it's not easy being a university of missouri fan these days

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Some locals recently mentioned to me that these are tough times to be a Southeast Missouri State University sports fan, with football going 3-8 and men's basketball coming off three straight losing campaigns, although there is renewed optimism for this year.

But take heart, Southeast supporters, because you have some company a couple of hundred miles to the north. Things are just as rough -- and probably more so -- at Missouri's major state university.

It certainly isn't easy being an MU supporter right now.

The football team, after carrying such high hopes into the season and starting out 4-1, hit the big-time skids, finishing with a losing record and no bowl bid. Gary Pinkel, once an apparent rising coaching star, is now being ripped to shreds by MU supporters.

The basketball team, after being placed on NCAA probation and hit with sanctions, had about as bad a six-day period as the program has probably seen in a long time. A home loss to Davidson was followed by a 24-point rout at the hands of Creighton, which was followed by a setback against lowly Houston. Quin Snyder has also seen his apparent rising coaching star take a major hit.

Then the person MU's brand new basketball arena was named after -- Paige Laurie, who never attended the school but is the daughter of the building's main individual donors -- was accused of paying a friend to do her school work at USC. And all of a sudden, the Paige Sports Arena has been renamed.

Tough times indeed. At least the Show Me Center figures to continue being called just that --at least I think so.

The third time proved to be the charm for St. Vincent High School's football team, which captured the Class 1 state championship Saturday with an impressive 21-0 victory over previously undefeated East Buchanan.

St. Vincent had advanced to the title contest twice before only to fall short.

But this time there was no stopping the Indians as their defense throttled a high-powered East Buchanan offense that was averaging 37 points per game and had been held under 30 points only twice all season.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the Indians' performance because Derek Kutz -- Southeast's all-star kicker who graduated from St. Vincent -- told me a bunch of times this year how good a defense his alma mater had.

Major kudos to everybody associated with St. Vincent's program for an amazing season.

There has been a handful of games played already, but the area high school basketball season begins in full force this week as most of the local teams swing into action.

Among some of the traditional season-opening tournaments are the annual events hosted by Oran and Woodland.

The Ohio Valley Conference laid another major egg in the NCAA Division I-AA football playoffs -- so what else is new?

Jacksonville State, which rolled to its second consecutive OVC title this year, was demolished in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season as Furman romped 49-7 Saturday.

So for another year at least, the OVC will again be considered one of the nation's worst I-AA scholarship leagues.

After the Rams beat the Seahawks on Nov. 14 to continue their up-and-down season with an "up" performance, I wrote that it would be interesting to see which St. Louis team showed up last Sunday in Buffalo.

Well, unfortunately for Rams fans, it was the "down" version as St. Louis was horrendous on special teams during a 20-point loss.

So, which Rams squad will we see Monday night in Green Bay to take on the red-hot Packers?

I find it hard to believe that St. Louis will be able to win at Lambeau Field, although as unpredictable as the Rams have been this season, you just never know.

But I'm beginning to think that the Rams really are nothing better than a .500-type football team -- which is exactly what their current 5-5 record suggests.

Sticking with the NFL, Thursday's game between the Bears and Cowboys had to be about as bad a matchup as Thanksgiving Day has seen in recent memory.

And, as bleak as things looked going into the contest, it lived up to all of its lowly billing. If Dallas hadn't changed quarterbacks at halftime, I'm not sure either team would have scored again.

If that game had not been played on a holiday -- when it's pretty much traditional to watch football -- how many people do you think would have tuned in? Why, even fans in Chicago and Dallas might have been hard-pressed to turn on their TV.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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