I was more relieved than impressed with Missouri’s 30-23 overtime win over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl. All year Missouri backers have had to answer the question “Is this team really that good?” We found out conclusively that they were not as good as advertised. Chase Daniel engineered his first comeback victory at Missouri. That was surprising. That the team settled for a fairly long field goal at the end of regulation instead of trying to get closer was a little shocking. Jeff Wolfert may be the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, but we’re talking a lot of extra points. He hadn’t missed a kick in Big 12 play until this year.
Having a 10-win season is good, although there were 14 total games. Until Monday night’s triumph, Missouri’s best 2008 wins are at Nebraska and at home against Nevada and Buffalo. Every team with a better or even record beat the Tigers.
Who’s coming back for 2009? The Tigers will have an experienced offensive line. Linebacker Sean Witherspoon says he is coming back, which is a good thing on a defense with few playmakers. There are 22 departing seniors. Michael Egnew and Andrew Jones will take over for Chase Coffman. Blaine Gabbert is the heir apparent at QB with little to no competition. Jared Perry and Tommy Saunders will have to hold their wideout spots with youngsters Wes Kemp, Jerrell Jackson, and Forrest Shock needing to step up. Losing William Moore at safety is huge. Wolfert graduating means that we could be back to the days when any field goal attempt for the Tigers was an adventure.
Next year’s schedule looks like the usual Illinois plus three scrubs. Going to Reno won’t be easy. Other than that, it’s the same conference schedule (even the same order of games) as last year. Don’t expect Missouri to be on any preseason magazines next summer.