In an effort to look back fondly at the successes of Tiger football, the Rock M Nation football staff compiled and ranked the greatest games of the past 20 years. There’s no science or math involved here: we simply listed what we thought were the 20 best games of the past 20 years and counted the votes. We’ll start with the games getting the fewest votes and work our way up to #1.
2002 Arch Rivalry: Missouri 33 - Illinois 20
August 31st, 2002. It was the kickoff of Gary Pinkel’s second season at the helm of the Tigers. After a disappointing 4-7 rebuilding season, the fans were anxious to see what Year 2 had in store for them.
And, boy, did that first game send expectations through the roof.
Missouri was looking for some stability and talent at the quarterback position after suffering through the lackluster Kirk Farmer years, buoyed by the emergency deployment of Darius Outlaw and Justin Gage as quarterbacks. Pinkel decided to start a redshirt freshman at quarterback that day, some kid out of Ohio named Brad Smith.
Illinois entered the game riding high off of a magical 2001 season that saw them go 10-2, play in the Sugar Bowl, and finish the season ranked 12th. Smith threw for 152 yards and added 138 on the ground with a touchdown. Whether it was the fake-out run along the sideline or the juke fest he put on several defensive backs, the Brad Smith debut revitalized hope in Tiger Nation and was just the beginning of a magical Missouri career.