After a tough Texas Bowl loss and the turn of the new decade, it's time to do a little reflecting. We've looked at the worst moments of the '00s and the best basketball players, so now it's time to turn to the moments that warmed our hearts the most. And despite the problems in the middle of the decade, we had plenty of moments to choose from. Last-second wins, rivalry games, and a couple of stellar hires highlight the list. With help from The Beef, let's get started! And because we really enjoyed writing this one and didn't want to stop, let's break this into two posts -- Honorable Mention and the Top 10.
(A vast majority of the pics below come from the Trib archive, always an outstanding tool for looking up anything Mizzou-related from 1993 to the present.)
Football: Mizzou hires Gary Pinkel (2000): He's been a polarizing figure at times (then again, very few major conference football coaches aren't), but the bottom line is that, in all of Missouri's history, only one or two decades have been as successful for Missouri as the 2000s have been -- the 1960s and maybe the 1940s. If Mike Alden had hired somebody else in early-December 2000, that might not have happened.
Basketball: Mizzou 70, Georgia 68 (2001): After back-to-back first-round losses in the NCAA Tournament, Mizzou came to play in Greensboro. Against a 16-14 Georgia team most didn't feel deserved inclusion in the tourney, Quin Snyder's Tigers raced to a 15-0 lead in the game's opening minutes, then slowly gave it away and trailed by 1 at halftime. They led by 11 with just over two minutes left, then gave it away again. Three quick Georgia jumpers and two missed Clarence Gilbert free throws quickly cut the lead to 5. Two more missed Mizzou jumpers gave Georgia a chance, and a Rashad Wright 3-pointer inexplicably tied the game with 22 seconds left. The wheels had fallen off quickly and violently, but after a timeout, Mizzou answered. Kareem Rush was double-teamed and found Clarence Gilbert on the baseline. Swish. Gilbert's game-winner with 0.8 seconds left sent Mizzou to the second round, where they would scare the pants off of eventual national champion Duke.
Women's Basketball: Mizzou 78, Georgia 65 (2001): Believe it or not, there was a time when the future looked just for bright for women's basketball under Cindy Stein as it did for Quin Snyder. With soon-to-be WNBA pick Amanda Lassiter leading the way, 10-seed Mizzou slowly pulled away from 2-seed Georgia in Athens in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, earning a spot in the Sweet Sixteen in Pittsburgh. The Beef led a bus trip to the 'Burgh to watch Mizzou give annual power Louisiana Tech all they could handle. The Techsters led by 11 before Mizzou made a furious comeback to cut the lead to four with under two minutes left. Tech would pull away, but with players like Karensa Barr and Evan Unrau still on the roster for seasons to come, the future looked outstanding.
Football: Mizzou 33, Illinois 20 (2002): Mike Kelly: "Missouri fans, you have yourself a quarterback. John Kadlec (voice cracking): "We have a quarterback." Though he did not end up being Mizzou's quarterback of the decade, Brad Smith put together a coming-out party unlike any other, rushing for 138 yards and passing for 152 yards against the defending Big Ten champions.
Basketball: Mizzou 89, Kansas 86 (OT) (2006): Call it Quin Snyder's last stand, call it Thomas Gardner's finest moment, call it the Christian Moody Game, this one barely missed the top ten. In the middle of a listless handful of seasons, Mizzou Arena's first truly great moment was as unlikely as it was brilliant. Mizzou trailed Kansas by seven points, 74-67, with just 35 seconds left when Gardner nailed an off-balance 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four. Mario Chalmers made one of two free throws, then Jimmy McKinney responded with a short jumper. 75-72. Marshall Brown and Jason Horton then trapped Chalmers and forced a jump ball. Possession arrow: Mizzou. McKinney, in possibly the finest moment of his somewhat disappointing career, then drove on Brandon Rush, made another short jumper, and was fouled. The roof was about to blow off of Mizzou Arena, but McKinney missed the free throw, and Russell Robinson responded with two FTs of his own. 77-74, 14.2 seconds left. Time for Gardner to rise and fire again. Bang. Over Robinson, Gardner nailed another three, and the game was tied with five seconds left. Of course, five seconds is a long time. In the ensuing chaos, Chalmers raced up the court and upon being double-teamed, found Christian Moody completely wide open under the basket. McKinney somehow managed to foul him before he got off the easy layup, but the damage was done. With 0.4 seconds left, Moody would surely make at least one FT, and the game was going to be over. Nope.
