COLUMBIA — The words that came out of his mouth were positive, but Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was void of emotion when he discussed his team’s bid to the Alamo Bowl on Sunday at the Clinton Club at Mizzou Arena.
“The Alamo Bowl is very prestigious, and we’re very excited to be a part of it,” Pinkel said.
Scratch that. Pinkel had emotion, but the monotone delivery and glum face meant it was something different than “very excited.”
Before last year, Pinkel and his players would have been plenty pleased to get to the Alamo Bowl. It’s a well-watched game between the Big 12 and Big 10 conferences and is more desirable than Missouri’s bowl bids in 2005 and 2006. But the 2008 Cotton Bowl champions came into this season with higher hopes than four losses and a bowl before January. For the Tigers, a matchup with No. 22 Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl is simply a disappointment.
“It is bittersweet, I guess,” said Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin, agreeing with a reporter’s suggestion about the invitation to San Antonio. “We did get beat by 40 yesterday.”
Coming off two consecutive losses, the Tigers lost their luster. The Alamo Bowl had fifth pick in the Big 12 Conference after the BCS, Cotton, Holiday and Gator bowls. Missouri seemed in position to get an invitation from the Holiday Bowl until falling to Kansas two weeks ago. Instead, Oklahoma State (9-3) will be heading to San Diego.
“It’s going to sting awhile,” Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel said. “Why wouldn’t it? We lost the Big 12 championship.”
After the Tigers lost the Big 12 title to Oklahoma last year, they were deprived of a BCS bowl bid in favor of Kansas, whom Missouri beat. The disappointment this year is different. If the 2007 Tigers were frustrated because they thought they warranted a better postseason game, the 2008 Tigers are crushed that the Alamo Bowl is where they should be.
“It’s probably not a snub,” Pinkel said. “You get what you deserve.”
Missouri (9-4) vs. Northwestern (9-3)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: San Antonio
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM
This year, Oklahoma took the No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings and will play No. 2 Florida for the national championship. No. 3 Texas, which beat Oklahoma in the regular season, will play against No. 10 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Kansas will meet Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, Nebraska will play Clemson in the Gator Bowl and Texas Tech will take on Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl.
Missouri, now ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press' poll, will face a 9-3 Northwestern team, fourth in the Big 10 Conference. In a press conference Sunday night, Pinkel said he knew little about the Wildcats.
“I looked at their stats 30 minutes ago,” Pinkel said to chuckles.
Daniel said he, too, was unfamiliar with Northwestern, except for a few clips on ESPN. He will start watching film when he returns next week from New York, where he will attend the National Football Foundation Awards Dinner as a Draddy Trophy finalist. The award recognizes academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership, according to its Web site.
As Pinkel did, Daniel stressed the importance of finishing the season with another win. If the Tigers beat the Wildcats on Dec. 29, they will be the first class to have two consecutive 10-win seasons.
“We still have a chance to make history,” Daniel said.
Missouri’s seniors have been to bowl games four years in a row. This is the Tigers’ fifth bowl appearance under Pinkel.
“We’ve come a long way with coach Pinkel building the program in the five years I’ve been here,” Missouri receiver Tommy Saunders said. “We didn’t go to one my first year, but we’ve been every time since then, so it says a lot.”
Pinkel sees an opportunity for further program-building with the game in San Antonio. Missouri eyes Texas as rich recruiting ground, and a primetime game on ESPN could be beneficial.
For Daniel and the 28 other Tigers hailing from Texas, it’s at least nice to have a homecoming.
“Three bowl games in Texas (during my career) is fine with me,” Daniel said. “It’s fine with my parents, too, as far as travel plans.”
But they probably would not have complained about a trip to a BCS bowl, either.
“It’s still about finishing,” Pinkel said. “You learn from the experience and go on.”
Tickets to the Alamo Bowl will be available starting at 9 a.m. Monday online, by phone or in person at the Mizzou Arena ticket office.