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Mizzou Football Revue: When a bad half nearly spoils the fun

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Is there anything better than a spooky flick on an October evening?

For many years I’ve tied myself to the rhythm of watching movies that can be downright unpleasant. It’s not an exercise in masochism or even a pure adrenaline rush. Rather, I’ve always found it to be both an instructive way of working out anxieties about the world and a safe haven to remember that, hey, other people feel pretty bad about things, too!

Giving it a second thought, I wonder if it has also steeled me for the emotional beatdown of watching Missouri Football. Or maybe the latter helped me with the former? Either way, I’m at a place where I can bear the unpleasantries for the sake of some greater cause. Maybe the greater cause in football is that I’ll spend more money on merchandise and therefore the educational institution that raised me? I don’t know, I’m still workshopping that thought.

I digress. It felt kind of good to get Missouri Football back after the bye week (a short-lived feeling, to be sure) and really good to get back to Columbia. Homecoming day was my first in CoMo in three or four years and my first real involvement with any sort of school or alumni activity in at least five. I’ve been a wanderer for far too long, it seems.

Saturday was a breath of fresh air, not only in the sense that I got to introduce the smaller members of my family to Mizzou tradition, but because I was reminded of all the reasons I love the city and school that formed me. The Columns are a cliche, but damn it if I forgot how big they are. My old walk from Dirty Shurz and Hatch Nasty to RJI down Hitt Street, across Lowry Mall and a little ways down Ninth? God, I can feel it in my bones. I plan on getting back every year hereafter. I don’t want to lose that feeling for half a decade ever again. (editor’s note: certainly helps you’re back in the state, Josh)

Ah hell, did I have to write about the game, too?

I recently challenged myself to watching 31 horror movies for 31 days of October. I got about halfway in before deciding to give myself a pass for the rest of the month. Call me a quitter, but my inner child, raised in the American evangelical church with a triple helping of terror at the thought of demons and the occult, could only take so much.

The final entry into my own personal Spooktober was a double billing of the 2022 horror movies, X and Pearl, both directed by Ti West. The former earned a salacious reputation for its willingness to riff on 1970’s softcore and exploitation films and, weirdly enough, reminded me a lot of watching Mizzou play Vanderbilt on Saturday.

In other words, the film’s final line (and one of the alternate taglines) neatly summarizes the Homecoming outing: “One god-damned f****d up horror picture.”

Much like X, the first half of Missouri’s outing is surprisingly a pretty fun romp. There is, obviously, far less nudity and dramatic tension (and exactly one fewer alligator), but the promise of the game felt delivered upon. When you saw Vanderbilt pop up on the schedule, you hoped it would be something fun and likable and not some overcooked slop that was sold on its own marketing. There are a few star performances — Luther Burden isn’t as funny as Kid Cudi, but he’s still a lot of fun to watch — and knowing winks to the camera — do you think Joseph Charleston was allowed to hit people that hard at Clemson? — and an overall pleasant, breezy feeling that makes you feel like you’re about to enjoy a fun few hours in front of your television.

But then the second half kicks into gear. And the problem that both X and Mizzou vs. Vanderbilt shared is that they’re more of the same old, same old.

In the second half against the ‘Dores, Mizzou forsook all the growth they’d undergone in previous weeks and some of the tidiness they’d shown in the first half of the game and settled for something far less appealing and way more groan-inducing. Sloppy execution, uninventive play calling telegraphed from a mile away, paint-by-numbers performances… it’d be make for funny symmetry with the second of X if it didn’t suck so much to watch. At least X still has a really funny moment or two hiding up its sleeve.

I suppose there is some tension left in the butt-clenching practice of wondering whether Missouri will make it out alive. They did, which is more than I can say for most of the folks in X. But in neither case do you feel good about it. Ti West gets credit because his movie does it by design. Eli Drinkwitz doesn’t because his design… well, it should look a whole lot better than this.

