On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers will have to do something they have not done in 47 days: play a football game outside of Columbia.
After starting the season on the road at Wyoming, Missouri had an unusual stretch of five straight home games. This is the first time since 2010 that the Tigers went five games without facing a true road opponent. That year, Missouri opened its season in St. Louis against Illinois before playing four straight home games. The last time Missouri had five straight home games was in 1908.
For those wondering, the 1908 Tigers traveled to Drake after their homestand and won 11-8. This year Missouri goes to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt.
Saturday will break the pattern that the Tigers have been in for more than a month.
“You get into a routine of doing the same thing all the time for five weeks straight,” Bolton said. “You still have to do your job just like you’re at a home game and focus on your responsibilities.”
Kicker and punter Tucker McCann said he isn’t letting the change affect the way he prepares.
“You just leave a little bit earlier on Friday and get on the plane,” McCann said.
Offensive lineman Yasir Durant also downplayed the impact of travel.
“Some guys have routines, being here Friday, but instead now we’re leaving on Friday,” Durant said. “But you know, I think everybody’s going to handle it well.”
Friday is the only real change to the week when the team plays on the road. Instead of an off-day, Friday becomes a travel day.
Staying in a hotel is also not unique to road games. Like most college teams, the Tigers stay in a hotel even before home games.
“Nothing changes on Saturday,” McCann said.
That statement is partly true. Missouri will still go through its typical game day routines, but once the game starts, something does change. The crowd is now hostile.
An opposing crowd is not something that can be prepared for on the practice field. But some, like McCann, use heckling as a source for motivation.
“I enjoy when people are talking trash to me on the sideline and in the stands,” McCann said. “I like to prove them wrong.
Vanderbilt is off to a poor start. The Commodores are just 1-5 so the crowd at Vanderbilt Stadium might not be as loud or hostile as most places in the SEC. But it is homecoming, so a full house is not improbable, and in that crowd will be receiver Johnathon Johnson’s family.
“It’s a home game for me,” Johnson said.
Johnson is from Memphis, which is just over a three-hour drive from Nashville.
“I’ve got a good number of people com
ing,” he said.
A redshirt senior, Johnson is quite experienced playing on the road. He said he plans to help some of the younger players prepare for the trip.
“I feel like we’ve got good leaders to go with the younger guys to make sure we keep them up, keep their energy up,” Johnson said.
Including Vanderbilt, four of Missouri’s final six games will be on the road. It’s difficult to predict what kind of adjustments the Tigers will need to make, but Vanderbilt, with its only win coming against Northern Illinois, isn’t the worst team to get recalibrated against. It’s a strange schedule for Missouri, but if history repeats itself, it’s one the team won’t have for another 111 years.