Historical odds and ends: Purdue-Missouri

Alan Karpick, Publisher
Gold and Black
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Bob Mitchell

Here's a look at some historical tidbits relevant to the Boilermakers' visit to Missouri this Saturday.

The uniform trend began against Mizzou ...

At least it did for Purdue in Memphis, Tenn., in the 1980 Liberty Bowl, the last time Purdue and Missouri faced each other in football. Purdue won, 28-25.

Getting special black pants just for that game stood out to Bart Burrell, the receiving end of Purdue's famed "Carmel Connection" along with quarterback Mark Herrmann. It was the first time in decades Purdue had broken from its traditional gold pants, and it gave the underdog Boilermakers a shot in the arm.

"It might not have meant as much to us then as it does to the kids today, but it meant a lot," said Burrell, who lives in Lafayette and is an investment banker with Merrill Lynch. "I don't recall knowing about the black pants in advance, but it was really something then.

"We had a chip on our shoulder since we were the underdog, and the black pants helped us, at least mentally, have an edge. Coach (Jim) Young was cutting edge in a lot of things like that, we were ahead of the curve."

Purdue has had black pants in its uniform rotation ever since.

More Burrell memories of Memphis

Burrell admits his memory isn't crystal clear in the near four decades that have passed since the Liberty Bowl, but several other things came to his mind about the matchup with Mizzou.

"I can still see Coach Young puking his guts out in the locker room before the game," said Burrell, who finished third in the nation with 66 catches in 1980, just four behind tight end teammate Dave Young, who was tops with 70. "In its own way, it may have ended up helping us because it allowed Mark (Herrmann) to call the plays."

That last sentence bears a little further explanation. Herrmann had struggled a little in the Miami (Ohio) game earlier in the season and almost was benched by Young. Instead, Young decided to stick with Herrmann and also gave him the keys to call the plays, something that was rare in 1980, and almost unthinkable today. Empowered, Herrmann went on a tear, helping his team to a six-game winning streak. Yet, heading into the conference title-deciding game against at Michigan, Young decided to resume play-calling duties. The Boilermakers were shut out by the Wolverines, 26-0.

"I would never want Coach to be sick, and there were more reasons than just play-calling that had something to do with us getting beat at Michigan," Burrell said. "Still, we freelanced a lot against Missouri, and it was great to have Mark leading that off as he had done so well during the season."

Newspaper accounts say Herrmann actually didn't take over play-calling until after the first six minutes of the game, but the Boilermakers scored all 28 of their points with Herrmann directing traffic.

Burrell, the ultimate team player, still remembers a strange feeling he had in his last college game that he had never experienced before. Herrmann and Burrell were scheduled to play in postseason all-star games in Hawaii and Japan and were leaving right after the Liberty Bowl.

"For the first time in my career, I was afraid of getting hurt," said Burrell, who set a Liberty Bowl record (at the time) with eight receptions for 113 yards and two scores. "I didn't want to miss going to Hawaii and Japan, and I really hated myself for feeling that way, especially because the Missouri game was so important."

To make matters worse, an ABC photographer sustained a gruesome leg fracture on the sidelines very early into the game right in front of Burrell, freaking out the Boilermaker receiver even further.

"The game got rolling, and I sort of forgot about it," Burrell said. "Still, it shows you what can go through the mind of a 22-year-old before and during a game. It also shows you what you remember all these years later."

Burrell did make the trip and played in the Hula and Japan Bowls. He even earned a tryout with the Oakland Raiders before starting on his successful business career. And Herrmann and Burrell remain close friends to this day.

The third top-of-mind recollection from the Liberty Bowl trip involved another teammate who has become a lifelong friend of Burrell's, Pete Quinn. As the Boilermakers starting center and team captain and also team showman (not much has changed), Quinn was asked to represent his team in a talent portion of a pre-Liberty Bowl luncheon. Missouri's entrant had chosen to imitate Richard Pryor and did an obscenity-laced monologue that didn't go over well with the Memphis crowd.

Quinn, who loves to sing and still often sings the National Anthem in the radio booth where he serves has served as color commentator since the mid-1990s, was up next.

"I still remember how Pete took the rendition of 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' and turned it into 'Herrmann Went Down To Memphis,'" Burrell said. "Cybill Shepherd (an actress most famous for her lead role in "Moonlighting" with Bruce Willis a few years later) was there and was so impressed with Pete's singing that she joined in with him for the Elvis' "Suspicious Minds" a little later. They were a big hit with the people there. That was Pete at his best, and it made for a lasting memory."

The making of the golden boy and, eventually, the golden girl

In the two games between Purdue and Mizzou prior to 1980, legendary quarterback Len Dawson was the Boilermakers' quarterback. He led Purdue to a 16-7 win in 1956 but was most noted for his four-touchdown performance against the Tigers in his first college appearance as a sophomore two years earlier. Freshmen weren't eligible in those days, and due to one-platoon substitution rules in the 1950, Dawson came off the bench to have the astonishing debut against the Tigers. Purdue won 31-0.

But Dawson wasn't finished. A week later, the Alliance, Ohio, native tossed another four touchdowns (in just seven completions), and Purdue shocked No. 1 Notre Dame, 27-14, ending the Irish's 20-game unbeaten streak. The national media dubbed Dawson "The Golden Boy."

Two years later, the Purdue "All-America" Marching Band decided it needed a "Golden Girl" to balance things out, and so one of college football's great traditions began.

Dawson, now 82, is in his last year as a color analyst for the Kansas City Chiefs' radio network and is the first Boilermaker quarterback to be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame.


Mizzou vs. the Big Ten at home

Missouri is 8-8-2 all-time against Big Ten teams since 1970 (I don't include Nebraska since the Tigers have yet to face the Cornhuskers since the Big Red joined the Big Ten). Mizzou is looking for its first win over a Big Ten foe since 1993 with its most recent loss a stunning upset at the hands of IU. The Hoosiers beat the the No. 18-ranked Tigers 31-27 on Sept. 20, 2014. It was former IU coach Kevin Wilson's biggest win as the Hoosier head man. A subpar Michigan State team, also defeated Missouri 13-10 in 2000 in Columbia. Of course, that same Spartan team defeated Purdue's Rose Bowl team 30-10 later that season in East Lansing.

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