★★☆☆☆ for the game, ★★★☆☆ for X which is mostly a fun romp that leads to the superior Pearl, which really isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ve been warned.

I had the distinct pleasure of taking my family to Mizzou Homecoming for the first time ever this week. And while I didn’t enjoy the 4:45 a.m. wake-up call, the experience of enjoying the festivities with my kids made it incredibly worth it. It even helped numb the sting of having to watch that atrocity of a game.

It’s difficult to grade a game like that fairly. On one hand, Mizzou was coming off a bye week, which can often lead to playing flat as much as it can playing inspired and rested. On the other, it may have been their second worst performance of the season. Against Vanderbilt. At home. During Homecoming. In front of the largest crowd since the beginning of the once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. I can’t in good conscience give those circumstances a good score, even if they hung on to win.

However, to truly eviscerate them in the face of victory seems unfair because, let’s face it, the defense is fun as hell. Having a good-to-great defense and a non-operational offense is objectively the worst type of football to watch, but you do learn to appreciate the greatness of the D after a while. Let’s face it — watching Ty’Ron Hopper fly around the field is good and fun. Watching Jaylon Carlies appear out of nowhere to ballhawk is nifty and cool. Watching KAD and Ennis Rakestraw, Jr. develop into a dangerous pair of corners is tremendous and neat. If it were up to me, the defense would get a five-of-five rating and the offense would get none. But football isn’t that bifurcated, so I need to think hard about this grade.

On an almost entirely unrelated note, we followed up our Homecoming Parade festivities with a trip to one of our old favorite haunts from the time we were townies — Addison’s Grill — to load up on our favorite appetizer in mid-Missouri. That’s right, folks, it was Nachos Bianco with chicken time. Those crispy pasta chips… the asiago cheese and alfredo sauce… the chunky chicken… the kalamata olives. THE CRISP PEPPERS. Sunday nights of college past, sing me to sleep with your heart-stopping nachos and your $3 pints.

No scale felt appropriate for the despicable nature of Saturday’s game, so I’m into the sentimentality of the weekend. For winning the game against Vanderbilt and looking abysmal doing it, Mizzou gets two out of five large portions of Nachos Bianco with chicken. I’m fairly certain two plates would be enough to put you into a coma and not nearly enough to send you into a state of cheese-induced euphoria.

The banana peppers are what make this thing sing

Don’t you love how life can be so symmetrical at times?

In my first instance of using the Disrespectful Play Index, I had the great fortune of using a Luther Burden play during his home debut. You may remember the one… a short side catch and run in which he effortlessly cut through the Louisiana Tech defense like a hot knife through butter?

As a refresher, these are the categories we’ll be working with.

Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the play? (0-20)

Category 2: How hard did the defense try? (0-20)

Category 3: How much did his teammates help? (0-5)

Category 4: What did the player do immediately afterward? (0-20)

Category 5: How did everyone not involved react? (0-15)

Category 6: Is there a backstory/context to consider? (0-20)

  • Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the play?

While not quite as impressive as the catch and run Burden made during his debut, it’s still pretty damn good. If these catches were fast food burgers, this is the Wendy’s to that catch’s Whataburger. There’s not quite as much there to love, but it’s still pretty damn satisfying. Burden receives the ball behind the line of scrimmage and has to do a lot of work to evade the defense and find pay dirt. He gets some help from his teammates (more on that in a minute), but the ease with which this play unfolds betrays the fact that 98 percent of college receivers couldn’t do this. Therefore we’ll give a solid, if unspectacular, 14/20

  • Category 2: How hard did the defense try?

I mean… they tried pretty hard!

“And I OPE”

I love the turf that’s being dragged as the defender dives and absolutely whiffs. It’s such a beautiful little touch. I can imagine the “ffffffft” sound that his spikes make as they aimlessly drag across the field, producing nothing for all his effort. ASMR quality.

