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M-I-Z... E-R-Y: The Finals

We've reached the end of the least popular tournament in the history of blogging. But just think of all the good karma we've earned in the process ... right? That's how this works, right?


No. 2 Tyus Edney vs No. 4 Fifth Down

With only one real upset along the way (Fifth Down > Flea Kicker), we reach the finals with two classics. And apparently, life as a Mizzou fan was at its nadir from 1990-95. Not that we didn't already know that.

Colorado 33, Mizzou 31 (1990)

Asked about the five downs, head referee J.C. Louderback deferred all comments to the Big Eight office, then said, "Our record on the field as officials is that they scored on fourth down."

Asked if there was any provision in the rules to remove a touchdown once scored, he added, "Only if there would be a penalty at that point."

There was none - and No. 12-ranked CU won its third consecutive game (4-1-1 overall) and its Big Eight opener. Afterwards, CU coach Bill McCartney emerged from his locker room and preferred to berate Faurot Field's artificial surface rather than address the five-down fiasco.

"The biggest story is that field is not playable," bellowed McCartney, referring to CU ball carriers or receivers losing their footing at least 15 times. "No one should have to play on that field. You can't even make a cut on that dang field.

"It's a joke to college football to try to run an option attack on that field. We slipped and slid all day, or we would have put more points on the board; I'll tell you that."

Retaliated MU coach Bob Stull: "They get five downs and he's crying? We should have stopped them on fifth down."

Hey Coach, you did.

What made the Fifth Down such an infuriating moment in Mizzou's history wasn't even that the Buffs got an extra down. Or it wasn't just because of that. If Johnson had scored easily on fifth down, and if Bill McCartney had expressed nothing but conciliatory regret after the game, it still would have been a historic occurrence. But Johnson didn't score easily on fifth down -- he almost certainly didn't score at alll -- and McCartney announced that his team basically deserved an extra down because of the shoddy playing surface. (And then Colorado won the national title, in part, because of another iffy-at-best call that enraged Mizzou fans all over again.)

The Fifth Down was the call that set off, basically, two decades of self-pity within the Missouri fanbase. Mizzou fans were already somewhat paranoid and guarded, feeling by nature as if they were basically playing by a different set of rules than everybody else. This game confirmed that, at least for one play, they were.

UCLA 75, Mizzou 74

On February 11, 1995, Mizzou was 18-3, having overcome both the loss of approximately 17 seniors from the immortal 1994 squad and the loss of Kelly Thames to knee injury. And then they completely ran out of steam. They lost four of five to end the regular season and got blown out by Iowa State in the first round of the Big 8 Tournament. They fell from potential Top 3 seed to the eighth seed in the West region, facing a brutal draw. First, they had to get past Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers; if they won, their reward was No. 1 seed UCLA.

With their late swoon, Mizzou was expected to quickly bow out to Indiana in Boise, and they played like it. The Hoosiers went up 14-3, but the Tigers finally found the gear they had left behind a month earlier. They had cut the deficit to five by halftime, went on a 12-2 run to start the second half, and held off the Hoosiers, 65-60.

The hot streak continued when they took a 42-34 lead into halftime against the top-ranked Bruins. An unstructured offense found structure, an undisciplined defense found discipline. UCLA came charging back, but the Tigers matched them, shot for shot. With under 30 seconds remaining, UCLA led by one, but freshman point guard Kendrick Moore calmly worked the shot clock down, penetrated to the free throw line, drew a double-team, and found Julian Winfield for short jumper and a one-point lead. It was a brilliant play, and it could have gone down as one of the biggest in Mizzou history. Only there were 4.8 seconds remaining. I'm not going to bother describing what happened next. You already know.

Joe Walljasper put it best:

BOISE, Idaho -- Years from now, a generation of Missouri fans unable to find their car keys will remember where they were when Tyus Edney broke their hearts.

In 4.8 seconds, Edney turned a 74-73 Tiger upset into a 75-74 UCLA victory with his game-winning shot in the second round of the NCAA Tournament West Regional at the Boise State Pavilion.

"That five seconds, it went pretty slow," MU reserve Scott Combs said. "When it went off the backboard, it went even slower. It seemed like it should roll off the rim."

But it didn't.