Now we get creative. Being that I was with-it enough to try to put Eduardo Najera into the field twice, and being that he has already defeated a worthy challenger, I am changing what was supposed to be Najera vs Arrowhead 2008 to KIRK HINRICH vs Arrowhead 2008. Here's your second opportunity to get into the Sweet 16, Kurt. Your opponent is another heavyweight.
Kansas 40, Mizzou 37 (2008)
Really, this shouldn't have felt like too bad a loss. Mizzou had already been eliminated from national title contention, so this did no damage there. Plus, Mizzou had already clinched the North title. There was really nothing at stake beyond simple Border War pride in this one ... but that is often enough.
This game was three hours of anxiety, followed by temporary relief, capped by rage. Mizzou started incredibly slow, rebounded, then collapsed. The first three plays of the game set the tone. Mizzou took the ball and went bad pass > dropped pass > interception. Drops, fumbles and an inability to get to Todd Reesing (who played the game of his damn life) on third downs resulted in an early 10-0 deficit for the Tigers. After Chase Coffman, playing basically on one leg, caught a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 10-7, Mizzou fell apart again. Chase Daniel was called for intentional grounding in the end zone (12-7) and Reesing threw a third-down touchdown pass to Dexton Field. It was 19-10 at halftime.
The second half featured even more anxiety. Three more third-down conversions (the Jayhawks were 12-for-19 on third downs for the day) led to a Jake Sharp touchdown and a 26-10 Jayhawk lead, but Mizzou finally responded. They scored two touchdowns in four plays -- sandwiched between a Jaron Baston interception -- and cut the lead to 26-23 as the game headed into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter alone featured enough plot twists for a mini-series. Darrell Stuckey (also playing the game of his damn life) intercepted his second pass, but Mizzou forced a rare punt. On the following drive, Daniel went Maclin-Maclin-Maclin-Coffman-Coffman, with the Flying Nunchuk scoring his second touchdown to give Mizzou a 30-26 lead with 6:52 left. It took Kansas only five plays to regain the lead on a Kerry Meier touchdown. 33-30, 4:26 left. It took Mizzou just seven plays to get the lead back on a Derrick Washington run. 37-33, 1:50 left. Reesing connected with Meier on four consecutive plays to advance to the Missouri 26, but a couple of incompletions led to a 4th-and-7. One play for the ballgame. Mizzou's blitz, horribly ineffective all game, couldn't get to Reesing, and with 27 seconds left, he found Meier for one of the most infuriating touchdowns in Mizzou history. Mizzou was able to advance into Kansas territory, but a 54-yard Jeff Wolfert attempt was blocked as time expired, and Kansas took the win.
Really, this was one of those games where the defense took the blame for the late collapse, but they held it together as long as possible. The offense's first-half failures wore the defense out, and when it was time to make a stop, they just couldn't do it. Mizzou outgained Kansas, 478-438, for the day, but it didn't matter. Kansas gained the yards that mattered the most: the final 26 to Meier.
It's official: Missouri fans hate white people. How else could somebody as good as Kirk Hinrich make this bracket?
Oh, because he played for Kansas?
And killed Mizzou with big shots?
While looking like Alfred E. Neuman? Gotcha. Never mind.
In his final two games at the Hearnes Center in 2002 and 2003, Hinrich was just devastating. He played 73 minutes, scored 45 points, made seven of 12 3-pointers, and in his final shot in the building, he made about a 25-foot 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to give Kansas a lead they would not relinquish. Of all the ways Kansas has gotten Mizzou's goat in basketball through the years, winning their final three games at Hearnes was probably at the top of the list, and Hinrich was incredibly instrumental in two of them. And again, he looked like Alfred E. Neuman. Nothing is worse than being crushed by a guy who, at first glance, you think you could take in a game at the Rec Center.