A few minutes into the second half, I did something I almost never do during Missouri games: I turned off the radio and TV and stopped paying attention. All I could think was “Gary Pinkel deserves better than this.”
It was far from a glorious home finale for a man who resurrected a football program that resembled a Football Championship Subdivision team just 15 years ago. Just two years removed from contending for a national title, Pinkel likely won’t even be coaching in a bowl game during his final season before retirement.
There have ups and downs – more of the former – during his tenure in Columbia. Here’s a look at the biggest wins and worst losses:
1. Missouri 36, Kansas 28 (Nov. 25, 2007): A dream season for both programs culminated in a showdown at Arrowhead Stadium with the No. 1 ranking on the line. This remains the most electric sporting event I’ve attended.
On a frigid night, Chase Daniel shredded the Jayhawks for 361 yards and the Tigers built a 21-point lead before hanging on to clinch a spot in the Big 12 championship game. The image of Todd Reesing walking off the field with grass and sod wedged in his helmet will always be a favorite for Tigers fans.
2. Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21 (Nov. 30, 2013): Some will argue the Georgia win that season was bigger, but the Tigers secured a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game with a victory over Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
The go-ahead touchdown run by Henry Josey, two years removed from a horrific knee injury, was the icing on the cake.
3. Missouri 41, Nebraska 24 (Oct. 11, 2003): Twenty-five years. That’s how long it’d been since Missouri beat Nebraska. During that span, the Huskers annually humiliated the Tigers. Nebraska also owned arguably the most devastating loss at Mizzou for decades in the infamous flea-kicker game in 1997.
This game ended years of frustration and catapulted the Tigers to their first bowl bid since 1999. It is one of the games that served as the foundation for Pinkel’s program and snapped Missouri’s 45-game losing streak against top-10 teams.
4. Missouri 36, Oklahoma 27 (Oct. 23, 2010): Another electric night at Faurot Field, as the Tigers knocked off the top-ranked Sooners for the first time since 1998 behind Blaine Gabbert, Jerrell Jackson, Aldon Smith and Gahn McGaffie.
McGaffie’s return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff is the loudest I’ve heard Memorial Stadium. Storming the field with my 65-year-old father will always be one of my fondest memories.
5. Missouri 41, Georgia 26 (Oct. 11, 2013): This game announced the Tigers’ arrival in the SEC. One season after an awful debut in its new conference, Mizzou rolled into Athens and floored the seventh-ranked Bulldogs.
The victory was one of several memorable wins in a 12-2 season that include an SEC East title and Cotton Bowl win.
1. Troy 24, Missouri 14 (Sept. 9, 2004): Coming off a bowl season and anchored by star quarterback Brad Smith, it looked like the Tigers had arrived. They led this game 14-0 and appeared to be on cruise control when the Trojans, led by future Pro-Bowler DeMarcus Ware, took over and rolled to a 24-14 win.
Missouri never recovered, blowing big leads against Oklahoma State and Kansas State, coughing up a lead at Texas and wilting against arch-rival Kansas at home. The Tigers lost five straight games and finished 5-6, putting Pinkel on the hot seat.
2. Oklahoma State 28, Missouri 23 (Oct. 11, 2008): A year after contending for a national title, the Tigers hosted Dez Bryant and the Cowboys at Faurot Field. The Tigers marched down the field on the opening possession but failed to score a touchdown despite having a first-and-goal at the 1.
Rather than go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal inside the one, Pinkel elected to kick a field goal. It zapped the crowd of its energy and the offense of its confidence. The Tigers never recover, enduring a beating at Texas the next week and choking late against Kansas before being routed in the Big 12 championship game by Oklahoma.
3. Navy 35, Missouri 13 (Dec. 31, 2009): One of the most embarrassing losses during Pinkel’s tenure, as the Midshipmen dominated a Missouri team that appeared to have no interest in playing in the Texas Bowl.
The coaching staff’s refusal to adjust to a Navy defense that dared the offense to run was maddening to watch. The Tigers felt snubbed to be playing in the Big 12’s lowest-tier bowl, but did nothing to back it up.
4. South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (Oct. 25, 2013): The only blemish on an amazing regular season in 2013, as the Tigers coughed up a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter, allowed a game-tying touchdown on fourth-and-long in overtime and missed a chip-shot field goal for the tie in the second overtime.
To its credit, Missouri rebounded to win four straight games and reach the SEC championship game.
5. Texas Tech 24, Missouri 17 (Nov. 6, 2010): A classic case of letting one loss become two. One week after Nebraska ended their undefeated, the Tigers blew a 17-3 lead in Lubbock in a loss that ultimately cost them a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
Kendial Lawrence and Marcus Murphy barely touched the ball after combining for 170 yards and two long touchdowns runs on nine carries in the first quarter, even though Gabbert was 12 of 30 for 95 yards.