Cotton Bowl notebook: Palatial stadium impresses MU

01/01/2014 2:51 PM

01/01/2014 2:51 PM

Palatial stadium impressive

Five days before playing in the Cotton Bowl at AT Stadium, Missouri got to watch a game for once.

The Tigers camped out in a suite as guests of the Dallas Cowboys for the

de facto

NFC East title game, a 24-22 victory Sunday by visiting Philadelphia.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said reserve quarterback Corbin Berkstresser, a Lee’s Summit native. “A couple guys wanted to leave at halftime, but I said, ‘I can’t leave at halftime. This place is too cool to leave at halftime.’ It’s an awesome experience to be able to come here.”

The HD screens that hang at midfield drew plenty of raves, appearing even bigger in person than they do on TV.

“Jerry’s World — I’ve heard a lot about this place, and it’s definitely living up to the hype,” Missouri wide receiver Marcus Lucas said.

• Senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington is grateful for the time off, because Missouri’s four-week hiatus between games has allowed him to rest a nagging turf-toe injury.

Not that there was any chance he would miss the Cotton Bowl.

“With the adrenaline pumping whenever I run out of that tunnel come Friday, I’m sure the foot will be the last worry on my mind,” said Washington, who injured his left toe Nov. 9 at Kentucky.

Washington played through the pain, delivering so-so games against Mississippi and Auburn. In between, he caught six passes for 97 yards with a 5-yard touchdown against Texas A in the win that clinched the SEC East title.

Asked how the turf toe was feeling, he said, “A lot better. I’m running a lot smoother. I still have on my red (noncontact) jersey for cautionary reasons. I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent, but definitely around 80 percent.”

• Missouri and Oklahoma State have similar offenses, which isn’t a surprise because Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy and MU offensive coordinator Josh Henson served together on Les Miles’ staff with the Cowboys for five seasons.

Gundy was the offensive coordinator, and Henson coached tight ends.

“We had a lot of discussions about what he and I thought would be productive in college football someday but would go on deaf ears with Les, because it didn’t involve two tight ends and a fullback,” Gundy said. “We joke about that now.”

After Missouri left for the Southeastern Conference, the two staffs even got together for several idea-swapping sessions.

“A few year ago, our offensive staff and their offensive staff studied together, because they were not in the Big 12 anymore,” Gundy said. “We always had respect for Missouri’s teams, because we felt like they maximize the talent in the players that they have and are very successful.”

• Missouri has tried to downplay its move from the Big 12 to the SEC as motivation against Oklahoma State.

But it’s an inescapable narrative this week.

“It’s going to be in the back of everybody’s head,” Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert said. “Now that they’re in the SEC, they probably think that they’re way better than us, so we have to come out with an attitude to prove everybody wrong.”

The SEC owns a five-game win streak against the Big 12 in the Cotton Bowl. Oddly enough, Missouri was the last Big 12 team to win.

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