Last week, I asked people to soak in the good weekends because they're not always that good. Well, this one was even better. The 99th Homecoming at Ol' Mizzou was quite possibly the best one ever, and I hope this diary does Saturday some justice.
3:30am - Gates open for GameDay. Mizzou fans have been waiting a long, long time for this moment, and they will represent as well as anybody ever has on this show.
~7:00am - From Ross: Even the start of the day is unfairly poetic. UribeAuction and I park in East Campus and make the walk over to the Quad, where this scene awaits: The sky is still dark, which a tinge of purple from the sun trying to push through the soon-to-depart storm clouds. The dim quad lights spotlight the day's setting. Underneath the J-School archway, a path I've walked literally hundreds of times between the stone lions and the words "Wise shall be the bearers of light," this all becomes visible as U2's "Where the Streets Have No Names" plays. I'm not ashamed to admit, the entire scene had me one more stimulus away from a sports cry. This was our Mizzou, the center of the college football universe. There's been talk on RMN about the importance of College GameDay being generational. Well, this is my generation, and this was a once in a generation memory, as the whole weekend would prove to be.
8:00am - GameDay begins in front of a half-full quad and an incredibly gorgeous backdrop. I jokingly told my friends from Oklahoma (the Ratterrees) that Mizzou was viewing this as something of a national audition for all the people who thought they were undeserving of inclusion in Big Ten talk this summer. This was Mizzou's "See? We matter! We're a real university and everything!" moment.
11:00am - Corso fakes Mizzou fans out by starting to put on a Mizzou helmet, then going with the Sooner mascot head (a cow-pig of some sort) instead. It is amazing how seriously some people take Corso's picks. People were referencing it after the game ("See what Corso thinks about that, huh??"). It's just for show, guys.
(And for those who were "thankful" that he picked Oklahoma ... he did kinda sorta pick Mizzou to beat Kansas in '07 too, and that worked out alright.)
Afterward, ESPN will announce that an estimated 18,000 fans crammed into the northern half of the Quad for the show, obliterating Nebraska's previous record of 15,000. It's not often that somebody else can break an attendance record associated with Nebraska football, so well done everybody.
11:30am - The Beef and company begin tailgating. It seems as if anybody who has ever tailgated with us, is tailgating with us this (mostly) beautiful Saturday. The Rock M Nation crowd is well-represented: The Beef, Mrs. The Beef (Tailgate Queen), and Baby Beef ... ZouDave and his father ... D-Sing and Andy--01 ... RPT's parents, brother, and grandfather ... Positivity! ... lionsden ... OKCtiger ... mcboomofdoom ... ghtd36 and ghtd36's girlfriend ... SleepyFloyd7 ... M7Tiger ... MU 1839 ...
(Allow me to take a moment to once again mention that RPT's mom makes the best corn dip on the planet.)
And some guy drops off eight slabs of ribs, just because.
12:00pm - The Homecoming Parade begins downtown.
2:15pm - All the moving pieces (we had some visitors for lunch, and the Ratterrees have two young kids) have finally been wrangled together, and Iowa State has clinched the win over Texas (ridiculous), so we are departing for the stadium. Mrs. Bill C. and the animals will now get a few hours to themselves. (The animals held up surprisingly well to the onslaught of strangers.)
By the way, Texas' up-and-down play this year paints a very vivid picture of what life is like in college football today. While the same teams populate most of the upper tier in a given season, almost everybody takes occasional steps backwards. Texas and Florida are experiencing it this year, and Oklahoma did in 2005 and 2009. USC's mid-2000s run was incredible because they managed to go basically seven years (2002-08) without a true step backwards. It is nearly impossible to pull that off nowadays. I'm curious to see what kind of run Alabama currently has in them.
3:00pm - While others have gone to check out the basketball scrimmage (this really was a full day), we arrive at Lot X. What is typically a 15-minute drive took almost 45 minutes. Traffic is at a "one hour before kickoff" level four and a half hours before kickoff. Have I mentioned that Columbia brought its A-game in every possible way today?
