Tigers have upper hand entering 20th anniversary of infamous fifth down game

By R.b. Fallstrom, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

Tigers, Buffs not revisiting fifth down game

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Ken Flajole clearly recalls that something was fishy. On two counts.

No. 24 Missouri and Colorado meet Saturday night in their Big 12 opener on the 20th anniversary of the infamous fifth down victory, which denied a huge upset bid by the Tigers and propelled the Buffaloes to their only national championship.

Flajole, the St. Louis Rams’ defensive coordinator, was an assistant coach at Missouri in 1990 and believes there were two bad calls, one for the extra down and one giving Buffs’ quarterback Charles Johnson a touchdown from the 1.

Flajole said he “had an inkling” that Colorado was getting an extra down. He was certain, especially after watching the school’s replay, that it shouldn’t have been ruled a touchdown.

“So, that’s the untold story on the deal,” Flajole said. “It’s fifth down, but was he really even in on fifth down?”

That’s about it for juicy controversy. Ask those preparing for this year’s Big 12 North showdown and you’ll get no opinion.

“I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the anniversary,” Missouri wide receiver T.J. Moe said. “But I wasn’t even alive for that, so I don’t care.”

Colorado (3-1) has needed a lot more than an extra down the last few years against Missouri (4-0). The Tigers have won four straight in the series, the last three by a combined score of 149-27.

That recent history is also judged irrelevant, at least by Missouri.

“I think any team in any division you can say that what happened last year doesn’t matter,” tailback De’Vion Moore said. “They’ve improved in every aspect of the game. We aren’t taking them lightly.”

Colorado players might be smarting a bit, especially those who’ve been around for a while.

“I was there for the brutal beatdowns,” senior cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “There is no other thought in my head besides beating the Tigers.”

Missouri went unbeaten in non-conference play for the fifth straight season but it wasn’t easy. The Tigers rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Illinois in the opener and needed Moe’s spectacular 56-yard touchdown off a swing pass in the final minute to beat San Diego State.

The Tigers have been stronger on defense, although top pass rusher Aldon Smith will miss at least one more week with a broken bone in his leg. On offense, production from a trio of tailbacks have made Derrick Washington’s dismissal before the opener a non-factor.

Missouri is well-rested, regularly scheduling a week off before beginning Big 12 play under coach Gary Pinkel. Cornerback Kevin Rutland said the minibreak was “unbelievable.”

“We’re closer to 100 percent then a lot of teams in the country,” Rutland added.

Battle-tested, too, from the close shave against San Diego State.

“You find out a lot about your team, you find out a lot about how you can respond to extreme adversity,” Pinkel said. “The other side of it is you want to play your best all the time.”

Pinkel shrugs off Missouri’s first appearance of the season in the Top 25, too.

“I want to be at the polls at the end of the year,” Pinkel said. “I know our fans like that kind of stuff, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t take care of business.”

Colorado has won its last two, rushing for more than 200 yards in both games and rallying from 10 points down to beat Georgia 29-27 last week. Linebacker B.J. Beatty’s forced fumble at the Colorado 30 with 1:55 to play helped cinch it.

Coach Dan Hawkins said there’s been a noticeable confidence boost in practice this week.

“You have some of those breakthrough moments at times a little bit,” Hawkins said. “That aha moment, to me that’s the most awesome thing. It just adds credence to all that stuff you’re talking about.”

Besides recent history against Missouri, Colorado has long-standing road problems. The Buffaloes are 2-14 in Big 12 play since 2005 and 2-21 overall.

Hawkins doesn’t plan to change the travel routine, if even to just shake things up. He didn’t think practicing at Missouri the day before the game would help much.

“When you try to practice on the road, all you’re doing is looking around at who’s watching and who’s taking pictures,” Hawkins said. “You don’t really get a whole lot out of it.

“So it’s better for us just to go there and the guys can just throw the ball around and get a feel for it.”

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