Sure, there are changes to the landscape and day-to-day life. Bengals gets torn down. Downtown apartment buildings get built up. Shakespeare’s gets torn down and built up. Tiger fans go from talking about Devine to Onofrio, from Warren Powers to Larry Smith, from Pinkel to Odom, with a few others mixed in there we don’t need to mention.
But the soul of Columbia, the way it feels to go to school at the University of Missouri, the joy and intensity of spending fall weekends going to Mizzou games, the way the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to change as the season hits its stride… well those things endure.
Fans still break down the game coming up. Students still skip class if the weather is too nice, or too bad. The Columns still stand.
Columbia and Mizzou are at their best in the fall, on game weekends, and maybe reach their peak at Homecoming. Many schools observe Homecoming; Mizzou lives it.
Mizzou Homecoming is a feeling and a time and a place. It’s magic because that place is always Columbia at its best, and that time is you during your college years.
On Homecoming weekend, we’re all 21 again. Better notify your body in advance, so it can cooperate. Time waits for no one, but on Homecoming weekend the years melt away as you visit the familiar old places and take part in the traditions and hang out with your friends.
Of course, it all builds up to the game, and some of those games have been pretty memorable. There was the electrifying win over BCS No. 1 Oklahoma in 2010 and the 2005 overtime win over Iowa State, when freshman Chase Daniel came off the bench to lead the comeback. There have been some tough losses, too, like the 2013 collapse against South Carolina in a highly anticipated game. Mizzou lost when a short field goal in double overtime hit the upright and missed. I still remember the collective gasps, followed by quiet rage as fans filed out of the stadium.
This year’s game is intriguing, as the Tigers face the Ole Miss Rebels. It’s Missouri’s first Homecoming game against an SEC opponent since 2015, when the Tigers got hammered by Florida, a game otherwise known as Will Grier’s Florida Farewell Tour before a yearlong performance-enhancing drug suspension.
Ole Miss has an athletic quarterback, John Rhys Plumlee, who ran for 165 yards last week and looks exactly like you’d expect an Ole Miss quarterback to look. The 3-3 Rebels are led by Ole Miss alum Matt Luke, who looks like if you’d ask someone to draw “generic football coach.” They also have a shark mascot named Tony.
Mizzou will have to try to contain the Ole Miss offense without linebacker Cale Garrett, who was lost for the season due to an injury suffered in a game where I twice tweeted, “Cale Garrett for Heisman!” Just brutal.
Still, Missouri is a double-digit favorite Saturday, and they should absolutely win this game. A win would continue the Tigers’ long, steady march back up the hill after the Wyoming debacle. It would also give Missouri fans something to celebrate on Homecoming night.