has a different feel for the players who grew up in Texas.
“Most of us know the players down in Texas and might have some old ties to some players,” he said. “It’s always good to go back home, too, and play in front of your family and stuff like that.”
Texas is home to four Big 12 Conference schools, making it likely that the players who grew up there either have admiration or disdain for the Longhorns.
“I definitely didn’t like the Longhorns at all,” Ekwerekwu said. “I was kind of happy last weekend too, to see (Oklahoma) top them again.”
Tiger wide receiver Thomson Omboga, from Grand Prairie, Texas, was not pleased with Texas’ 12-0 loss to No. 2 Oklahoma. Omboga said he remains a Texas fan when he is not trying to beat them.
“I’ve always been a Longhorn fan,” Omboga said. “I’m still a Longhorn fan actually, but I didn’t want to go play at Texas because I wanted to play against all my friends that went there. Also, I know that I play for Missouri and I’m still trying to get a win for Missouri, not for the Longhorns.”
Omboga will have the opportunity to go one-on-one with one of his old high school opponents, Texas defensive back Michael Huff.
“I played him throughout high school and middle school so I’m looking forward to that challenge because we’ve always been competitive,” Omboga said.
Missouri safety Jason Simpson is more reserved about his former admiration for Texas.
Simpson is from The Woodlands, Texas, which is closer to College Station, the home of No. 23 Texas A&M. Although most of his neighbors were Aggie fans, Simpson said his dad supported the Longhorns, naturally turning him into a fan.
Movies like “Varsity Blues” and “Friday Night Lights” that chronicle high school football life in Texas are similar to the way Simpson describes his football career at The Woodlands High.
“In little towns, the town will stop running on Friday nights during the games,” Simpson said. “It’s just a way of life down there. You just have to play football and play it well.
“People will be like, ‘Oh you play basketball? You’re All-District? That’s great.’ You tell them you play football and that just overshadows all of that.”
Playing against old opponents and in front of family and friends provides added pressure as Missouri tries to hold on to sole possession of first place in the Big 12 North Division. The Longhorns have lost five consecutive times to Oklahoma and won their next game every time.
Simpson said the Missouri players need to look past the distractions of playing in their home state and focus on beating the first ranked opponent they have faced this season.
“It shouldn’t totally be about outside things,” Simpson said. “You have to get yourself ready.”