Missouri: Big is Not Always Better

Missouri: Big is Not Always Better
By Doug Bateman
Former Navy SEAL and former FBI Special Agent

Years from now, the record books will show Navy defeating Missouri in the Texas Bowl. But what they won’t show is the David and Goliath nature of the contest both on and off the field. You had to be there to appreciate the game, fan support, marching bands and press conference.

At the game ending press conference, Coach Pinkel, the Missouri coach was still in shock when he paid Navy a “compliment”…they (Navy) had a “nice little scheme” …and did “nice little job”. And we know a “nice little” back handed compliment when we hear one!

Missouri was favored by the pundits for many reasons, not the least of which was their Big Twelve schedule, fourth ranking rushing defense (96 yds/pg), and NFL pro style offense and talent (Danario Alexander, No.81). Coupled with this is the undeniable fact that Missouri was much bigger than Navy. Missouri players outweighed Navy by at least 40 pounds a man. As a fan, you don’t really appreciate the Missouri size advantage until you see them on the field next to the Midshipmen. Missouri dressed 21 players over 285 pounds, with 13 tipping the scales over 300 pounds. Navy on the other hand, had just 3 such behemoths (2 @ 285 and one @ 301 pounds). There’s an old adage in football ?“you can’t coach size” ? you either have it or you don’t. And evidenced by the humiliating loss of a much bigger Big Twelve team to a “little scheming” Independent, they can’t coach size…very well at Missouri.

Size isn’t the only thing they can’t coach at Missouri. On the second play of the game, No. 81, the 6’5, 215 pound future NFL draft pick scored on a 58 yard pass reception and while en route to the end zone, he turns his head and sticks his tongue out at the Navy secondary. No doubt thinking, “Hey, this is easy- fool!” This man-child’s tongue extension was captured for NFL scouts by a photo journalist and published in the Houston Chronicle. It probably won’t cost No. 81 any singing bonus money because in contrast, the NFL will draft any felon if he can play football. However, the game is played for 60 minutes and Navy controlled the ball 41 of those. While rushing 385 yards Navy clearly out gained, out scored and outclassed a modern day Goliath.

If you can’t win the game at least the bigger school could win the battle of the fans, right? This season, Missouri averaged 64,000 fans per home game while “little” Navy could only mustered an average of 32,000 - advantage Missouri. Each school was allotted 11,000 tickets ($65 @). Missouri finished a distant second to “little” Navy in ticket sales (4,200 v. 18,000 of the paid attendance - 69,441). This loss cost the Big Twelve and Missouri dearly because instead of receiving half of the $1.25 million dollar guarantee, they must “buy” the unsold tickets (approximately $400,000). Navy’s ticket sales also included over 800 tickets purchased by the alumni and given to the Midshipman who attended the game. In addition, Navy sold over 5,000 tailgate tickets ($25 @) for the pre game meal in a tent that covered half a football field. The rout continues for the “little” Independent on the Severn.

If you can’t win the game or tailgate at least Missouri could win the battle of the bands, right? The safe bet was on the “Golden” Missouri Marching Band dominating the Naval Academy’s Drum and Bugle Corps. After all, the Golden Band fielded 10 times more “brass” than Navy. Compared to Navy’s silver bugles and drums, Missouri was imposing with their larger golden euphoniums, tubas and sousaphones. Outweighing Navy’s thin blue line by at least forty pounds per “player”, Missouri’s Golden Band was intimidating. It was easy to see that Navy’s D&B was in for a long afternoon.

Together, when both school bands took to the field at half time and played a rousing rendition of Deep in the Heart of Texas (which can only be appreciated by Texans), the “little” Navy “players” were lost in the sea of a really big, Big Twelve Band. However what the TV viewing audience could not appreciate happened after the last whistle blew. As is tradition at the Naval Academy, when the game is over, the Navy football team assembles by the Drum and Bugle Corps and their fellow Midshipmen in the stands for the singing of Navy Blue and Gold, the school alma mater. Also remaining in the stands and stretching the length of the field were most of the 18,000 Navy faithful and alumni, staying to sing the alma mater and celebrate the trophy presentation. Only a small portion of the fans were able to sing along because, the “not so” Golden Band, in an unsporting display of their huge sound advantage, drowned out Navy’s “little” D&B. After the cheer “Beat Army” went up by those closest to the D&B, the remaining 16,000 Navy alumni treated the “not so” Golden Band from Missouri to a crescendo boos.

Now this “not so golden” one-upmanship might seem trivial to those who never attended the Naval Academy but for those that have, it was an insult equal to playing your school fight song to drown out “God Bless America”. The Naval Academy is not your typical college nor is Navy Blue and Gold the typical college fight song, the kind you hear at Notre Dame, Ohio State or Missouri. Its somber, hymn like quality speaks not only to the tradition and purpose of the Naval Academy but to the bravery and colors of the United States Navy.

"Now, colleges from sea to sea
May sing of colors true;
But who has better right than we
To hoist a symbol hue?
For sailors brave in battle fair,
Since fighting days of old,
Have proved the sailor's right to wear
The Navy Blue and Gold"

Years ago Coach Holtz brought a Notre Dame team to play in the Academy’s Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (emphasize Memorial), and after reading the 42 names emblazoned on the facade of the second deck, - names like Guadalcanal, Inchon, Iwo Jima, and Midway, - he remarked, “Now that’s one heck of a schedule”. Indeed it is. It’s a schedule Navy never bargained for, but was prepared to win… because loosing wasn’t an option.

This year, Notre Dame lost to the smaller Navy team in South Bend and out of respect, Notre Dame’s Coach Weiss had his team stand behind the Navy during the dulcet tones of Navy Blue and Gold. Likewise, Ohio State’s Coach Tressel invited the smaller Navy football team to take the field along side his Big Ten team to avoid the traditional jeering and booing of a visiting team by the 80,000 Ohio State fans. Coach Tressel received an award for this rare display of sportsmanship. Let it be said there are some football programs that know how to coach size.

Besides class there is something that can’t be coached and that intangible is “heart”…you either have it or you don’t.

Go Navy! Beat Army!

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