~4:30 - Possibly the highlight of the tailgate. Eric Ratterree (Trent's older brother) walks up to ghtd36, squeezes him really hard on the shoulder, and says "So you're the guy who always makes fun of Trent, huh? You're the funny guy? You seem more like a douchebag to me. You think you're funny?" (ghtd36 would later say, "I saw people taking pictures, so I assumed something was up, but just in case, I went to my normal defense, which is cowering.") As Eric starts to lose his game face, he drops the punchline: "I don't think it's funny at all. You know what it is? DISRESPECT." Laughs all around.
5:00 - Everybody take a swing at Big Mo with the Rally Champlin!
6:30 - Time to head for the stadium.
SWITCHING TO GAME TIME
14:46 - It took one play for Faurot Field to go completely apes***. Mizzou receives the opening kickoff (shocking!), and up man Gahn McGaffie takes a short kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Mizzou lead. It is the first opening kickoff touchdown for Mizzou since 1967. (This is the second "since 1967" reference we've gotten to make in two weeks -- last week Mizzou pitched six straight shutout quarters in conference for the first time since, you guessed it, 1967.) Kicking short wasn't the intention, but the return still would have been stopped for a short gain if not for a lovely, patient effort from McGaffie. When McGaffie signe, we heard great things about his potential as a return man, but he never really earned, nor was given, an opportunity to shine in this regard. If not for the success Marcus Murphy had returning kicks in recent games, I think you'd be hearing some clamor for McGaffie to get a shot as the No. 1 return man. Regardless, what a great moment for this guy. A huge play in a huge win.
13:41 - OU goes three-and-out after Kenji Jackson stops Ryan Broyles for three yards and Kevin Rutland executes yet another perfect corner blitz on third down (his third sack in two quarters). I start to wonder just how crazy the atmosphere might get if Mizzou were to score another quick touchdown, but the wind wreaks havoc with Carl Gettis instead. He readies himself to field Tress Way's punt, and it dies a couple of yards away from where he expected it. He misplays the ball, and OU recovers. OU quickly scores on a 27-yard pass from Landry Jones to Kenny Stills, and it is 7-7.
12:28 - On Mizzou's first play from scrimmage, De'Vion Moore races for 20 yards (an encouraging sign, to say the least), and a 14-yard pass to T.J. Moe allows Mizzou to flip the field. Matt Grabner will eventually punt, and OU will start its third drive from their 10.
As a whole, it seemed Moe was used as a bit of a decoy today. He was only targeted six times (he caught three); meanwhile, Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp were targeted a combined 17 times. OU focused on taking Moe and Michael Egnew (seven catches for a rather hilarious eight yards) out of the equation, and Kemp and Jackson killed them.
9:24 - Oklahoma flips the field right back after a 25-yard pass to Rock Bridge's own Trey Millard. Millard had a nice day -- of all the Rock Bridge players to leave Columbia for another school (and there have been plenty in recent years), I blame Millard the least. He would have ended up either a tight end or a linebacker at Mizzou, and though OU also initially recruited him as a tight end, he has been a revelation for them at fullback. Obviously that wouldn't have happened here.
(I still chuckled for a brief moment at the "Trey-tor" sign at GameDay.)
7:39 - Penalties mar Mizzou's second drive. Eight plays manage just 16 yards, and Matt Grabner must punt again. Somehow, we are only midway through the first quarter.
3:47 - Roy Finch announces his presence for the Sooners. He makes nice runs of 17 and 8 yards, and the OU hurry-up offense (9 plays in just 2:15) quickly advances to the MU 12. (Around this time, Mizzou's Dominique Hamilton gets injured -- it turns out later on that he has a broken ankle and is likely out for the season.) But…
...Aldon Smith sniffs out a dump-off pass to my boy Trent Ratterree and picks it off. Ratterree slows him down briefly at first, but Smith ends up returning it 58 yards to the OU 28. Kenny Stills makes a nice play to catch up and make the tackle (while potential Mizzou blockers were not actually looking for anybody to block). Aldon doesn't seem to have his fifth gear back yet, but Aldon Smith in fourth gear is pretty damn good.
