89
      Tuesday
      91 / 70
      Wednesday
      91 / 69
      Thursday
      92 / 69

      Play ball

      The last time the Missouri Tigers played a game at the friendly confines of Faurot Field, this is what we saw:

      The Tigers clinching the SEC East.

      Hah! And they said they couldn't compete in the conference considered slightly below the NFL.

      Here's what we didn't see: Johnny Manziel making the money sign.

      Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21.

      Double-hah!

      After that, MU lost to Auburn something like 120-100 in the SEC championship game, before securing a

      Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State and earning a No. 5 spot in the final polls.

      A splendid end to a splendid season. Good stuff.

      There was more good stuff during an interesting offseason. Michael Sam was the lead story everywhere for about two weeks, both sports and news, for his celebrated announcement. He was gay.

      Then, it was a whirlwind. Now, it's a yawn.

      Not all the stuff in the offseason was good, however.

      Dorial Green-Beckham was released from the team after one too many off-the-field mistakes. The next Jerry Rice turned out to be a bigger disappointment than yesterday's Jerry Springer.

      DGB has since taken his considerable talents, and considerable problems, to the University of Oklahoma.

      Last week, Derrick Washington's name resurfaced during a spotlight piece on ESPN. Washington was a very good running back for the Tigers from 2007-09, rushing for over 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.

      But he was kicked off the team prior to the 2010 season and was eventually sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of deviant sexual assault. He was released after four months.

      The ESPN report basically said the University turned its back on what was going on. Reports from several females about Washington's abuse fell on deaf years, ESPN said, from the MU hierarchy and some of the football coaches.

      On Friday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel addressed the situation. Here, he talks about an incident in 2008. No charges were filed at the time.

      "When we found out they did not have any charges ... I make all my decisions on the information I get. I can't go and call the victim up. I'm not able, legally, to do that and I'm not going to do that. It's all about the information. When the police get involved then, certainly, they are the investigators. They are professionals, that's what they do.

      "And if they decide that they're not going to press charges, then I'm not going to remove a player from the team for that. It's not consistent with any way I've handled any situation that I've had here before. That's kind of what happened in this case."

      ESPN said the University did not conduct a Title IX investigation into the matter, which is a violation of federal law.

      Sigh.

      Do these things happen more often at MU than other schools, or does it just seem that way? Just when the dark skies appear to have given way to clear ones, the darkness returns.

      Oddly enough, rain is in the forecast for Saturday night.

      III

      WEATHER ON NOT, are you ready for some football? The Tigers have some Jackrabbits to chase, after all.

      The Tigers (No. 24, 12-2 last season) will open the 2014 season by hosting the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-5, advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs) at 2:30 p.m. at Faurot Field.

      "It felt like it took forever, but it's finally here and we're excited," said senior tailback Marcus Murphy, one of several talented backs in the Tigers' stable.

      Murphy is one of 14 seniors on this year's roster, after the Tigers graduated 20 last season --- including two-year starter James Franklin at quarterback. But he was a two-year starter in theory, only, as both seasons were plagued by injuries.

      Enter Maty Mauk, a redshirt sophomore.

      "I'm ready to go," Mauk said, "and the team's ready to go."

      Mauk played in 13 games last season, starting four. He threw for 1,071 yards and 11 touchdowns, while throwing just two interceptions.

      "I think he's really done a good job in his role," Pinkel said. "He's a natural leader, he's a very non-threatening leader and the players like him. He works hard, which is important for a leader.

      "Obviously, his is a position where he has to produce. But you've got to understand that he's got a lot of good people around him that will help him do well, too."

      The Tigers rolled up 548 points last season (39 ppg.), but the strength of this year's team looks to be the defense, especially the defensive line.

      Missouri has turned into Defensive Line U, churning out NFL players year after year. This year's group returns seniors Markus Golden, Matt Hoch and Lucas Vincent, and junior Shane Ray.

      "We have a lot of starters back," Pinkel said, "but we also have a lot of guys who played a lot last year --- I mean a significant amount. Our defensive line is certainly one of those areas."

      Here's some more good stuff from the offseason --- the Tigers will unveil the new-look Memorial Stadium on Saturday after $50 million worth of improvements, including:

      * A new deck on the east side (the Tiger Deck), which added 4,500 seats and moved the capacity to 71,168.

      * A new club/lounge level (the Columns Club), complete with outdoor loge seating and two suites.

      * New light towers.

      * And a new tailgate area beyond the southwest corner of the stadium (Truman??s Terrace).

      Those are the changes, but one thing remains the same --- the field is still 100 yards long from goal line to goal line, 53.3 yards from sideline to sideline.

      No more talk of sexual preference, sexual assault or police records.

      Play ball.

      "The adrenaline has been flowing a little bit faster," said junior center Evan Boehm, a preseason SEC All-Conference selection. "It's time to get out there and get this thing going."