On the Road: The Show Me State

September 24, 2014 by SbS Football Staff | with 0 comments
Filed under: Chiefs, Football, Maryville, Missouri, Mizzou, Northwest, Rams, State




For our first ever “On the Road” event, I traveled to the state of Missouri this past weekend and visited three of the state’s most relevant football communities.

My first stop was in Maryville, a small town in the northwestern part of the state that is home to Division II football power Northwest Missouri State. I then headed to Columbia, Missouri to attend a home game for the University of Missouri, the state’s only FBS team. Lastly, I traveled to the state’s largest metropolitan area, St. Louis, to spend a Sunday afternoon watching NFL games with the local crowd.
 
1. Maryville, Missouri
The first stop of my weekend in the Show Me State was in the town of Maryville. A small town with a population of approximately 12,000, Maryville is located in an unique geographic corner of the state. There are no major metropolitan areas within an hour drive, but there are three metropolitan areas in three different states less than two hours away (Kansas City, Omaha and Des Moines). Although it is a remote town, Maryville is far from remote when it comes to its place on a football map.
 
Title Town USA
I was drawn to the town of Maryville due the recent success of its local university, Northwest Missouri State (“Northwest”). The Bearcats won the Division II National Championship in 2013, their fourth national title since 1998, and are ranked number one in the country. What I didn’t know before my trip, was that the town’s high school football team has also been a recent football power. The Maryville Spoofhounds have won two consecutive class 3A State Championships and are once again ranked number one in their class this year.

The recent success of these two teams has the Maryville locals referring to the town as “Title Town USA.” Although the folks in Green Bay may take exception to this, there are few towns in the country that can measure up to the football results of Maryville in the past few years.

Title Town t-shirts from 2013

In no particular order, below are the top ten things I learned while in Maryville.
  1. The five football teams in town (Northwest Missouri State and the junior high through high school teams) went a combined 60–0 during the 2013 season.
  2. The high school team (Maryville Spoofhounds) have won 35 consecutive games; believed to be the 7th longest winning streak in the country (per a local radio announcer).
  3. There are five players on the current Northwest Missouri State football team who played high school football for the Spoofhounds.
  4. The head coach of Northwest Missouri State (Adam Dorrel) is a native of the town; he was an all-conference player for the Spoofhounds in the early 1990’s and played college football at Northwest.
  5. Legend has it that the Spoofhound nickname originates from the Maryville Head Coach in 1921 telling his players at halftime that they were “playing like a bunch of Spoofhounds.”
  6. The FBS following in town was summed up to me as follows: 50% of the people are Missouri fans, 20% are Nebraska fans, 20% are Iowa fans and 10% are Iowa State fans.
  7. When it comes to the NFL, the Chiefs have the most fans in town, but there are plenty of people who follow the Bears, Broncos, Packers or Vikings…as well as a few Rams fans “left over” from the Kurt Warner years.
  8. There is a Geography Professor at Northwest Missouri State who teaches a Sports Geography class and has done a lot of research on where football players are from (very cool!).
  9. There are two players on active NFL rosters who played at Northwest Missouri State; Brothers Brian and Brandon Dixon were both standout Cornerbacks for the Bearcats in recent years.
  10. On a Friday night in Maryville, there are more channels on the radio broadcasting a football game than there are channels playing music.
Game Results
The Spoofhounds played in Cameron (about an hour southeast of Maryville) on Friday night and ran their winning streak to 35 wins in convincing fashion. Maryville beat Cameron 56–14, and it has now defeated its five 2014 opponents by a combined score of 279–50. The following day, Northwest Missouri State beat in-state rival Central Missouri 37–17 in a game played in town at Bearcat Stadium. The Bearcats are 3–0 and have defeated each opponent by at least three touchdowns.
 
Football Destination
At its core, Maryville is a football town. There is a great sense of football pride among its locals, and many residents will argue that Maryville resembles a town in rural Texas more than a town in the Midwest. The town is a recommended destination for all die-hard football fans. Catching a Spoofhounds game on Friday, and then a Bearcats game on Saturday, is a back-to-back offering that few towns can match. I know I will travel back to Maryville someday to take in the Title Town double-header.

2. Columbia, Missouri
After my time in Maryville, I made the three and half hour drive to Columbia to take in the atmosphere of a University of Missouri (“Mizzou”) home game. The number 18 ranked Tigers were playing host to Indiana in a non-conference game between two Power Five Conference teams.

As I drove east on I-70, and then while I walked through the tailgating scene, I got to observe one of Mizzou's most unique traditions. Many of the fans of the team have "Tiger tails" hanging from the truck of their car. After being assured there are no safety issues related to these tails, I was told that the tails are a sign that the car is owned by a Missouri alumn (however, I'm guessing there are some non-alumn who have the tails as well).



