Food, fans and a big bright bus

Tailgating menu revolves around MU opponents.
Sunday, September 18, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:24 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the barrage of bland-colored Escalades and Tahoes that filled the Memorial Stadium parking lot Saturday morning, it was hard to miss the bright yellow, black-striped mini-bus parked conspicuously near the stadium’s West entrance.

In the lazy morning hours Saturday, before the Missouri football team had locked up a 52-21 victory against visiting Troy, quite a crowd had gathered around the bus, and that was just fine with Rick Burk.

“It’s a whole lot of fun,” said Burk, who along with friends Gene Stephenson and Skip Hines, has shared the tailgating spot for the past 15 years. “Every year we just get more and more people.”

Tailgaiting is nothing new to college football fans, but Burk and company seem to have taken the practice to a whole new level.

And it all begins with the food.

“You’re not going to find hamburgers or hot dogs here,” said Burk, who bought the bus last fall for $1,700 from the Hallsville School District. “No way.”

Instead, the group has taken to planning the game-day menu around the Tigers’ opponent.

“We always eat buffalo when we play the (Colorado) Buffalos,” said Stephenson, the man responsible for getting the food set up each Saturday. “And for the Trojans, we’ve got pork loin that resembles part of the (Trojan) horse.”

Added Burk: “And against the Jayhawks, we’ll eat chicken or turkey.”

The planning that goes into this tailgate borders on obsessive. A menu is decided on in the days leading up to the game, and everyone in the group is contacted and instructed on what to bring. The night before the game, Burk drops off the bus to ensure that no one takes the group’s tailgate spot, which they’ve had for the past 15 years.

The cook, Skip Hines, has gray hair peeking out from under his beige Missouri cap. He spent 11 years as a cook on Air Force 2, which transports the United States vice president and other prominent political figures. Among his former clients? Then-vice president George H. W. Bush.

Still, ask Hines and he’ll tell you that he’d rather serve Missouri fans than the vice president any day of the week.

“If I botch this, it’s OK,” said Hines, smiling. “All they’re going to do is talk bad about me. If I mess up up there, then it’s a big problem.

TRICKY BUSINESS: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, usually conservative, experimented with multiple trick plays in the early stages of Saturday’s victory against Troy.

In the first quarter, Pinkel lined up backup quarterback Brandon Coleman at receiver. Quarterback Brad Smith then passed to Coleman in the backfield, and Coleman looked for an open receiver before tucking it in and running for a 2-yard loss.

Then, to start the second half, place kicker Adam Crossett attempted an onside kick, which Missouri recovered. But an off-sides call forced the Tigers to re-kick.

DANIEL WATCH: True freshman quarterback Chase Daniel ran for his first career touchdown Saturday in his second collegiate game. With 3:37 remaining in the fourth quarter, Daniel took an option-keeper for a one-yard score to put Missouri up 52-14.

Two plays earlier, Daniel completed an 8-yard pass to tight end Martin Rucker in a 4th-and-5 situation to set up the score.

Daniel entered the game with 9:46 left in the fourth quarter. After a three-and-out on his first series, he led an 11-play, 58-yard drive that resulted in the touchdown.

“It feels good,” Daniel said of getting his first touchdown under his belt. “Now I can just relax. And if you relax and play your game, everything will come to you.”

The former EA Sports National Player of the Year finished 3-of-4 passing on the day and ran five times for 13 yards.

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