14:31 - After two runs by Henry Josey generate two first downs, Mizzou starts the second quarter with a one-yard De'Vion Moore touchdown run. 14-7 Mizzou. Oklahoma withstood the initial surge of Mizzou adrenaline, and now Mizzou has withstood the initial hangover.
12:37 - Another killer Oklahoma mistake. After the Sooners run eight plays in 1:54 (they really were clicking with the no-huddle in the first half ... it is terrifying once it gets rolling), Mizzou makes another key play int he red zone. On a dump-off to fumble-prone Mossis Madu, Marvin Foster hustles to the outside and makes Madu cut back in, where he is stripped by Michael Sam. Jasper Simmons recovers. It is OU's second red zone turnover in two drives.
8:54 - Unfortunately, Mizzou cannot capitalize. They do flip the field again thanks to two nice passes to Jerrell Jackson. Facing a fourth-and-8 from the OU 38, Pinkel wisely decides to pin the Sooners deep once again. Grabner skies the punt, and Kenny Stills calls fair catch at the OU 11.
Stills and Millard are among many true freshmen who got significant playing time in this game. Safety Tony Jefferson is already a difference maker (he will recover a fumble in the third quarter), and linebacker Corey Nelson saw the field a ton as well for the Sooners. Meanwhile, Mizzou obviously received a hefty contribution from Henry Josey, but guys like Marcus Murphy, Marcus Lucas and E.J. Gaines had roles to play as well. As a whole, both of these teams are still startlingly young -- Mizzou had 18 freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores on the two-deep for this game, while Oklahoma had 24. These guys will be seeing each other for quite a while.
I know that as a North team, we are supposed to be dreading the thought of having to play Oklahoma and Texas every season, but I just cannot bring myself to fear it. With Nebraska leaving the schedule shortly, Mizzou is in the market for another historical rival against whom they can measure themselves on an annual basis, and Oklahoma looks as if they will fit the bill. The Tigers and Sooners have not played quite as many great games over the years as have the Tigers and Huskers (historically, OU has dominated at a higher level), but with the DISRESPECT!! cries and Mizzou's improved lot in life, there is solid potential here. I look forward to it.
4:08 - No mistakes this time from Oklahoma. They slow the pace down a tad and execute a near-perfect 14-play, 89-yard, five minute drive for a touchdown. Jones completes passes to Millard, Broyles (twice), Cameron Kenny, Kenny Stills, and DeMarco Murray (three times). From the Mizzou 4, Jones finds Murray for a dump-off (Zaviar Gooden blitzed, and Andrew Wilson didn't get to Murray fast enough), and we are tied at 14-14.
0:00 - What a wonderful response from Mizzou. At this point, Mizzou was tied because of special teams and turnovers. While they were moving the ball reasonably well, they weren't producing any long, sustained drives. Their one scoring drive had gone just 28 yards; meanwhile, in OU's last three drives, they had run 31 plays for 222 yards. At some point, Mizzou would have to actually execute if they wanted to win the game, but the kickoff return and turnovers had bought them some time.
With 4:01 remaining, the drive begins with a 15-yard Henry Josey run (the running and run blocking both just seemed to get better and better as the game progressed). Then, on a big second-and-12, Gabbert finds Jackson for 16 yards to the OU 30. Gabbert has to fall on a poor snap at the OU, and Mizzou faces a third-and-17 with 1:02 left. Over the first five games of the season, this would have resulted in either a quick incompletion or a failed Gabbert scramble, but he has seemingly improved by leaps and bounds over the past two Saturdays. He calmly fires a huge strike to Jackson for 25 yards and a first down. OU couldn't even get close to him in this game, and unlike earlier in the season, he trusted his blockers and hung in the pocket longer. If this is the Gabbert we can expect for the rest of the season, then this team's ceiling just went off the charts.
