KANSAS CITY, Mo. — And Chase Daniel just smiles. It’s a wicked smile, the kind of smile that says he knows something you don’t. You bring up the current Missouri quarterback, James Franklin, to the former Missouri quarterback, and before long, pistols start firing.
"He’s ready," Daniel, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, says of the Tigers’ senior signal-caller.
"He’s ready to finish off strong. And ready for this, really, the last game of his (Mizzou) career. So it’s awesome."
It’s Cotton Bowl Eve, a chance to lay down the first bricks of 2014 and renew old acquaintances along the way. The last time the Tigers (11-2) hooked up with the Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-2), Daniel was Drew Brees’ backup in New Orleans and Franklin was a sophomore. In a 45-24 home setback to the Pokes in October 2011, Franklin completed just 14 of 27 throws for 184 yards and was picked off three times.
Daniel, the winning quarterback during Mizzou’s 2008 appearance in the Cotton Bowl, doesn’t foresee a repeat. He pictures something more along the lines of the 2011 Independence Bowl, where Franklin threw for 132 yards and ran for another 142, accounting for three scores in a 41-24 win over North Carolina.
"Just go out there and play like you have all season" is Daniel’s sage wisdom to Franklin, whom he’s talked or exchanged texts with several times this fall. "I mean, he’s played unbelievably well — exceptionally well the past two or three games he’s been back. And even before then, before he got hurt (in the shoulder at Georgia), he was playing some of the best football in the nation at the quarterback position. So just go out there, do what you do, enjoy it, take it all in. And, you know, hopefully, get a win."
Hopefully. Daniel’s Cotton Bowl Tigers were the sweethearts of the Metroplex six Januaries ago. Also, fairly cheesed off.
Mizzou, after all, had been snubbed by the Bowl Championship Series bowls despite a head-to-head win over Kansas and a Big 12 North crown. So they channeled that aggression, shall we say, productively: Tailback Tony Temple ran for 281 yards — a then-Cotton Bowl record — and four scores as the Tigers rocked the Arkansas Razorbacks, 38-7.
Daniel was more of a supporting player — 12-for-29 passing with just 139 yards through the air — at the Texas state fairgrounds, not far from his boyhood home in suburban Dallas. But that was partly by design, too; the Hogs’ safeties respected Daniel and receivers Jeremy Maclin and Martin Rucker so much that they made plenty of running room around the line of scrimmage.
"Yeah, well, they were playing two-man," Daniel says now. "They were sending two safeties deep all day, and (it was just a) soft box all day long. And we just kept feeding it to Tony. It was his game from the start. And he deserved everything he got."
Daniel even helped carry Temple off the field after the latter had aggravated his hamstring on a 40-yard touchdown run. His view of Friday night’s Cotton Bowl will be more distant and distracted — he’ll be in Indianapolis with his teammates as they prep for Saturday’s AFC wild-card showdown with the Colts.
"Oh, yeah, it’s cool," Daniel says. "Especially (as) it’s on a national stage, it’s one of the only games (that day), it’s FOX. Especially that they get to play at ‘Jerry World’ now. My parents are going — I’ve got a bunch of people going.
"Actually, if we were playing Sunday (and not Saturday), I was going to actually go down Friday and see the game. But we’re playing Saturday, so this is more important right now. But I’ll definitely be watching."
Recruits will be watching, too. A few weeks after the 2008 Cotton Bowl, Pinkel announced a recruiting class that included a dozen players from the state of Texas. Of the team that will take the field against the Cowboys, 10 Mizzou starters hail from Texas, including Franklin, tailback Henry Josey, right tackle Mitch Morse, linebacker Donovan Bonner and All-American defensive end Michael Sam.
"I just think it really sets the tone for next season," Daniel says. "And that’s how Coach Pinkel, I’m sure, is conveying it to the guys.
"And I’m sure the guys are buying in. I mean, they want to win the game, no matter (where) you’re playing. I don’t think you’re going to really look back at the (SEC) Championship Game (loss to Auburn) and go, ‘Oh, hey, this is motivation (because of) the SEC Championship Game.’ I think it’s completely different, (a) completely different opponent. Oklahoma State’s a great team, but hopefully, we can come out on top."
With that, Daniel smiles again. Fun fact: Of the last 10 Cotton Bowls, the SEC has won nine. The only Big 12 team to horn in on the streak? Mizzou, back in ’08. A lot of folks along Lancer Lane would love to see history repeat itself. And none, you feel, more than No. 10.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.