COLUMBIA - It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
For those enchanted by preseason fairy tales, Missouri's first loss, if it were to occur at all, was to slither from a hostile venue such as Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium like a python from a pit, or perhaps crash ashore onto South Beach after the Tigers' tight-rope offense performed one last high-wire act from college football's grandest edifice, the BCS Championship Game in Miami.
If MU were to lose during this charmed season, some believed, quarterback Chase Daniel and others would do so in a manner that mirrored their team's personality — with style and with fight.
And they would do so far from home.
It wasn't supposed to happen here. Not with a cheer (or was it a jeer?) Orange power! ringing from Memorial Stadium's southwest visitors corner. Below the stands, the Tigers (5-1, 1-1 Big 12 Conference) lurched toward the locker room as losers after a 10-game home-winning streak was laid to rest to the delight of the celebration splashed in orange above. A procession of MU players' cleats clicked against the cold concrete, creating the somber cadence of a dirge for their perished undefeated season.
It wasn't supposed to happen because of Daniel. Not with him misfiring on three interceptions and reverting to the gunslinger decision-making of his youth. At times he looked unseasoned when faced with pressure from Oklahoma State's surprisingly stout defense, a unit that mixed blitz packages and stunted at the line to cause confusion like no other MU opponent had managed this season.
"Put it all on me," said Daniel, who finished with 390 passing yards and with a team-high 46 yards rushing.
It wasn't supposed to happen this early again. Last year, MU lost to Oklahoma during the Tigers' second conference game. MU used the experience to propel itself toward six consecutive victories and a Big 12 North championship, before losing in the Big 12 title game and ending the possibility for playing for a surprise national crown. Players entered the offseason intent to improve upon a memorable 2007. On Saturday night, despite the sting of defeat, they reflected upon former lessons and understood there remains much to play for.
"There are a lot of great teams in the nation right now with one loss," said tight end Chase Coffman, who finished with a career-best 11 catches for 104 yards. "That's just one of those things where leaders on the team have to step up and forget about it."
Said tailback Derrick Washington, who had 11 yards on eight carries: "We're going to go out, and we're going to play our hearts out. We're going to win every game now. This is a setback for us. We're going to get ready for next week. Going into Texas, we expect to come out with a victory."
That will be a tall task. MU hasn't won in Austin since 1896. After beating archrival Oklahoma on Saturday, Texas (6-0, 2-0) is the country's consensus No. 1 and is playing with confidence not seen since its 2005 national-title campaign. New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who served the same position at Auburn for the past two seasons, has injected an attitude of aggression into the program. MU's offensive line struggled against Oklahoma State's physical defensive front and could experience greater problems against Texas unless corrections are made this week.
MU's defense must find a way to slow quarterback Colt McCoy, who is having a career year. He averages 259.5 yards passing per game and has 17 touchdown passes to three interceptions. He also leads the Longhorns with 348 rushing yards.
On Sunday, MU dropped in both polls. In the AP rankings, the Tigers dipped from third to 11th. In the USA Today coaches poll, they sank from second to 12th. MU remains the Big 12 North's highest-ranked team; Kansas (USA Today No. 15/AP No. 16) is the only other. Four Big 12 South squads (Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) rank in the top 10 in both.
"The road just gets tougher," wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said, glassy-eyed.
"We know what goal we want to achieve. Obviously, we have no more room for error. We want to be perfect the rest of the season."