After a three-yard pass to Egnew with 0:26 let, Mizzou calls their second timeout.
Now, Mizzou gets a little lucky. Jayson Palmgren is called for holding on a nice Gabbert run, and Mizzou doesn't notice that the clock has begun running again. Gabbert finds Egnew for one yard, and Gary Pinkel all but tackles the ref to get Mizzou's final timeout called with 0:01 left. (I'm not going to lie -- the homefield time keeper probably helped out a bit too.) That was close. Ressel easily makes a 36-yarder as time expires, and Mizzou takes a 17-14 lead into halftime.
So now's a pretty good time to revisit my "What To Watch For Early On" post from Friday.
1. How Does Missouri Cover Ryan Broyles?
It appeared they were giving Broyles a bit of extra attention -- and opening things up a bit for Stills, Murray and others -- but to my own eyes, I don't think I saw Mizzou doing anything too far from what they done for the season as a whole. He ended up having a nicer game than it felt like he was having (eight catches, 110 yards), but Mizzou was able to slow him down at times while still slowing the running game down as well. Another test passed by this Mizzou defense.
2. Who Wins the First 15 Minutes?
I mentioned on Friday that Oklahoma was quite possibly the best first-quarter team in the country. Well, after 15 minutes the score was 14-7 Mizzou. Obviously they would lose the lead later in the game, but the Gahn McGaffie and Aldon Smith plays were huge considering what OU does to most teams out of the gates.
3. How Aggressive is David Yost?
Either Yost was aggressive in the types of passes they were throwing, or Blaine Gabbert is suddenly able to check down to his second and third options very quickly. Gabbert threw downfield more against Oklahoma than he had at any point in the season except the San Diego State game, and the results were outstanding. Michael Egnew and T.J. Moe, Mizzou's go-to options to date, combined for just 10 catches and 44 yards, but going downfield to Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp reaped huge dividends.
4. Who's Winning in the Trenches?
In the first and fourth quarters, the answer was Mizzou. It is incredible to think of the ground Mizzou has made up in this regard. In terms of talent, line play was the biggest advantage Oklahoma had over Missouri in 2007-08 (and, well, all years before that too), and Mizzou won the battle on Saturday. Granted, these lines aren't as good as what Oklahoma had a couple of years ago, but that doesn't really matter right now, does it?
5. Does Mizzou Capitalize on Mistakes?
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times, yes.
12:06 - Mizzou dodged a bullet when it came to Oklahoma's best quarter (Q1), and they start their own best quarter by asserting themselves defensively. After bending, bending, bending and breaking only a bit in the first half, they stiffen up after the break. OU's first two drives will generate only nine yards in nine plays. Will Ebner thumps DeMarco Murray on the first play of the second half, and OU goes three-and-out. On the following Mizzou drive, Gabbert makes another huge pass on a passing down -- a 12-yarder to Egnew on third-and-12 -- but Egnew is hit by Jonathan Nelson right after securing the ball, and the ball ricochets 13 yards back toward the line. Tony Jefferson recovers, and OU begins their next drive at the Mizzou 22. No worries. Jacquies Smith forces a Murray fumble (OU recovers), and the Sooners have to settle for a 30-yard field goal attempt.
Now, most of the time, sitting in Section EE on the southeast side of the stadium, we have to watch Marching Mizzou's immediate reaction to figure out if a kick was good or not. The angle makes it too hard to tell. In the case of this Jimmy Stevens field goal, however, we could tell immediately how horrendous it was. It duck hooks to the left and Mizzou still leads, 17-14. Bullet dodged.
6:36 - Time for Mizzou to take the air out of the ball a bit. They go on a 12-play, 68-yard, 5:35 drive (we're getting spoiled by these) that results in a field goal and a 20-14 lead. Two OU penalties (pass interference and an an incidental helmet-to-helmet hit) help out. Gabbert finds Marcus Lucas for 11 yards to the OU 10 (the next morning on This Week in Mizzou Football, Gary Pinkel will say "You're going to hear a lot more from this kid in the future), but OU stiffens and forces the field goal.
