With only one FBS game remaining in the 2014 season, the post-mortem pieces have been flowing in. Here's a sample.
"We battle," coach Gary Pinkel told reporters in Orlando after the game. "This is kind of the scenario that went throughout the year. Everything doesn't work out like you want it to, but we battled."
That was truer than ever this season thanks to a mediocre offense led by a wildly talented, mercurial quarterback in sophomore Maty Mauk. But really, the same sentiments could describe most of Missouri's unexpected rise.
What Missouri became was a somewhat plodding, ball-control team. In SEC play, Missouri went 5-0 when it possessed the ball more than the opponent. When it lost the T.O.P battle, Missouri went 2-2, which includes the SEC Championship game and the out-of-nowhere finish in the South Carolina game.
It controlled the ball with methodical drives, lacking the constant big-play threats of 2013 and years before. Missouri had 60 fewer plays over 10 yards than it did in 2013 and 27 fewer plays over 20 yards.
I'm never a huge fan of referencing time of possession in this way -- I always prefer something like total snaps instead -- but I think snap counts would have told you the same story. When Mizzou was able to control the ball to some degree and keep its defense fresh, the wins poured in.
UNSUNG HERO: Again, this is going to a duo. But Lucas Vincent and Matt Hoch probably didn't get the accolades they deserved, overshadowed by the athleticism of Harold Brantley. Quietly, Vincent and Hoch had more tackles-for-loss than Brantley (8 and 9, respectively) and combined for 6.5 sacks.
(Brantley did have five sacks, so no disrespect to him. Again, he was more of a "sung hero.")
I want Harold Brantley to have 10 sacks and 10 short-yardage rushing touchdowns next season. Don't tease me with the thought of using him like that, Gary Pinkel.
Bud Sasser -- 880 (62.9; 92.5%)
Jimmie Hunt -- 696 (58.0; 73.2%)
Darius White -- 620 (62.0; 65.2%)
Sean Culkin -- 514 (Total: 858; 61.3; 90.2%)
Wesley Leftwich -- 194 (16.2; 20.4%)
J'Mon Moore -- 109 (7.8; 11.5%)
Nate Brown -- 105 (9.5; 11.0%)
Gavin Otte -- 102 (7.3; 10.7%)
Lawrence Lee -- 88 (11.0; 9.3%)
Marcus Murphy -- 58
Jason Reese -- 31
Russell Hansbrough -- 7
Clayton Echard -- 1
Leaving aside the tight ends, that's 2,699 snaps for wideouts; those responsible for 408 of them (15.1%) are returning.
Become a star, Nate Brown. Please become a star.
Sasser earned first-team All-SEC honors and became MU’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2010. MU’s returning offensive players accounted for just 13.6 percent of this season’s receiving yards and 19.4 percent of the receptions.
That didn’t stop Mauk from gushing about his retooled group of playmakers.
"I can’t describe how excited I am. This is a young group, but they have so much talent," Mauk said.
Five potential skill players who redshirted this season join the mix in 2015 — receivers DeSean Blair, Keyon Dilosa and Thomas Richard, tight end Kendall Blanton and tailback Trevon Walters.
Become a quality No. 2, [random redshirt freshman]. Please become a quality No. 2.
It's funny thinking ahead to 2015. For the most, six to seven of the team's nine primary units -- quarterback, running back, offensive line, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, and maybe safety -- return a high level of experience and potential, especially as far as likely first-stringers go. (Putting safeties here is dicey with the loss of Braylon Webb and Duron Singleton, obviously, but for whatever reason, I'm a huge believer in Thomas Wilson and Anthony Sherrils. And until Tavon Ross proves that he isn't William Moore 2.0, you can't prove to me that he's not. It's fun being a fan.)
But the other two units -- receiver and defensive end -- are mysteries. We know a decent amount about some of the returnees at end; Charles Harris saw plenty of action and made a few plays, Rickey Hatley could be strong against the run, Marcus Loud earned quite a few bowl snaps. We don't know what, if any, changes Barry Odom might bring to the table (the moment we get any sort of "he's moving to a 3-4!" whiff, I'm going to start projecting like crazy, but we haven't gotten that whiff yet), but within a 4-3 structure, we at least know something about those guys. We know almost nothing about the receivers. That might be good, and it might be awful. And the receiver position is going to get quite the spotlight this spring.