Basketball: Mizzou hires Mike Anderson (2006): As recently as twelve months ago, we weren't completely sure Mike Alden had made the right hire on this one. Granted, his hands were tied, as he had to fight through both controversy in the way Quin Snyder was dismissed and too many people trying to exert too much control over the search process. While ignoring people screaming Bob Huggins' name despite Huggy Bear's obvious issues (then again, this is the same fanbase that has responded to an awful defensive performance in a bowl game by deciding that the #1 issue of the offseason is getting a new offensive coordinator, and the same fanbase screaming Gary Barnett's name back in 2005, so nothing is too surprising ... and yes, I'm bitter and annoyed), Alden finally zeroed in on the former #2 man behind Nolan Richardson. Mike Anderson had brought UAB to the sweet sixteen and offered an exciting brand of basketball, and Alden got him signed ... while simultaneously having to save his job. In the end, Alden survived and Anderson thrived, and there is absolutely no question now that he was the best potential hire Alden could have made. Anderson's program is now everything Quin Snyder's wasn't -- successful, likable, defensively intense.
Baseball: Mizzou 8, Pepperdine 3 (2006): They seemed to have all the pieces in place to make a serious run in 2006, but like the basketball team had done a few years earlier, the plan almost fell apart. Tim Jamieson's Tigers had started the season ranked 10th in the country, but Max Scherzer got hurt and nobody stepped up. Mizzou suffered through an amazing nine-game losing streak in early April, rallied, then got swept in Lubbock to seemingly end all hopes. But then they swept Texas in Columbia, then beat OU and OSU in the Big 12 tournament. They got to 31-25 and drew perhaps the final at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament, drawing a 4-seed in the Malibu Regional, losing to host Pepperdine in Game #1 with Scherzer on the mound, and trailing UC-Irvine, 4-2 in the 9th, in the proceeding elimination game. A disappointing season was about to come to a close. But the Tigers squeezed out two runs off of two singles, an error, and an RBI double-play, and the game went to extra innings. In the 14th inning, freshman Ryan Lollis hit an RBI single, and after allowing a couple of singles in the bottom of the inning, Taylor Parker induced a game-ending double play to keep hope alive. Then freshman Rick Zagone shut down UCLA, 2-1. Then freshman Aaron Crow shut down Pepperdine, 4-1. Mizzou had survived to Monday, but they had to beat Pepperdine one more time to advance to the Super Regionals. No problem. Parker pitched 5.2 innings, and Mizzou exploded for four runs in the seventh. Travis Wendte loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but the comeback was not to be. Somehow, some way, Mizzou had advanced to the Super Regional despite all the mid-season struggle, and for a few weeks in May and June, Mizzou was a baseball school.
Wrestling: Ben Askren wins his second national title (2007): It was nothing short of a coronation for Ben Askren in 2007. 2006 had seen him march his way to an undefeated season and winner of the Hodge Award as the nation's top wrestler. Now a senior, Askren matched his output of his junior year, finishing an amazing 42-0 and never being tested in the NCAA's. After a tech win in his first match, Askren rippoed off three straight pins to make the semis. He would win 8-3 and finish his Tiger career with an 8-2 win over #2 seed Keith Gavin of Pitt to complete perhaps the greatest career of any Tiger athlete in any sport.
Football: Mizzou 41, Nebraska 6 (2007): Though Mizzou had been perfect in their first four games of the 2007 season, the Tigers had been less than impressive. Sloppy wins, but wins nonetheless had the Tigers 17th going into their game with the #25 Huskers. The stage was set, and never before had it been done so more perfectly. Saturday night game on ESPN with absolutely PERFECT weather. The crowd was almost entirely clad in gold, and they were not disappointed. The Tigers came right out and dominated from the first snap. In the end, Pinkel called off the dogs in the 4th quarter (but not before a wonderful fake FG which gave the Tigers their final score) and sent Tiger fans back to the parking lot to celebrate a 41-6 thrashing. In the end, some consider this the night "The Zoo" was born.