2:48 - Oklahoma's final sustained drive of the game results in a touchdown. Roy Finch (8-yard reception, three slippery carries for 24 yards) and Ryan Broyles (two catches, 15 yards) own a good portion of the 69-yard drive, and Jones finds James Hanna on a perfect play-action pass for a short touchdown. Oklahoma finally leads, 21-20, which means that Blaine Gabbert and Co. will soon be able to add yet another fourth-quarter comeback to the résumé.
14:44 - Mizzou and OU take turns flipping the field. After another holding penalty backs Mizzou up to their 16 (the line played well, but they certainly weren't perfect), Gabbert finds Wes Kemp for 35 yards to midfield, but Mizzou can't down a bouncing Matt Grabner punt before it gets to the endzone. Then, Oklahoma goes three-and-out, and Tress Way uncorks a 50-yarder to the MU 28.
Time for Mizzou to make its move. OU has not been very good in the fourth quarter this season, but over the first half of the season, their leads were big enough that they could afford to struggle. Not today.
12:36 - After Brandon Gerau furthers my growing man-crush by catching a nine-yard pass and getting lit up, Henry Josey runs for 15 yards up the middle to the OU 45. Gabbert runs for seven yards, then Jerrell Jackson makes his biggest play of his biggest game. He catches a tough downfield pass, and two OU tacklers cancel each other out. They fall down, but Jackson is still upright, and he trots into the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown and a 26-21 Mizzou lead. Gabbert fumbles on the two-point conversion, but Mizzou still leads.
As I said last week, Oklahoma is almost the typical Oklahoma team, but they make a few more mistakes in a given game. It was imperative that Mizzou took advantage of those mistakes, and they did. Whether it was the red zone turnovers, the special teams miscues, or, in this case, a missed tackle, Mizzou made them pay every time.
12:32 - It was easy to see this game becoming a shootout at this point. OU had recently scored on a long drive, and Mizzou just did the same. The first team to make a huge defensive play would likely win. Well, time for Jacquies Smith and Zaviar Gooden to step to the plate. Smith deflects a quick out to Millard, and Gooden steps in front of Millard for the interception. Mizzou's ball at the OU 22. Time to land the knockout blow?
9:44 - Not quite yet. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Mizzou executes a perfect hook-and-ladder (drawing obvious Boise State references). Gabbert throws to Egnew near the line of scrimmage, and he flips the ball perfectly to Kendial Lawrence, who makes a beeline for the pylon. The ref signals for a touchdown, and Faurot Field loses its collective mind. But the refs confer and decide Lawrence was out at the 1. After reviewing 26 different plays throughout the night (okay, slight exaggeration), they decide not to review this one. Mizzou has first-and-goal at the 1, but OU's defense makes one final stand. Three runs generate minus-four yards, and Mizzou has to settle for a field goal and a 29-21 lead. Biggest tease of the night. Still a one-possession game.
8:57 - What a surge by the Mizzou defense. Oklahoma goes three-and-out again (at this point, OU's last seven plays have generated seven yards and an interception), and though Tress Way unloads another beautiful punt (51 yards to the Mizzou 24), it is clear which team is taking over and which is sagging.
6:36 - What a surge by the Mizzou offensive line. De'Vion Moore bursts up the middle and drags tacklers for an incredible 39-yard gain up the gut to the Oklahoma 37. Then, after Gabbert finds Moe for 19 yards (Gabbert in the fourth quarter: 8-for-9 passing, 95 yards), Josey cuts upfield for another 15 yards and a first down at the OU 3.
Then, it's time for the Wildcat formation (Wildzou? Wild Tiger?) at which Mizzou was hinting last week. Gabbert lines up wide, and James Franklin keeps the ball on a zone read. He is stopped around the 2, but he keeps churning, and the Mizzou line keeps blocking ... and he eventually tumbles into the end zone. What a drive. It is now 36-21 ...
