The Missouri football team faces a daunting obstacle against Texas A&M on Saturday that’s not the Aggies’ squad.
The Tigers must compete with the 12th Man, a nickname given to Kyle Field’s raucous crowd.
“It’s nothing like they have ever seen before,” Brad Ekwerekwu, a senior from Arlington, Texas, said. “It’s going to be bananas out there.”
Chase Daniel, the Tigers’ quarterback from Southlake, Texas, agrees.
“It’s going to be a tough test down at A&M,” Daniel said. “There is going to be 80,000-plus fans screaming and hating you.”
The Aggies’ 12th Man is not to be taken lightly. Many consider the team’s home-field advantage one of the best in nation.
The 12th Man’s storied history at Texas A&M (5-1, 1-1 Big 12) began on Jan. 2, 1922. With limited reserves, coach Dana X. Bible turned to former player E. King Gill, asking Gill to come down from the stands and suit up in case the Aggies needed him. At the end of Texas A&M’s 22-14 victory against top-ranked Centre College, Gill was the only player left standing on the Aggies’ sideline.
Although Gill didn’t play in the game, he still won the admiration of the team and fans by standing the entire game ready to help the team if need be. Because of Gill’s support, the entire student section at Kyle Field now stands the whole game, just like Gill, waiting to help the team.
Texas A&M is serious when it comes to respecting the 12th Man. It is a trademark, and the university has taken legal action against the Seattle Seahawks for using the name for their home crowd. Texas A&M now allows the Seahawks to use the 12th Man name, but the team has to pay Texas A&M a licensing fee and state that the university owns the trademark.
A press release from Steven B. Moore, Texas A&M’s chief marketing officer, referring to the case expresses what the 12th Man symbolizes.
“The 12th Man is a call to action for Aggies. It symbolizes loyalty and our unique Aggie spirit,” the release said. “It creates friendships where none existed before, heals wounds that seemed to be beyond repair and creates a common language that Aggies speak all over the world.”
The Tigers might not have a common language throughout the world, but the team did say it’s ready for the noise.
“We just do the same thing we have been doing,” Pinkel said about preparing for the 12th Man. “It was pretty loud Saturday and it’s going to be pretty loud this Saturday.”
Brian Smith, a Denton, Texas, native, said he hasn’t told the younger players on the team about the crowd at Texas A&M.
“I don’t want to shock any fear in anybody’s heart, get anybody intimidated by the large crowd,” Smith said. “I just want to keep everyone focused, and let them know it’s business as usual.”
Smith said he isn’t intimidated by the crowd. He was on the sidelines as a redshirt when Missouri beat the Aggies 33-27 in overtime on the road in 2002.
“The crowd was loud, and they were enthusiastic,” Smith said. “They had a little wave thing going and all that, but we came out with the victory. So, it speaks for itself.”
Besides the crowd, something else that can give Missouri problems is Jorvorskie Lane, the Aggies’ 274-pound starting tailback.
Both Pinkel and Matt Eberflus, the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, said they had never faced a tailback as big as Lane.
“I have a lot of scout team offensive linemen that want to be him this week,” Pinkel said. “He’s a big athlete that can run. Usually guys that big can’t run like that and have the balance he does. He certainly presents a problem.”
Stephen McGee, the Aggies’ quarterback, is the second straight Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week the Tigers are facing. Last week Missouri’s defense easily stopped Texas Tech’s quarterback Graham Harrell, who threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball three times.
“They are a very good football team. They are one play way from being undefeated,” Pinkel said, referring to Texas A&M’s 31-27 loss to Texas Tech on a 37-yard pass with 26 seconds left in the game.