Missouri began the 2010 season with some momentum, gradually building up to an epic Homecoming showdown with Oklahoma. It all started with a much less epic game with Illinois on Sept. 4, again played in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Missouri won that game 23-13, their fourth win in four years over the Illini in St. Louis to open the season. It remains the most-recent meeting between the two schools, and Missouri has won six straight in the series and has a 17-7 lead overall.
Missouri then came home for a relatively easy 50-6 win over McNeese State. But the following week, Sept. 18, was a far-from-easy win over Brady Hoke and San Diego State. The Aztecs had the game nearly one, even prompting one Mizzou beat writer to tweet the game was over after a late pick thrown by Blaine Gabbert, but the Tigers got the ball back with one final shot. Gabbert hit receiver T.J. Moe who raced down the sideline and, aided by a perhaps maybe probably illegal block in the back, scored what would be the winning touchdown. The Aztecs were upset, but in any event Missouri had pulled out a 27-24 win.
The Tigers then had a fairly routine 51-13 over Miami-Ohio to move to 4-0 heading into Big 12 play.
Missouri was ranked No. 21, and shut out Colorado 26-0 in another night game at Faurot, in what would prove to be the schools’ last meeting, as Colorado headed to the Pac 12 after the season. Missouri was starting to look like a contender. On Oct. 16, ranked No. 21, the Tigers beat Texas A&M 30-9 down at Kyle Field to improve to 6-0 heading into an Oct. 23 showdown with Oklahoma.
The Sooners were ranked No. 3 in the AP poll, although they were No. 1 in the latest BCS Standings. Missouri had never beaten a team ranked No. 1 in any poll. The Tigers were ranked No. 18.
I wrote ahead of that game that Bob Stoops and Oklahoma had been Bugs Bunny to Gary Pinkel and Missouri’s Elmer Fudd. The Sooners vanquished the good Chase Daniel Tiger teams three times in 2007 and 2008, four if you count the 2006 game before Daniel and the Tigers found their top gear. They had largely lorded over the Big 12 since Stoops arrived, and any aspiring Big 12 team likely had to go through them.
It was a weekend for the ages in Columbia, one of those “I’ll sleep in the offseason” kind of moments. It was Homecoming weekend, with all that accompanying pomp and circumstance. College GameDay was in town, drawing a huge crowd on the Quad. By the time the 7 p.m. kickoff rolled around, the crowd was electric. Somehow, they took it up a notch when Missouri’s Gahn McGaffie took the opening kickoff for a touchdown, prompting thunderous roars from the Memorial Stadium crowd that reverberated across Columbia.
It set the stage for a memorable night, with Missouri earning a 36-27 win, one of the biggest of the Pinkel era at Mizzou. Fans rushed the field, and tore down the goalposts, carrying them to Harpo’s. It remains the last time Tiger fans have torn down the goalposts, as nowadays MU takes down the goal posts during field rushings and circles them with security. That was the case in 2013 and 2014.
Missouri was 7-0, ranked No. 7 after the win over Oklahoma, and had Tiger fans dreaming of contending for titles again. It was Missouri’s first 7-0 start since 1960.
The Tigers had another huge game right after it, playing at No. 14 Nebraska on Oct. 30. The Huskers have a great home field advantage in their Memorial Stadium, home of the nation’s longest sellout streak, dating back to the early 1960s. Bo Pelini had the Huskers going in his third year, after nearly missing out on a conference title the year before.
But this meeting of the Tigers and Huskers had another layer. Nebraska was leaving the Big 12 after that season for the Big Ten. The Big 12 had seemed to be falling apart, with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pushing the idea of Missouri going to the Big Ten, and Nebraska, fed up with Texas and Oklahoma (especially Texas) ruling the roost and calling the shots for conference policy, had found a landing spot. Colorado was leaving as well, and the next fall Missouri and Texas A&M would be on the move themselves.
So after more than a century together, in the same conference, Missouri and Nebraska played one more time on the plains of Lincoln. Plenty of Tiger fans made the trip, but the Sea of Red was loud and would up for this game, likely for the Big 12 North title.
Nebraska made a mistake picking to kick instead of defer at the opening coin toss, so Missouri got the ball to start both halves. It didn’t really matter. Missouri struggled all day against the Husker defense, and Roy Helu set Nebraska’s single-game rushing record, running for 307 yards. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez suffered an ankle injury, but it didn’t matter. Gabbert was under tons of pressure, and maybe even rolled out of the pocket some when there wasn’t direct pressure, perhaps spooked by the ghost of Ndamukong Suh, but the effect was the same. Missouri trailed 24-7 at the half, and lost 31-17.
On the upside, my friends and I did get free pop with our meal at Runza after the game because the Nebraska-based fast food chain had price specials based on how many points the Blackshirt defense held their opponents to.
The next week, on the road in Lubbock, Missouri led Texas Tech 14-3 after one quarter. The Red Raiders closed it to 17-10 at the half. But the Tiger offense couldn’t score in the second half, and Tech scored two third-quarter touchdowns and won 24-17, dropping Missouri to 7-2.
In a way, the loss to Texas Tech cost Missouri the Big 12 North division, as Nebraska lost 9-6 at Texas A&M on Nov. 20 and finished 6-2 in Big 12 play, like Missouri would do. It was a controversial game, with the Huskers being penalized 16 times, including some shaky, “catch the reaction” personal foul stuff, leading to an enraged Bo Pelini on the sideline. Well, maybe more enraged than usual. Some speculated the officiating was a goodbye “present” from the Big 12, but in any event Nebraska played Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. The Sooners trailed 17-0 but came back to win the title.
Missouri bounced back from that second straight loss with a Nov. 13 Senior Day win over Kansas State, 38-28, and then won 14-0 at Iowa State on a cold and windy night in Ames.
In the regular season finale, Missouri crushed a bad Kansas team 35-7 on Nov. 27 at Arrowhead to finish the regular season at 10-2.
Missouri claims a shared Big 12 North division title from 2010, and I guess that’s fine, although I don’t plan on calling the 2007 Kansas Jayhawks Big 12 North champions anytime soon. And after all, division title are only useful when they get you into the conference championship game.
Missouri did get to play Iowa in the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. It was a close game, but a comedically long and gradual pick-6 by Iowa propelled the Hawkeyes to victory, dropping Missouri to a 10-3 final record.
It was still a successful season, and that win over Oklahoma won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Gabbert declared for the NFL draft, and James Franklin took over at quarterback heading into the 2011 season.
2010: 9 years ago, tied for 1st in Big 12 North (lost tiebreaker)
Record: 10-3, 6-2 in Big 12