..and suddenly I cannot stop thinking about my buddy Jeffrey. He used to drive me crazy sometimes with how upset he would get after losses (or even bad plays), but there was not a more fun person in the world to be with when something good was happening. And in this, the first truly great Mizzou football moment at Faurot Field since his passing, I feel a bit gypped that I wasn't able to experience this with him.
At this point, I am beginning to struggle to control my emotions. I'm thrilled by the game, I'm annoyed that Jeffrey isn't here, I'm annoyed that I'm annoyed, and I'm thrilled all over again. I know The Beef is likely going through exactly the same struggle at the moment (not to mention ZouDave, Andy--01, and virtually everybody else who got to know him online or in person), so that helps.
6:05 - You know what doesn't help? A sudden reminder that the Sports God has been horribly cruel to Mizzou over the years. Mizzou is ready to put this game away, and when Mossis Madu horribly mishandles the following kickoff (he fielded it around the 20, and had to go collect it inside the 10), it looks like this is going to turn into a blowout. Only ... Madu somehow escapes the Tiger defenders trying to pounce inside the OU 10, and he breaks into the open field. Seventy-seven yards later, Jasper Simmons finally tracks him down. (Credit goes to Trey Barrow for steering Madu back to the inside, which allowed Simmons to catch up.) Suddenly, with Oklahoma poised to score very quickly, it is very easy to start recalling all the horrible old memories of blown leads and heartbreakers.
After the fluky return, Mizzou is called for two iffy penalties in a row (iffy from the 61st row, anyway). Zaviar Gooden is flagged for defensive holding, then Carl Gettis is called for pass interference on what looked like a pretty uncatchable ball. Trey Millard goes in from the 2, and just 14 seconds after Mizzou took a 15-point lead, we have a ballgame again.
Now comes the first of two interesting decisions from Bob Stoops. Down 36-27 with quite a bit of time remaining, he elects to go for the two-point conversion. Landry Jones' pass is deflected and falls incomplete. (Ryan Broyles came really close to catching it off the deflection, and I'm surprised they don't review it to make sure he didn't.) Stoops will get slaughtered by both fans at the game and analysts on ESPN after the game. Honestly? I didn't hate the call. This way, you know what you have left. If you're still down eight points and score with 0:10 left (and fail on the two-pointer), you have no chance to score again. By going for two early (and failing), Stoops knew exactly what he was working with.
Of course, at the same time, once the conversion failed, Mizzou was allowed a bit more margin for error in their own decision-making (an impending fourth-and-1 conversion, for instance). Regardless, the Sooners were going to have to convert on the two-pointer to have a chance to win, and they did not. By doing it early, it allowed Mizzou fans to be approximately one percent more relaxed over the last six minutes. So ... thanks for that, coach!
2:39 - And now the refs have taken over. Shaky calls going both ways. Oklahoma jumps offsides on the ensuing onside kick, but the refs never actually signal who recovered the ball. After what seems like an hourlong conference, they announce that Oklahoma touched the ball before it went ten yards (after the game, Trent will say it was really, really close), and it is automatically Mizzou's ball. (Meanwhile, Jerrell Jackson has committed the dumbest unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of all-time -- while the refs were being wishy-washy, Jackson and some OU players started mouthing off to each other ... and Jackson removed his helmet. Bang, 15-yard penalty. Regardless, it's Mizzou's ball with a two-possession lead.
Oklahoma has already used two timeouts, and they use up their final one (with 5:18 left) as Mizzou faces a third-and-6 on their first set of downs after the kickoff. Jerrell Jackson catches a five-yard pass and gets what appears from 61 rows away to be a god-awful spot. Again, there is no replay, and Mizzou faces a fourth-and-1 from the OU 45. With the margin for error afforded them because of the two-possession lead, they attempt to stomp the throat and go for it on fourth down. Gabbert gets it rather easily; he plunges ahead for two yards and a new set of downs. Two Josey runs generate eight yards, and (again with margin for error) Gabbert attempts a pass to Moe on 3rd-and-8. Moe is open, but Jeremy Beal knocks it down, stopping the clock. Mizzou must punt with 2:39 left, and Matt Grabner pins OU inside the 10. Of course he does.
