Well, they won

COLUMBIA --- Something new: The new digs at Memorial Stadium.

Something old: Missouri beating an FCS school.

Something used: Hand fans.

Something missing: Football fans.

Unveiling its new toy after $50 million worth of renovations, this grand old stadium --- which is celebrating its 89th birthday and is just one year younger than Pete Adkins --- oversaw the Tigers' 38-18 win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on a hot, steamy Saturday afternoon at Faurot Field.

Missouri is now 14-0 all-time against FCS schools, 13-0 under Gary Pinkel. But this was hardly a champagne-popping effort.

"It's hard to win, I don't care who you're playing, and you always enjoy winning," said the Missouri head coach. "After that, you go back and figure out how you can make yourself better, so we have plenty to work on.

"There are two ways to get better, and that's practice better and prepare better. I think one thing we certainly have to do is practice better, because you play like you practice.

"What you do in practice carries over to games, so we obviously have a long way to go."

You might say both offenses started the game --- and season --- with a bang.

The Tigers received the opening kickoff and, on their third play, took a 7-0 lead on a 44-yard pass from Maty Mauk to Darius White. Time of drive: 50 seconds.

What took so long? On their first play and just 13 seconds later, the Jackrabbits tied it on a 75-yard run by Zach Zenner. The score came on a busted play, when the shotgun snap deflected off quarterback Austin Sumner's hands and went right to Zenner.

Just like they drew it up.

"That kind of caught us off guard, we thought he dropped it," noseguard Lucas Vincent said.

The Tigers took the lead for good on another hook-up between Mauk and White, this one good for 39 yards, midway through the first quarter. They made it 21-7 just 67 seconds later on a 10-yard run around left end by Russell Hansbrough, who finished with a career-high 126 yards.

Hansbrough's score was set-up on an interception by Duron Singleton, as the Tigers have now forced a turnover in a stunning 45 straight games.

"We came out fast, but then we had a lot of inconsistencies that we have to clean up," said Mauk, who completed 12-of-21 for 178 yards and three touchdowns. "But that's something we can fix, that's a good thing."

The lead was 21-10 at the half, as the Tigers held the Jackrabbits to just 70 yards of offense on their final 27 plays before the break. They also shut down Zenner, who gained only 28 yards on his final 16 carries.

After using hand fans to cool themselves off, about half the crowd of 60,589 left at the half. Due to SEC rules, those fans could not return, so the second half was played before a stadium that was more than half-empty.

They left for one or more of the following reasons: A) They were hot; B) They wanted to tailgate; C) They'd seen enough.

The scrappy Jackrabbits got within 21-18 on a 3-yard run by Zenner and two-point conversion early in the third quarter. A three-point game. In the second half. This wasn't supposed to happen.

Here are the scores of Missouri's previous six games against FCS schools: 58-14, 62-10, 69-0, 50-6, 52-12, 52-3. But on this day, Jackrabbits were chasing Tigers.

"It was a battle back and forth," Pinkel said. "Offensively, we had trouble converting third downs and our defense had trouble getting off the field. That combination is not very good."

The game-changer came on the ensuing kickoff when Marcus Murphy returned it 102 yards for a touchdown to put the game somewhat back in the comfort zone at 28-18.

"We needed a big play, so that return was obviously huge," said Pinkel, whose team was outgained 220-137 in the second half. "We made some big plays, but we also hurt ourselves.

"I told the team it was a great win, but at the same time, we have to have a sense of urgency if we want to do the things we want to do.

"Hopefully, we can learn from this and become a better football team."

The other touchdown for the Tigers, who play at Toledo at 11 a.m. next Saturday, was a 29-yard toss from Mauk to Bud Sasser with 10 minutes left.

Lastly, back to the stadium improvements, which reminded me once again of the things we do and the money we spend to entertain ourselves.

The Tigers have seven home games this season. Let's say the average time of the game is 3 1/2 hours. That's roughly 24 hours of entertainment a year --- not counting pre- and post-game tailgates --- for a stadium that has cost hundreds of million of dollars through the years since it opened in 1926.

Repeat this spending at stadiums all over the country, from coast to coast, north to south. To play games, to watch games, for basically one day a year.

No wonder the rest of the world hates us.

Having said that, here's what they did at the stadium:

* 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 (TrumanĂ¢??s Terrace).

It looks good. Occasionally, so did the Tigers.