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.
2007: #4 Missouri 36 - #2 Kansas 28
There will never be a game quite like it in the rest of our lives. Two of the most bitter rivals in the country. Both ranked. Playing for the division crown. In the last game of the year. At a neutral site. In the coldest temperatures of the year.
The Jayhawks had ridden an elite defense for the three years prior to 2007 but had finally coupled it with an explosive offense lead by young dark-horse Heisman candidate Todd Reesing. With the dangerous Dexton Fields and Dezmon Briscoe on the outside and the bruising Brandon McAnderson handling the ground game, the Kansas offense had come to life under the tutelage of former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. It took Mangino a few years to get the athletes and scheme he wanted but in 2007 the Kansas offense ranked 11th in SP+ while scoring 30+ points 9 times, including 76 against Nebraska. The defense, meanwhile, finished the season ranked 10th in SP+, holding opponents to 14 or fewer points 8 times. Their schedule wasn’t the most difficult mind you — Iowa State, Baylor, and their non-con of Central Michigan/Toledo/Florida International were all ranked 82nd or worse in SP+ while Oklahoma State/Nebraska/A&M/Colorado were in the 30-60 range — but they did (barely) beat a Kansas State squad that finished 19th on the year. Regardless, Missouri would be their highest ranked opponent, both in the AP and SP+, and had only been truly challenged twice all year.
You remember this Missouri squad. Chase Daniel at the peak of his powers; Tony Temple and Derrick Washington splitting the backfield; Jeremy Maclin, Will Franklin, and Tommy Saunders destroying secondaries while Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman were the greatest endzone tandem in the country. Other than Daniel, it was an all-state-of-Missouri offense that was breaking scoring records and igniting all defenses it played against (except Oklahoma). Missouri had its close calls but had won every game by double digits thanks to the 4th best offense in the country.
“Folks, let this sink in,” Brent Musburger said on the ABC telecast: “If either Kansas or Missouri wins their next two games, they will play for the National Championship.” Again, it will be nearly impossible for the number of excitement-boxes to be checked for any game in the rest of our lifetimes — let alone a Missouri game — but this is the one that checked them all.
The game itself was two distinct acts. After each team worked through a feeling-out process with the other, Missouri started pulling away, carrying a 14-0 lead into halftime and building a 28-7 lead heading into the 4th quarter. But the 51st ranked Missouri defense started showing some holes, particularly in the secondary, as Todd Reesing finally woke up from his three-quarter slumber and starting connecting with his talented wideouts. As Missouri settled for field goals to add the softest of cushions to their pillow fort of victory, the black-and-cold fans were shaking in nervousness (and sub-zero wind chill).
With Mizzou leading 34-28 with 17 seconds left, Kansas got the ball on their own 10-yard line. Every Missouri fan, regardless of age, realized that, yes, it would be Kansas that could complete an epic comeback against the Tigers and rip our hearts out with everything on the line. It was possible and it was terrifying.
Lorenzo Williams and Stryker Sulak had other ideas.
Musberger made the call with the enthusiasm of a man who bet heavily on the under (at kickoff Vegas had the combined point total of 63.5; 36+28=64, lol) but it’s the Mike Kelly call that we all choose to remember:
“Sack! Safety! Ball game! Bingo!”
Missouri did not win its next game against Oklahoma, but vaulted to #1 for a week, Chase Daniel was invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, and 6 long years of hard work finally paid off for Gary Pinkel and his staff.
I would love if another Missouri football game was able to unseat this one as number one. But I will treasure this sports moment for the rest of my life, as should we all.