Geographic Analysis of Mizzou
Even though Missouri has two major Metropolitan areas (St. Louis and Kansas City) and is the 18th most populated state in the country, Mizzou is the only FBS level football program in the state. Below are a few statistics that highlight the uniqueness of only one FBS team in the state of Missouri.  
  • Every state with a population bigger than Missouri has at least two FBS teams.
  • There are 17 states with at least two FBS level teams that have a smaller population than Missouri.
  • Missouri is the only state with at least two NFL teams and only one FBS team. 
Being the only FBS team in the state, as well as having two large recruiting bases (St. Louis and Kansas City), it’s not surprising that the majority of players on the roster (50) are from the state of Missouri. Below are a few facts about Mizzou’s current roster.
  • Of the 50 players from the state of Missouri, nineteen are from the Kansas City area, fifteen are from the St. Louis area, and six are from right in Columbia.
  • There are 25 players from the state of Texas, including five of Mizzou’s key offensive skill players (QB – Maty Mauk, RB – Marcus Murphy, RB – Russell Hansbrough, WR – Bud Sasser, and WR – Darius White).
  • There are two players from the town of Missouri City, Texas (John Gibson and J’Mon Moore).
Game Analysis / Results
Between listening to the pre-game on my drive into town and speaking with some Mizzou fans prior to the game, there were three things I heard that stuck out to me.
  1. The pre-game show highlighted Mizzou’s current streak of creating turnovers; heading into the game, Mizzou had created a turnover in 47 consecutive games (the longest current streak in the FBS).
  2. Several fans told me how under appreciated Mizzou is on a national level, and that the team is one of the most underrated teams in the SEC and the country.
  3. The fans were also raving about QB Maty Mauk, saying how he may be the best QB in the SEC; several indicated that he was an upgrade to the team’s QB from last season, James Franklin.
Although the game was close and went down to the last few minutes, it was a relatively sluggish game that left the home crowd very disappointed. Indiana, a more than two touchdown underdog, defeated Mizzou 31–27 by scoring a touchdown in the last minute. After the game was over, I reminded myself about the three things I had heard prior to the game. I left Farout Field thinking about the following:
  1. Mizzou’s turnover streak is over, and it’s always difficult to win games if you don’t create a turnover.
  2. Although the 2013 Mizzou team never got the full appreciation it deserved, this year’s Mizzou team may have actually been slightly overrated as top 20 team in the country (they are now unranked).
Maty Mauk has not shown enough to be considered better than James Franklin; although he finished with over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns, Mauk often seemed uncomfortable in the pocket and struggled to make the necessary throws when his team needed him the most.

3. St. Louis, Missouri
The last stop of my Missouri football weekend was in St. Louis, the state’s second largest city and its largest metropolitan area. I took in an afternoon of NFL action with the local crowd at a sports bar in the St. Louis University area. Like all major cities around the country on a Sunday afternoon, the crowd was full of both the hometown fans and fans of several other NFL teams.
 
Chiefs and Rams
Home to the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams, Missouri is one of only eight states in the country with at least two NFL teams. Because the teams are located four hours apart and play in different conferences, there does not appear to be a major rivalry between the two teams. If you live in the western part of the state, you are probably a Chiefs fans, and if you live in the eastern part of the state, you are probably a Rams fans.
 
However, I did have several people tell me that when you think of the NFL in Missouri, you think of Kansas City and not St. Louis. Because the Rams have struggled ever since the early 2000’s, and baseball rules the city, it did not appear that residents of St. Louis follow the Rams like the residents of Kansas City are loyal to the their Chiefs. One lady summed it up for me when I asked her if she was going to watch the Rams game today. Her response…“you mean the Lambs?” 
 
NFL Players from State
There were 27 players from the state of Missouri (i.e. hometown is located in the state) on opening day NFL rosters this year, which is the 18th most of all states in the country. Fifteen of these players also played college football in the state of Missouri; eleven played at Mizzou and four played at one of the FCS or Division II schools.
 
Since 2000, the state of Missouri has produced twelve total first round NFL draft picks (13th most), including five players who also played college ball in their home state at Mizzou (Justin Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Aldon Smith, Blaine Gabbert and Sheldon Richardson). There have only been three NFL Hall of Famers who played high school ball in the state of Missouri (tied for 28th most): Jimmy Conzelman, Robert (Cal) Hubbard and Roger Wehril. Jimmy Conzelman (Washington University in St. Louis) and Roger Wehril (Mizzou) also played college ball in the state.
 
Game Results
As I watched the NFL games with the local crowd, several people were focused on their favorite non St. Louis team, while there were only a handful of diehard Rams fans watching the local team play the Cowboys. But with the sounds of the Rams game on the restaurant’s speaker system, it seemed everyone was paying attention to the game being played only a few miles away.

As the Rams blew a 21 point lead, and the two Cowboys fans become more and more vocal, you could sense the die-hard Rams fans were once again doubting the team. After the Cowboys hung on to beat the Rams 34-31 in one of the most exciting games of the day, I think everyone in the place would have agreed that the “Lambs” may be the more appropriate nickname.
 
Trip Summary
Each of my three stops provided a different "look and feel" in respect to its football community. In Maryville, it was about pride and family, and I got the feeling the Bearcats and the Spoofhounds are once again both heading for another Championship. In Columbia, it was about high expectations and traditions, but I got the feeling Mizzou is heading for a 0.500 season in the SEC and a mid-tier bowl game. And finally in St. Louis, it was about memories and other NFL teams, and I got the feeling the Rams are heading for another difficult season.