Soccer: Mizzou wins Big 12 Tournament (2008): The tenure of Bryan Blitz continued into 2007, and while it was to the dismay of a growing group, the coach was finally able to break through again with a young squad and get back to the NCAA's. That excitement would carry over to the 2008 campaign and it saw the Tigers score lots of goals and remain among the elite of the Big XII teams. A late-season 2-1 loss to Texas would knock Mizzou out of the regular season hunt, but they would close the campaign with a 6-0 thumping of kansas. Heading into the Big XII Tournament, the Tigers would earn a 3-seed and face the 6th seeded, but 9th ranked Texas Longhorns. They would avenge their recent loss, winning 3-1 and setting up a rematch against the Hawks. kU brought much more to the table this time, and the 8th seeded squad pushed the Tigers to a penalty kick shootout, which the Tigers would win to set up a championship match against the 4th seeded Buffaloes of CU. The Tigers had beaten CU 1-0 earlier in the season and would match that score when senior captain Mo Redmond would score in the 6th minute. The tally would stand and give the Tigers a conference title, their first of many in 2008.
Wrestling: Mark Ellis wins national title (2009): The junior started the season in the Black and Gold meet actually losing to vaunted recruit Dom Bradley. It was one of the last times he would lose for 2009. After falling to #3 ranked Jared Rosholt at the UCM open, Ellis would rip off 21 straight wins to ascend to the top of the HWY division. The Big XII Championships would see Ellis make the finals and assure himself an NCAA bid (not a sure thing when all five heavies were rated in the top 16 and only the top-3 are guaranteed a spot), where he was seeded #2 across from nemesis David Zabriskie at #1. Ellis would win all his matches (in standard heavyweight close fashion), but Zabriskie would not hold up his end of the bargain. In the finals, Ellis faced #5 seeded Konrad Dudziak of Duke, who had upset two higher ranked seeds to make the championships. The final match of the entire season would go to OT where Ellis would escape and then be able to keep Dudziak down for the full 30 seconds to win the national title.
Softball: Mizzou makes Women's College World Series (2009): Mizzou had completed the 2008 campaign by winning an NCAA regional for the first time in years before bowing out in the Super Regionals. 2009 began with most of that team returning, as well as the influx of super frosh pitchers Chelsea Thomas and Kristen Nottelmann. The Tigers would start off 12-0, but then lost three of four, including a 2-1 loss to UCLA. They got hot again, despite an injury to Nottelmann, winning 26 of their next 28. Four straight losses in conference would steal away a chance at a regular season title, and they would enter the Big XII Tournament having lost four of five. They responded by not giving up a run in Oklahoma City on their way to Big XII Tournament title and would return home to host a NCAA regional. After a 1-0 win over Depaul, the team would head west to the Super Regional at UCLA. The Tigers would avenge the early season loss with a 2-1 win of their own, bu would lose the next 5-2 to set up the rubber match. The Tigers would absolutely dominate, run-ruling the Bruins 9-1 to win the Super Regional and head to OKC for the College World Series. The squad would run out of gas and lose both their games, but a magical season still completed with 50 wins.
Football win over Kansas (2009): After back to back Big XII North titles, 2009 was seen as a rebuilding year for the Tigers and seen as the year when kansas might finally break through as directed by their powerful and experienced offense. The teams would take very different paths to this game, with the Tigers starting hot, fading after a Blaine Gabbert injury, and then recovered to get hot as the season ended. For the Hawks, promise of a break-through season faded in staggering and painful fashion, as a 5-0 start was met with six straight losses. By the time the game kicked off, the Mark Mangino saga was playing out, but kU got out early on the Tigers. A Grant Ressel field goal shortly before the half made it a one possession game, but kU came right out again as Todd Reesing completed over 400 yards of passes on the day. Mizzou kept fighting and finally took the lead late in the third on a 68 yard pass and catch by Domino Axelrod. Another Ressel field goal would extend the lead, but kU would come right back to go up 39-36 with five minutes to go. MU's drive would stall, and Coach Pinkel would roll the dice (according to some) and punt the ball back to kansas with only a couple of minutes to go. Jake Harry's punt would be another beauty, and all Mizzou fans know the rest of the story. Another sodding of Reesing to cut it to one, then a great run by Derrick Washington to set up the chip-shot, clock expiring, kU bowl hope-killing field goal by Ressel.