The 2010 season is in some ways Gary Pinkel’s forgotten awesome year. The others came in pairs — 2007-08, 2013-14 — but in between came a team that was unlike the ones before it (truly excellent on defense) but dangerous as hell all the same.
Two years after going 10-4 and briefly reaching No. 3 in the country with maybe the most terrifying offense in the country, Mizzou had learned to grind. After going 8-5 with the most inexperienced two-deep you’ll ever see in 2009, a seasoned Tiger squad started 6-0 and reached No. 7 in the country before a brief funk (losses at Nebraska and Texas Tech) set them back. They rebounded to tie Nebraska for the Big 12 North title and pulled off what would become their third 10-win season in a string of five in eight years.
I call seasons like this legacy-builders. You can’t experience huge breakthroughs every year, but seasons like this plump up the win totals and give fans plenty of great moments between the big breakthroughs.
There are basically two lasting memories from 2010: the Moe Miracle and the forever incredible Homecoming win over Oklahoma. They were both incredible in their own way.
See? Tremendous. But here are 10 other tidbits from that season that we either have not focused on enough or have forgotten about altogether.
1. It all nearly came apart immediately
Missouri’s last-minute win over San Diego State, aided by the Moe Miracle, was the ultimate dodged bullet. The Tigers needed so much to get past the Aztecs, but it was the second time they played with fire.
The first time came in St. Louis, when Mizzou repeatedly shot itself in the foot and found itself down 13-3 at halftime against an Illinois team starting a redshirt freshman quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase. Blaine Gabbert completed 34 of 48 passes and found both of his go-tos — T.J. Moe in the third quarter, Michael Egnew in the fourth — for touchdowns in a 23-13 win that wasn’t officially locked up until a 34-yard Grant Ressel field goal in the final minute.
2. Meet Henry Josey
A few of the stars of the wonderful 2013 team — James Franklin, Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy, L’Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas, Andrew Wilson, E.J. Gaines, Michael Sam — got their feet wet in 2010. But few had the opportunities Josey did; a true freshman from Angleton, Tex., Josey would rush for 437 yards as a backup to De’Vion Moore, and he got a chance to show his breakaway speed in the second week, rushing seven times for 112 yards and three touchdowns in a 50-6 win over McNeese State.
3. The doubt lingered past SDSU
Following the 27-24 win over San Diego State, Mizzou quickly disposed of Miami (Ohio), 51-13. But on October 9, the Tigers had to labor against Colorado, at least one one side of the ball. Mizzou shut out the Buffaloes, allowing just 311 yards in the process, but they gained just 345 yards. Doubts persisted about this offense and its capabilities well into October. A lot of them ended the next week, though.
4. Faurot Field South
The Tigers ranked 21st in the country — a courtesy of being unbeaten, really — when they traveled down to College Station for the first of three straight years, and they uncorked what was easily their best performance of the season.
Against a dangerous but flaky Aggie squad, Mizzou dominated from almost the opening kickoff. They led 16-0 at halftime, then laid the hammer down in the third quarter. Wes Kemp and Moe both scored touchdowns, and the Tigers cruised to a stunning(ly easy) 30-9 win.
They gained 417 yards, then gained 486 in the classic 36-27 win over Oklahoma the next week. Suddenly, despite the early near-misses, Mizzou was 7-0 and seventh in the country.
5. Meet Marcus Murphy
Then came the funk. Defensive tackle Dominique Hamilton suffered a season-ending injury against Oklahoma, and he was missed dearly. In Missouri’s last trip to Lincoln, Roy Helu Jr. rushed for approximately 1,347 yards (okay, 307) in a 31-17 Nebraska win; then, against a sketchy Texas Tech team in Lubbock, the Tigers raced to a 14-0 lead and then went into mental cruise control. Tech scored the final 21 points of the game to go from down 17-3 to up 24-17, and Mizzou receives dropped approximately 86 passes (okay, probably more like five or six), preventing the Tigers from coming back.
There was one bright spot during this funk: a brief breakout appearance by another freshman running back, Marcus Murphy. Murphy scored on a 69-yard run in the second minute of the Tech game, flashing the speed that Mizzou fans would see a lot more of in coming seasons. Kendial Lawrence ripped off a 71-yard score five minutes later. And then the offense stopped.
6. Blaine Gabbert’s legs aided the rebound
Mizzou had gone from unranked to seventh in the country in just a month, and it had taken just two weeks to fall back to 20th. And against a Kansas State team that was beginning to find itself — the Wildcats would surge to 21 wins and a Big 12 title in 2011-12 — the Tigers needed some big plays to avoid their third straight loss.
Blaine Gabbert showed off some fleet straight-line speed on a 32-yard touchdown run to give Mizzou a 14-7 lead...
7. Smith and Smith
...and the Smiths took it from there. Aldon Smith destroyed Carson Coffman, who fumbled, and Jacquies Smith collected the ball and took it 53 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Tigers a 28-14 lead, and they would extend it to 38-14 before a couple of late KSU scores made the final 38-28. This was a tough game, and Mizzou’s leaders came through.
The Smiths came through all year. Despite battling a broken foot early in the season and missing three games, Aldon recorded 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and a huge interception against Oklahoma; Jacquies, meanwhile, matched Aldon’s numbers (10 TFLs, 5.5 sacks), broke up three passes, and forced two fumbles. Even as Mizzou’s run defense became problematic in Hamilton’s absence, the pass rush and pass defense remained top-notch.
8. Two conference shutouts
After shutting out Colorado early in the year, Mizzou wrapped up the regular season with a 14-0 win in its last trip to Ames and a 35-7 win over Kansas at Arrowhead. The Cyclones and Jayhawks combined to gain just 473 yards. Mizzou had its third 10-win season in four years.
9. God bless the Telephone Trophy, by the way
One of the silliest, most wonderful rivalry trophies in the history of silly, wonderful rivalry trophies. And Missouri won’t be giving it back anytime soon.
10. Gary Pinkel’s final bowl loss
It was the worst of all worlds in Missouri’s bowl game. Not only did the Tigers have to settle for the Insight Bowl after hoping for a shot at a BCS at-large bid (or at least the Alamo Bowl), but they also had to then take on an opponent that was far better than its ranking. Iowa was just 7-5 heading into the postseason, but the Hawkeyes finished 21st in S&P+, balanced with both a top-30 offense and defense.
Iowa bolted to a 17-3 lead in the second quarter, but a Henry Josey touchdown got the Tigers within seven points at halftime, and a three-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Egnew gave them a 24-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
With under six minutes to go, the Tigers were driving to put away an 11th win when Gabbert and Kemp suffered a crippling miscommunication. Micah Hyde picked off the resulting errant pass and weaved 72 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Mizzou drove right back into Iowa territory but stalled out, and the Hawkeyes won.
After hopes of a top-10 finish, the loss relegated Missouri to 18th. They would go just 13-12 over the next two seasons, moving to the SEC in the process, before Pinkel’s final act began in 2013. Meanwhile, with wins over North Carolina in 2011, Oklahoma State in 2013, and Minnesota in 2014, Pinkel never lost another bowl game.