The 1986 football season was another rough one for Missouri, but they did match the previous season’s win total in the first week of the season, winning 24-10 at home against Utah State. It was a fairly straightforward game, but it was the Tigers’ first win on the Omniturf surface installed at Faurot Field ahead of the 1985 season. Also, future Super Bowl-winning coach with the Ravens Brian Billick was the offensive coordinator for Utah State.
Unfortunately, the Tigers followed that up with five straight losses. It was a tough time for Missouri football, and it was a tough time for agriculture in the state, and rural areas in general. The 1980s Farm Crisis was reaching its peak by the middle part of the decade, and rural communities and farmers took big hits in the 80s.
In a matchup of the two states currently home to the most beef cows, Missouri hosted Texas in week 2, with the Longhorns winning 27-25. But the bulk of Missouri’s cows look much better than those rangy Longhorn cattle, so take that, Texas.
Missouri then lost at home to Indiana and got crushed 41-9 at Syracuse, in the eight-year-old Carrier Dome, to fall to 1-3 heading into Big Eight play.
The Tigers lost at home 17-12 to Colorado, a program on the rise, on Oct. 11. It was clear this would be another lost season for Woody Widenhofer and the Tigers.
Missouri played at No. 3 Nebraska on Oct. 18 and lost 48-17, the eighth straight win for the Huskers in the Victory Bell rivalry.
The Tigers then faced Kansas State, which was bad again but coming off a win over rival Kansas. The Wildcats would not win another Big Eight game until 1990, four years later. It’s hard to overstate how bad of a situation Bill Snyder took over at K-State in 1989, and how great of a job he did there. In 1986, The Tigers avenged the previous year’s loss to the Wildcats with a 17-6 win in Manhattan, surpassing the previous year’s win total. It began a 0-26-1 stretch in Big Eight games for K-State.
Heading into November, Missouri had a rather forgettable 37-14 home loss to Iowa State, and then suffered a hard-to-forget 77-0 loss at No. 4 Oklahoma, one of the most brutal losses in school history. The Sooners were barreling toward another Big Eight title, and the game was not competitive almost from the start.
Brian Bosworth, the Sooners’ colorful and ferocious linebacker who was an All-American in 1985 and 1986, said of that 77-0 game, “Games like that aren’t fun,” according to longtime Omaha World-Herald sportswriter Tom Shatel. Boz was suspended from the Orange Bowl after that season for a positive steroid test, and he word a T-shirt that referred to the NCAA as “National Communists Against Athletes” during that bowl game, and Barry Switzer eventually dismissed Bosworth from the team. In 1988 Boz wrote a book, titled the Boz, in which he detailed an Oklahoma program full of drug use and other wild or criminal behavior. The book and subsequent NCAA report eventually led to Switzer being forced to resign.
But in November 1986, Switzer and Boz were still teamed up and crushing the Tigers.
In Shatel’s ode to the Big Eight, he recalled that 77-0 game, and Missouri color analyst Dan Dierdorf starting to call play-by-play of a local rugby match next to Owen Field.
Missouri had a bye week after the loss at Oklahoma, and the formula of seething over a humiliating loss plus an extra week to rest and prepare plus a bad rival team coming to town equaled a lopsided victory for the Tigers. Missouri rolled to a 48-0 home win over Kansas, who would finish last in the Big Eight that year. It tied for Missouri’s biggest-ever win over the Jayhawks. Oddly enough, Missouri has beaten Kansas by exactly 48 points four times.
The Tigers wrapped up the season with a 10-6 loss at Oklahoma State on Dec. 4. Cowboy running back Thurman Thomas had a somewhat less productive season, coming off an ACL tear, but he was playing again by the end of the season. Also, the Cowboys seemed to have a pretty outstanding backup running back, a freshman by the name of Barry Sanders.
Missouri finished the 1986 season at 3-8, a third straight losing season.
1986: 33 years ago, 6th in the Big Eight
Record: 3-8, 2-5 in Big Eight