COLUMBIA - Three sets of pads went up for the ball, but when the three bodies came back down to earth, it was Oklahoma State's Damian Davis who cradled the ball. With his second touchdown catch of the night, Davis put the Cowboys up 28-17, a margin that quarterback Chase Daniel and the Tigers never made up.
A Daniel interception with 1:41 left,on a pass intended for Jeremy Maclin ended the Tigers' bid for an improbable comeback.
Cowboy linebacker Patrick Lavine was mobbed by teammates and coaches as he triumphantly held up his prize after his interception.
"Too many turnovers, I put it all on me," Daniel said. "Three interceptions is very uncharacteristic. It seemed like we were a little bit off all night. For the reason, I have no idea."
The 28-23 loss for the Tigers ended any hope they once had of gaining the nation's No. 1 ranking after previously top-ranked Oklahoma lost to Texas in Dallas earlier in the day.
"Your guts feel just like they got torn out," Pinkel said.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Oklahoma State must not have heard all the talk about the Missouri offense. The Tigers haven't gone three and out? Trash-canned after Missouri's second possession. They've never taken a snap with a deficit? Zac Robinson's six-yard touchdown run with 4:53 left in the first quarter sent that stat to bed early, without so much as a glass of warm milk or a bedtime story. Two punts in the first quarter even made last week's punt-free performance in Lincoln a distant memory for coach Gary Pinkel.
"We just haven't been in this situation for awhile," Pinkel said. "We haven't lost in this stadium for awhile. So, this is really difficult on our players, but we'll get going."
Perhaps the most costly streak to come to an end Saturday was the Tigers five consecutive games with a touchdown on their opening drive. After sophomore running back Derrick Washington was denied a touchdown on third-and-goal, Pinkel elected to kick a field goal, giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead early when four extra points at the end of the game would have possibly tied the game.
"We haven't made a fourth-and-1 this year and I wanted to come away with points," Pinkel said. "It's hard to figure out what's going to happen at the end of a game two minutes into it."
Each time the Tigers seemed poised to make a run, a crucial mistake put the Cowboys back in control.
A Castine Bridges' interception ended a Cowboy campaign to add to their 14-10 lead, but a 41-yard screen pass to Maclin was followed up by Daniel's first interception, a tipped ball off the hands of Danario Alexander. An impressive three-and-out forced by the defense with just under three minutes to play gave the Tigers the ball at the Oklahoma State 40-yard line, but Daniel's third interception ended the comeback.
"I thought I could stick it in to J-Mac," Daniel said. "I just wasn't able to do it."
Earlier in the season Daniel said he spoke with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Southern California quarterback Mark Sanchez after their teams suffered losses against Ole Miss and Oregon State, respectively. He said their overwhelming sentiment was simple: Don't let it happen to you. Now, two weeks later, Daniel has.
"It's just a letdown. You let your teammates down. I'm a captain," Daniel said. "I didn't play as well as I wanted to, I didn't distribute the ball as well as I wanted to."