Tigers eager for streak-breaking challenge at Nebraska

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
3:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The pictures are noticeable every day when Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon heads into his team's locker room.

Former great Missouri players like Kellen Winslow, Phil Bradley and James Wilder are always there for Weatherspoon and his teammates, a familiar link to the proud lineage of the Tiger program.

But Winslow, Bradley and Wilder and their accomplishments seem to be more important to Weatherspoon and his teammates than ever this week. The Tigers are preparing to and halt one of the longest and most aggravating streaks in Missouri football. The Tigers haven't won in Nebraska since capping the 1978 season with a 35-31 victory over the Cornhuskers.

"It's always great to win, but to be able to do it over there this week would be great for this class," Weatherspoon said. "When you think about that team with Kellen Winslow and Phil Bradley and what they accomplished, people still talk about them. You see what they do and it inspires you to do the same thing they did."

The Tigers have lost 15 straight games in Lincoln during the stretch. It started in the middle days of Jimmy Carter's presidency when disco music was popular and "Laverene and Shirley" was America's most popular television show. Four different presidents later, Missouri still hasn't won there.

"This is 2008," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "Everybody likes to look back at the history and everybody can. But I'm just focusing on this year and trying to play our game. And hopefully, we can do that."

Being able to vanquish the heralded "Sea of Red" at Memorial Stadium would be a tangible link that the North Division has finally turned in the Tigers' favor. Missouri claimed its first North Division title last season, including a 41-6 blowout victory over the Cornhuskers in Columbia as the Tigers rolled up 606 total yards.

But beating their arch rivals in their home stadium would be perhaps the most fitting indicator that the Tigers have clearly emerged as the North's top program.

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel remembers his first trip to in 2006 as an inexperienced sophomore quarterback who made his 10th career start there. Daniel was limited to 251 total yards and intercepted twice as the Cornhuskers claimed a 34-20 victory that helped boost them to their most recent North title.

"They embarrassed up there and we won last year. I'm 1-1 and I don't look at it with any extra pressure," Daniel said. "They'll be loud and they'll be wearing red -- they're some of the best fans in college football there.

"But we've been trying to break down barriers while I've been here. We hadn't won at either Kansas State or Colorado in a long time and were able to do it last season. This is another streak we'd like to break, although we understand it will be terribly difficult to do."

Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky helped stoke a little passion when he called the Tigers out after the Cornhuskers' 35-30 loss to Virginia Tech last week.

"Missouri ... they need to watch out, because we've got a lot of anger now," Lucky told the Omaha World Herald.

Lucky perhaps was brooding after rushing for only 17 yards in the Cornhuskers' first loss of the season. But it's provided some inspiration for a Tigers team that appears to be more talented than the Cornhuskers heading into Saturday's game.

Weatherspoon chuckled when he heard about Lucky's words.

"You can't get caught up in the bulletin board material, but we appreciate the bulletin board material," Weatherspoon told the Columbia Missourian. "It gives us a little more confidence. It gives us a little edge, because we know guys are out there talking smack about us, and we just want to show guys what we can do.

"If we go out there and take care of business as a defensive front and take care of the line of scrimmage, then we'll be able to talk it up a little bit."

Pinkel is trying to make as little of the smack talking or the hostile environment as possible -- even as his team prepares for what will be its first true road game this season.

"Hopefully, we can handle it," Pinkel said. "We've prepared for it, just like any other time. We embrace it and think we like to play in it. It's a great stadium with great tradition. We'll prepare to deal with the noise and get ready to play."

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