Silver for ‘Spoon’
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon helps Mizzou bring home Arch Rivalry trophy
Mizzou linebacker Sean Weatherspoon races toward the end zone after picking off Illinois quarterback Juice Williams. Photo by Catalin Abagiu
Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon dropped back into coverage, reading Illinois quarterback Juice Williams’s every move. When Williams locked onto his receiver, Weatherspoon sprang to life.
Tearing toward Daniel Dufrene, he ripped the ball from the Illini receiver’s grasp for his second of two interceptions and took it 35 yards for the touchdown, effectively sealing Mizzou’s 52-42 victory during the first game of the season in front of a record crowd of 66,441 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
“It was my first time seeing the end zone since my senior year of high school, so it was definitely a great feeling,” Weatherspoon says. “I was trying to help my team out at a crucial point in the game, but I was just hoping they didn’t call it back cause I felt like my knee was down.”
In his postgame news conference, coach Gary Pinkel said the team was down because the players hadn’t closed out the game as well as they’d hoped. Nothing was going to get the Jasper, Texas, native down, though, coming off a performance worthy of all the pre-season hype surrounding him.
“I ain’t disappointed at all,” Weatherspoon says, thoroughly enjoying the outcome of his nine tackles and two picks. “I’m ready to get back to Co Mo and just have a good time and enjoy this win.”
With a raucous record crowd of 66,441 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the team triumphantly hoists the Arch Rival trophy skyward following the 52-42 win over the Illini. Photo by Catalin Abagiu
After the game his beaming smile persisted, even as he discussed what Mizzou would need to do to get better results from the defense in future games. Pinkel wanted all his players to feel as good about the game.
“You enjoy winning; are you kidding me?” Pinkel says. “Am I kind of glad they’re disappointed? Yeah. Am I glad I had to get them cranked up a little? Yeah. Don’t tell them I said that. We go in with lessons to learn. We learn them, we evaluate, and then we move on. Even if we won by a landslide, that’s what we do.”
Weatherspoon wasn’t the only Tiger to turn in a standout performance in Saturday night’s game. Quarterback Chase Daniel paced the Tigers' high-flying attack, going 26-for-45 with three touchdowns and an interception. Running back Derrick Washington had 19 rushes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Chase Coffman had nine receptions for 120 yards and a score, while receiver Tommy Saunders caught six for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
“With this offense, you never know who’s going to make plays,” Saunders says. “You have 10 catches one game, none the next, blocking every play. Chase [Daniel] is just going to take whatever the defense gives us.”
And because the Tigers so aggressively snatched up nearly every scoring opportunity, they took hold of the silver Arch Rivalry trophy after the game. Hoisting it in the air, the team danced around, singing the “Fight Tiger” fight song.
The Edward Jones Dome lights hit the arch atop the 2-foot-tall prize and seemed to be reflected in the black-and-gold sequined visor of 71-year-old Betty Williams; the ecstasy of victory visible on the face of 11-year-old fan Jeremiah King; the joy of song in the post-game revelry that continued long into the muggy St. Louis night.
Following his touchdown, Weatherspoon was seen making a twisting motion with his hands.
“We’ve got it locked down; we got it tight, man,” he says, laughing and clarifying he wasn’t squeezing the Juice.
And if the defense can lock it down as well as Weatherspoon did Saturday, the celebrations are sure to continue.