On the final Saturday of October 2018, Missouri fans stood in silence, hands behind their heads.
When the clock hit zero in the fourth quarter, the Tigers still had hope of upsetting then-No. 11 Kentucky. Not even a minute later, C.J. Conrad reeled in the game-winning pass to break the hearts of Missouri fans everywhere.
Things weren’t looking up anytime soon, as the Tigers traveled to Gainesville, Fla., to take on the then-13th ranked Florida Gators. People were calling for Barry Odom’s job, saying the Missouri head coach doesn’t know how to win big games.
And while some of that chatter was warranted, Missouri was still a couple bad calls and a monsoon game away from being 6-2 with their lone losses to No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Georgia.
To put that in comparison, No. 9 LSU is the nation’s highest-ranked two-loss team, with a 29-point loss to No. 1 Alabama (Missouri lost by the same margin, but scored 10 points as opposed to LSU’s zero) and an eight-point loss to Florida.
Yes, LSU beat Georgia and other talented teams — but I’m not saying Missouri is at the same level as LSU. What I am saying, however, is that when Missouri is healthy and plays to its full potential, they’re a very good football team.
No. 13 Syracuse is the next-highest-ranked two-loss team, but who’s to say the Tigers aren’t as good as the Orange? Regardless of playing these ‘what if’ scenarios, Missouri proved Saturday it’s no joke.
Even when the Tigers were up 25 points late in the game, there was an eerie feeling they would find a way to mess that one up — a feeling Missouri fans are far too familiar with. I mean, are you really a true fan if you haven’t said, “That was the most Mizzou thing ever”?
From the Porter brothers’ injuries to painful losses to Kentucky this year and Georgia in 2016, it’s been an aggravating couple years for Missouri athletics. But the win Saturday was a flower among the rubble of the last few years.
All of a sudden, the direction Missouri is going towards seems clear — a tight-knit group of guys that are explosive on offense and stuff the run on the other side of the ball. But what this win over Florida says more than anything is the resilience this team has.
It’s not easy for 18 to 23 year-olds to mentally get over a brutal loss in less than a week. It’ll bare down on you and derail any confidence you had built up before. Something most teams hovering around .500 don’t have, though, is the ability to shake off a bad game, move on and bring it the next week.
By going into the Swamp and thrashing the Gators by a score of 38-17, Missouri proved its record isn’t indicative of how good they really are.
Now, a nine-win season is well within reach; and it’s not crazy to think the Tigers could be ranked at the end of the year if they win their final three games against Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Arkansas.
It’s not crazy to think that maybe, just maybe, Odom knows what he’s doing in building this program the way he wants.
And it’s not crazy to think that because this win virtually secured Odom’s job for another season, undecided recruits (*cough*, Kelly Bryant, *cough*) may be more inclined to take their talents to Columbia next season.
The past eight days or so have been a whirlwind of emotions for Tiger fans, and right now, they’re more positive than they’ve been in what’s seemed like a long, long month of disappointing football.