Saturday, August 10, 2019

Mizzou 50: 1998 Tigers won first bowl game since 1981

Missouri began the 1998 season with a lot of optimism following the success of 1997. The Tigers kept those good feelings going with a 37-0 season-opening win over Bowling Green, and then a 41-23 win over Kansas, with the Tiger ranked No. 25.

Missouri climbed to No. 19 for a Sept. 19 game at No. 1 Ohio State. The Buckeyes would go 11-1 and finish No. 2 in the final polls. Missouri lost 35-14 in the Horseshoe.

Missouri then beat Northwestern State and Iowa State to move to 4-1 ahead of an Oct. 17 Homecoming game with Oklahoma. The Big 12 landscape was kind of different in 1997 and 1998, with Missouri playing, and beating, Texas on Homecoming 1997 and Oklahoma for Homecoming 1998. The No. 20 Tigers won 20-6 over the Sooners to win the Peace Pipe.

Next up was a road game at No. 7 Nebraska. Missouri gave the Huskers and first-year head coach Frank Solich another battle, but Nebraska won 20-13.

Missouri beat Texas Tech 28-26 on Halloween in Lubbock (bet that was a scene) to clinch a second straight year of a winning record and bowl eligibility. The Tigers backed it up with a 38-14 win over Colorado on Nov. 7, improving to 7-2 and a No. 13 ranking.

But the last two regular-season games were against the two teams who would play in the 1998 Big 12 Championship Game. Missouri lost 17-14 at No. 6 Texas A&M and R.C. Slocum.

Then came a Nov. 21 home game with No. 2 Kansas State to finish the regular season.

The Wildcats were having maybe the most memorable season in school history, as they were 10-0 and coming off their biggest ever win, 40-30 over Nebraska in Manhattan, their first win over the Huskers in 30 years. Yes, there was a missed facemask call late in that game, but it was K-State’s night, and it looked like their year, with Bill Snyder leading them to the mountaintop after a half-century in the wilderness.

Missouri played a tough game against the Wildcats, competing till the end, but K-State won 31-25. The Wildcats would later lose a heartbreaker in double overtime to Texas A&M in that Big 12 title game, with K-State leading late. A win would’ve put them in the national title game.

Missouri went 7-4 in the regular season, and they faced West Virginia in the Bowl at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. Played on Dec. 26, the day sung about in Good King Wenceslas, Missouri won 34-31, its first bowl win since the 1981 Tangerine Bowl. The quarterback matchup was Corby Jones for Missouri, playing the final game of a successful career, against Marc Bulger for the Mountaineers, the future St. Louis Rams star.

Missouri coach Larry Smith would pass away in Tucson nine years and a month after that bowl game.
Missouri finished 8-4, ranked No. 25 in the coaches poll and No. 21 in the AP poll. The Tigers had back-to-back winning seasons, ending the long run of losing seasons and then backing it up.

1998: 21 years ago, tied for 2nd in Big 12 North

Record: 8-4, 5-3 in Big 12

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