ST. LOUIS – For the better part of four quarters, the Illinois defense held Brad Smith, Missouri''s dynamic quarterback, in check.
They kept him in the pocket as planned. When he bolted, they gang-tackled him. When he threw, he couldn''t go deep.
ST. LOUIS – A star was born Saturday amid the tear-stained disappointment of another Illini dome loss to Missouri.
For the first time in years, the UI boasts a cerebral speedster with swivels inside of wiggles, with evasive instincts that come boiling up from the genes and with sturdy legs complemented by the soft hands of a pickpocket.
ST. LOUIS – Frustration. But not devastation.
Execution errors. Not personality flaws.
ST. LOUIS – He could order up even more orange, maybe some socks and shoes to match the tops and bottoms. He could gather the starters at South Farms and castrate to motivate, a trick that got the Mississippi State coach in hot water a few years ago. Or he could have the team give up its normal swank digs the night before kickoff for something more spartan, like Forbes Hall.
ST. LOUIS – You wouldn''t have blamed the Illinois football players for thinking they had walked into the wrong locker room. Like the Denver Broncos''. Or Clemson''s.
Instead of their usual home blue jerseys and orange pants, the Illini found nothing but orange waiting for them Saturday morning.
ST. LOUIS – Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has heard about Carey Davis'' recent knee surgery. He figures to take a look at the doctor''s work late this morning at the Edward Jones Dome.
ST. LOUIS – When Matt Sinclair watches film of last year''s Illinois-Missouri game, he hardly recognizes the Illini on the screen.
They blew assignments, missed tackles and looked generally overwhelmed by the Tigers. They walked off the field with a 33-20 loss and a lot of questions.