In college football, every season is a fresh start. But some autumns feel more like new starts than others. Missouri’s 2009 season was one of those, with sophomore Blaine Gabbert taking over for the graduated Chase Daniel at quarterback. There were plenty of other key contributors to replace, including Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin, William Moore and Ziggy Hood.
Missouri started the new era with something familiar, a neutral site game with Illinois in St. Louis. For the third year in a row, and the fifth time since 2002, Missouri began the season by beating Illinois, 37-9 this time. Gabbert threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start.
The Tigers opened the home portion of the schedule by hosting Bowling Green on Sept. 12. Dave Clawson, who coaches Wake Forest these days, coached the Falcons. Bowling Green led 20-6 in the third quarter, but Missouri scored 21 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters to pull out a 27-20 win.
Missouri had a much easier time the following week, beating Furman 52-12. Then came a 31-21 win at Nevada on a Friday night game on ESPN.
That made Missouri 4-0 heading into Big 12 play, which started with a key game in the Big 12 North race. No. 24 Missouri hosted No. 21 Nebraska on Oct. 8, a Thursday night game on ESPN. It was a rainy game. That is probably speaking in understatement. It was a deluge before the game, and then kept pouring during the game. One of those ceaseless October rains that makes you wonder if it will never stop, makes you wonder what other kinds of weather there were. The water made the Rock M hill a muddy mess, and water collected in the front row of the bleacher seats, so the front row of the student section had to stand in ankle-deep water all game.
The power was knocked out, and the stadium had to kick in the backup power source, but that meant the loudspeakers weren’t working. So that meant Sara Evans’ pregame national anthem couldn’t be heard by most people in attendance. But she sang it anyway in the rain. On the upside, fans at the game could just hear the band and the sounds of the sport of college football, without repeated noise and ads from the public address system.
Missouri gradually inched to a 12-0 lead in the third quarter as the rain kept pouring. But then, in the fourth quarter, Nebraska roared back. Husker quarterback Zac Lee was suddenly white hot, completing bombs. Nebraska’s ferocious defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, on his way to a top-five Heisman finish, took charge, and injured Gabbert’s leg on one sack. Gabbert threw two picks in that second half.
In the end, Nebraska won going away, 27-12. The Huskers would win the North that year, and nearly beat Texas in the Big 12 title game, only to lose 13-12 when officials put one second back on the clock, giving the Longhorns time for the game-winning field goal.
After the loss to the Huskers, Missouri had to travel to No. 16 Oklahoma State. The Tigers trailed just 24-17 at the half, but were shut out in the second half, and the Cowboys won 33-17.
Missouri then hosted No. 3 Texas for Homecoming. A lot of teams play a team that’s easier to beat for Homecoming, but it can also be an opportunity to play a really good opponent and maybe use the energy of Homecoming to pull the upset.
Unfortunately, this game would not be one of those instances. Texas raced to a 35-7 lead at the half, and the second half was merely a time-killing formality. The Longhorns won, 41-7.
Missouri was now 4-3, but the Tigers ended their losing streak in a road trip to Boulder. Missouri led 33-3 at the half, and won 36-17.
On Nov. 7, Missouri hosted Baylor. The Tigers had a lead, but backup quarterback Nick Florence led the Bears on a comeback and to a 40-32 win. It was the Bears’ only Big 12 win that season.
Missouri bounced back with a modest winning streak to finish the season, winning 38-12 on the road against Kansas State and Bill Snyder, who was back in charge of the Wildcats.
Then came a 34-24 home win over Iowa State on Senior Day, and a 41-39 win over Kansas at Arrowhead to close the regular season. That was a fairly riveting game, back and forth, with Missouri winning on short field goal with a second left. The Tigers wore primarily gray “Beast Mode” uniforms, and receiver Danario Alexander was probably the most Beast Mode of all, catching 15 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. The Border War win also dropped Kansas to 5-7 and kept them from going to a bowl. They haven’t been to one since.
Missouri faced Navy in the Dec. 31 Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Missouri was a favorite, but the Midshipmen dominated with their option attack. The Tigers did score first on a long touchdown pass from Gabbert to Alexander, but then it was all Navy, who won 35-13. The bowl loss dropped the Tigers to 8-5 for their final record. It wasn’t as good as 2007 or 2008, but it was another winning season, and set the Tigers up to aim higher in 2010.
2009: 10 years ago, tied for 2nd in Big 12 North
Record: 8-5, 4-4 in Big 12