2:17 - Amazingly, Bob Stoops has waved the white flag. The ire thrown at him about the two-point conversion should have been focused here. Jones is hurried by Terrell Resonno on first down and Jacquies Smith on second, forcing poor throws and incompletions. On third down, he can't find Broyles ... and with no timeouts remaining and under 2:30 left, Oklahoma punts. Mizzou will be able to kill over two minutes without getting a first down. It is an amazingly weak decision, but I'm obviously not going to complain too much.
Really, there were only two possibilities for why Stoops made this decision: 1) he forgot that OU had no way to stop the clock, or 2) he was already thinking ahead to future wins and poll votes and decided that losing by nine was much better than losing by 16 or worse. That's basically it -- if you can think of another possibility, I'd love to hear it, because the punt all but ended the game.
0:00 - Nirvana. Mizzou punts with 0:09 left, and on their final play, OU cannot advance the ball with a desperate series of laterals. Let the party begin.
Over the next 30+ minutes, we will sit back and watch as students and fans (and celebration dogs) fill almost every square inch of the field. While GameDay sets up in the southeast corner of the field, fans tear apart the north goal posts (they were lowered to the ground so they couldn't be torn down, so they were just torn apart instead). Chris Fowler interviews Blaine Gabbert, Fowler and Herbstreit interview Gary Pinkel, and Marching Mizzou's drum section starts an informal dance party at midfield. Nobody is in a hurry to go anywhere.
Throughout the country, Mizzou fans are clapping and singing in bars and wedding receptions. The party continues in epic fashion at Harpo's.
Since almost none of the 71,004 in attendance left early, traffic after the game is incredible. Again, I live 15 minutes away, and it takes us almost 90 minutes to get home.
According to our favorite unofficial official Mizzou historian Tom Orf, this is the sixth time under Gary Pinkel that Mizzou has scored 16 points or more in the fourth quarter. That list includes three of Pinkel's biggest wins (2003 Nebraska, 2005 South Carolina, 2010 Oklahoma) and two of his most satisfying blowouts (2003 Texas Tech, 2007 Texas Tech). (The other game: 2007 Texas A&M.) This was a wonderful evening, and it really might have been the greatest Homecoming ever for the school that claims to have invented Homecoming. Mizzou's fans were at their absolute best, and Mizzou showed that they don't have to play a perfect game to beat a very good team. This was a great, great win ...
...but let's knock off the "biggest win ever" talk, okay? Mizzou doesn't have the deepest, proudest history in college football, but they've won conference titles, they've been ranked No. 1 in late-November twice. They have accomplished enough during their existence that a conference home win in October does not qualify as their biggest win ever. It's not even their biggest ever win against Oklahoma. (The 1960 win still has to be considered bigger, right? It does to me at least.) The only way this is the biggest is that it's their most recent big win. I almost hate bringing that up because it really was awesome ... but let's add at least a little bit of context to the conversation now.
It may not have been the biggest win this program has ever seen, but it was the biggest possible statement this team (and university) could have possibly made. It was yet another program-defining accomplishment for Gary Pinkel and his staff. ESPN's coverage turned into basically a three-day commercial for the university, and Pinkel's squad finished up the weekend by making a statement. Mizzou was supposed to fall back into the abyss upon the departures of Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, and company, and they did not. They took a step backwards in 2009 (just like Texas is doing this year), but they have now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have put together one of the 15-20 strongest programs in the country. In a given year, they can make all sorts of noise. And they have done things the right way. This is a program Mizzou fans can truly be proud of, and while that would have been the case even with a loss Saturday night, the events of the weekend just further confirmed it.
Once again ... soak it in, Tiger fans. And hope for an even better weekend, and an even bigger win, this Saturday in Lincoln.