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M-I-Z... E-R-Y: Kansas 1960 vs Kansas 2008

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It's a battle of devastating losses to Kansas ... so much fun, huh?

Kansas 24, Mizzou 7 (1960)

Image via The Savitar

Mizzou was No. 1 for the first time and just needed to defeat Kansas at home to win their first national title. They had taken down Penn State, they had romped over Oklahoma in Norman ... and they completely ran out of gas in the finale. Bert Coan and the Kansas backfield dominated the Tigers, and though they tried to put together a late charge, it was not to be. Kansas prevented Mizzou from winning the national title, and if that was the whole story, it would be enough to make this bracket. Losing your only shot at a title at the hands of your chief rival, on your home field no less? Ouch.

But that, of course, was not the whole story.

[T]he committee voted 5-3 that KU was in violation of the ban on off-campus recruiting, thus concurring with the mid-season NCAA finding. By a corollary conference rule, this determination automatically rendered Coan ineligible. The next step for the conference committee was to determine the period of ineligibility. Prior to the KU-MU game, speculation in Lawrence was that "If the league fathers rule Coan ineligible, that probably will mean the forfeit of all the conference games he has played in, as well as meaning he won’t be able to play his junior and senior season." However, the conference was more lenient. After two motions to make Coan ineligible for the 1961 season were defeated, the committee voted 6-2 that Mr. Coan would be ineligible to participate in intercollegiate competition in football only for the period October 26, 1960 through October 25, 1961 (a one-year period starting from the date of the NCAA ruling).

KU had gambled that the Big Eight would not back MU on the actions threatened in MU’s November letter, had lost, and they now had to pay the price. KU was ordered to forfeit its victories over CU and MU, and the conference championship was awarded to MU.

It is a very "Mizzou" thing to do to rank No. 1 in the final week of the season, finish "undefeated," and still lose the national title. But that's exactly what Mizzou did in 1960.

Kansas 40, Mizzou 37 (2008)

Photo via Bill Carter

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.