I’m not disappointed by Missouri’s performance in their final trip to Lincoln as conference-mates with Nebraska. I will take this one optimistically. Missouri outplayed them for 45 minutes.
Oh, you say, Missouri only outplayed Nebraska because Nebraska treated Missouri like a six-man high school team from North Dakota for the first quarter. You have me there. Here’s a fun stat. For the final quarter of last year’s game and the first quarter of this year’s game, Missouri was outscored 51-0. That’s in a half of football. The heralded defense gave up 256 yards in a quarter and after that, it didn’t matter that they got Nebraska’s quarterback out of the game. That only prevented the final score from being 45-17 instead of 31-17.
I do appreciate the effort the team made for the final 45. Gabbert pulled the roll out and throw the ball away maneuver more times than I’ve ever seen. In that time period, Nebraska’s defense played like Missouri’s had all year, giving up chunks of yardage but stiffening up when they needed to. Attempting a 54-yard field goal that would have cut the lead to 14 was stretching it. Gabbert missed on at least three downfield shots. One was dropped in the end zone, although there could have been interference. The team had first and goal at the one, got a half the distance penalty and then stupidly went into the shotgun and could only get three.
The best play of the day was the fourth and less than one play. Missouri got into a bunch formation. It’s as bunch as Missouri gets with two receivers wide, two tight ends slightly behind the offensive line and a RB behind the QB. Nebraska called a time out and sold out on the sneak. Gabbert pitched and downfield blocking got the first TD. I even had a little hope there for a moment.
The team was perpetually one play away from making the game interesting and they failed to make it repeatedly. They made Roy Helu Junior look like what Troy Polamalu might have been had he decided to be a running back.
I wrote last week about Missouri’s breakthrough. I was convinced that finally, my team could beat anyone in the country. I’m not sure if they could have defeated Nebraska yesterday. The first quarter MVP for the Tigers was the punter. They competed. If Missouri loses more ground in the poll than Oklahoma lost after last week, I will be unsurprised.
Here are the scenarios for the rest of the season. Missouri wins out and Nebraska loses once more, say to Colorado in the Benedict Arnold bowl in the final game of the season. Missouri goes to the Big 12 Championship and plays a full 60 minutes against Oklahoma/Oklahoma State. They win and get a Rose Bowl berth against Ohio State. They beat the Tressels and finish #3 in the country. No, I do not think a 2007 scenario is happening again.
Scenario two: Missouri wins out but Nebraska holds serve (love the inappropriate other sport metaphors) and goes to the Big 12 title game. Despite the 11-1 record Missouri is passed over by the BCS and whatever the Holiday Bowl in San Diego is called now passes over Missouri to select 6-6 Texas. Missouri plays 8-4 Mississippi State and wins convincingly.
Scenario three: Missouri goes into a minor late-season slide, losing at Texas Tech and to Kansas. They finish 9-3 and return to the Alamo Bowl where they play Michigan and lose.
I’m hoping for at least 10 wins because that would represent a pretty darn good season. I’d say that Pinkel might win Big 12 Coach of the Year but the guy at Baylor should own it already now that the team’s guaranteed at least a .500 record in conference for the first time.