Look at how Burden is fully captured in frame and everyone else is in slow motion. Mans is moving in a different plane.

Man, Luther Burden is too damn good. Even as he changes direction and has two Commodore defenders collapse on him, there was almost this air of intentionality behind what he was doing. The more I look at that second picture, the more I want to study it like the Zapruder film. What angles are they taking here? Is Luther actually that shifty in the open space that they look like they’re trying to make plays in entirely different directions? Either way, one man is diving head on — the second defender to do so this play! — and the other guy is about to end up on his back like a spider that just got demolished by a Good Housekeeping magazine. 19/20

  • Category 3: How much did his teammates help?

Barrett Banister, sending his man back to the Seven Seas

Unfortunately for the score, but fortunately for Burden, Missouri’s blocking was actually pretty good here. Banister and Miller took care of their assignments gorgeously, opening up the slightest of holes for LB3 to burst through. Once he hit that, it was merely a formality. Vanderbilt obviously did everything they could to stand in his way, but there’s no way Burden wasn’t converting this beautiful piece of technical execution on his teammates’ part. Scoring on an inverse, we’ll give this a 2/5

  • Category 4: What did the player do immediately afterward?

record scratch Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got here.

Burden’s reaction itself was somewhat boring and would only justify a slight score on its own. However, there was a minute during the run where I want to believe he did some on-field flexing. You’ll see in the screen cap above, taken just after breaking tackles two and three, Luther does a somewhat unnecessary spin and gives a look down on Ethan Barr, the unfortunate soul who is lying prone in his wake. It’s only a split second where Burden looks down on him, but I like to think there was a moment of eye contact or telepathic communication between the two. In that moment, I hope LB3 got at least one good dig in. At the very least, give him the Forrest Whitaker eye.

12/20

  • Category 5: How did everyone not involved react?

Daddy, spin me!

Hey, we actually have something worth scoring here! No crowd reactions in this reel, which is unfortunate considering the sizable Homecoming crowd. But we did get a shot of Luther Burden getting lifted into the air by the large arms of Javon Foster, a move I’ve mostly seen reserved for running backs. While not flashy or original, it is cool to see Burden get Lion King’d considering his importance to the Mizzou program is comparable to Simba’s importance to the Pridelands. Maybe we play “Circle of Life” every time he crosses the threshold? Who do I need to talk to in order to make this happen? 11/15

  • Category 6: Is there a backstory/context to consider?

Not really? Burden’s freshman season has been a bit up-and-down considering the lofty expectations we placed on him. He’s not been bad by any means, but he hasn’t been the world-beating star we maybe thought he would be right off the top. Then again, he’s shown the capability of being that guy… albeit against some of the lesser teams on Missouri’s schedule. Given that Vanderbilt falls into that category, it wasn’t all that surprising to see him post an impressive stat line for Homecoming. But it was good to see considering he’s been battling health problems. 12/20

Luther Burden’s touchdown was 70 percent disrespectful to Vanderbilt and its fans.

In Greatest Demand: Blake Baker, start polishing that CV, looks like you’ve got some phone calls coming in!

Though I suppose you could put any number of Mizzou defenders in this slot…

Best Play: Sometimes you just have to hand it to the opponent.

Biggest Hit: Did Joseph Charleston get arrested after this game? This is borderline felony level violence.

[reads the handbook] Nah, it checks out.

Most “Him”: You know that’s right.

Best Homecoming Parade Float/Gimmick: All the floats were pretty much the same (shouts to the guy dressed as Patrick Star who looked sweaty and miserable), though I did enjoy the goofy energy of the Mizzou Hoops team who were letting onlookers shoot the ball at the moving hoop. Both Kobe and Kaleb Brown offered me a shot and I politely said, “No thanks, I’m not bricking in front of people who do this all day every day.”

I was also mildly afraid that I would misfire and put someone down with a concussion, to be honest. I don’t need that smoke.



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