COLUMBIA — It’s a good thing the Indianapolis Colts were in San Francisco on Saturday night.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Otherwise, the Missouri football team might have been stranded at Indianapolis International Airport.
The Tigers, 3-0, were unable to fly home after beating Indiana in Bloomington because of mechanical issues with the team’s Columbia-bound charter.
“It’s the first time in 37 years as a coach that I didn’t return home on an away game,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “That’ll be one of the chapters in my book one day.”
The Tigers’ 140-person traveling party had cleared security at its terminal before maintenance crews discovered a warning light was lit on the plane.
With no mechanic immediately available, Missouri was forced to return to the hotel it stayed in Friday night in downtown Indianapolis — the same hotel that the Colts occupy before home games.
So had Andrew Luck and company been in town, the Tigers would have been out of, well, luck.
“The most important thing is the light went on when we were on the ground instead of the light going on when we were in the air,” Pinkel told Missouri play-by-play announcer Mike Kelly on his weekly radio show, Tiger Talk.
Of course, it was more than a mere inconvenience. There were significant logistical challenges — busing the players and gear back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep and feeding them the next morning.
And doing it all on short notice.
The delay also threw off Missouri’s preparation for this week’s non-conference finale against Arkansas State, which kicks off 6:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
“Our Sundays are so filled with players working out and study table and players meetings, practice sometimes,” Pinkel said. “We had to reorganize everything. … My big thing and the most important thing was to get done with the Indiana game on time (Sunday) and we did.”
To be sure, it was frustrating, but at least one player chose to find a silver lining.
“After I calmed down about the plane not being set for us to go, I was thinking about and thought, ‘Hey, we ain’t got to lift (Sunday), so it’s a couple extra hours we get to sleep in,’” junior defensive end Kony Ealy joked.