Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mizzou earns 10th win with rout of Kansas

A blowout win over Kansas is, for most Missouri fans, an ideal way to end a regular season. Add the fact that last Saturday’s 35-7 Tiger romp in Kansas City was Missouri’s 10th win this season, and it was extra fun for the fans wearing black and gold.

Yes, the game lacked the buzz typical of this rivalry. Everyone on both sides—fans, coaches, players—seemed to know what was going to happen before the game started. Kansas entered the game at 3-8, 1-6 in Big 12 play, struggling mightily in the first year under coach Turner Gill.

One could have reasonably predicted a smaller crowd for this mismatch, but the tens of thousands of empty seats were a bit jarring. This was the fourth straight Border War game at the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium. Each of the first three games there had crowds of at least 70,000. Saturday’s announced attendance was 55,788. Capacity is around 80,000.

Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden estimated about 35,000 of these were Missouri fans, and that was probably a conservative estimate.

It seemed that most Kansas fans just stayed home, kept the shades drawn and waited to come out until their strong basketball team played that night rather than show up to witness this dismantling.

Missouri took just over three minutes to score a touchdown on its opening drive, racked up two sacks while forcing a Kansas three-and-out, and then scored another touchdown just after the halfway point in the opening quarter. The Tigers piled up a 21-0 halftime lead and then coasted through the second half for the 35-7 win.

It was the 119th time Missouri and Kansas have played in football. There have been 9 ties, and each team has won 55 games on the field. Missouri counts a 56-54-9 lead, due to Kansas fofeit in 1960. On Saturday, this rivalry didn’t seem nearly as competitive.

Now, as the Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) wait for the up-in-the-air Big 12 bowl selection process to sort out, Missouri fans can begin to evaluate the completed regular season.

Most preseason publications had Missouri going 9-3 and finishing second to Nebraska in the Big 12 North Division. Missouri did tie with Nebraska, moving to second due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker, and actually won 10 games. The Tigers gave us that breakthrough win over Oklahoma, a special Saturday night we can remember for a long time. The defense was probably the best in Pinkel’s 10 years at Mizzou, posting two shutouts.

Tiger fans are likely wondering what might have been, however. That’s fair. The blown 17-3 lead at Texas Tech cost the Tigers the North and a shot at their first conference title since 1969. The absolute crushing at Nebraska in the de facto North title game stung. The 7-0 start stoked expectations to the point that 10-2 seems somehow less satisfying.

It’s good that the program is to the point that not winning the division is viewed as a letdown, but this was still a fine season. It was only the fourth 10-win season in program history (1960, 2007, 2008).

It was certainly a season Missouri fans can be proud of as they await the Tigers' bowl selection.

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