KANSAS CITY — Seated next to each other at a table on stage, facing a room full of reporters, words weren’t necessary for any of the four Tigers forced to discuss perhaps their most disappointing loss of the season.
Still bloodied and grass-stained, their body language said plenty just minutes after a 41-point loss to a team that has provided half the Tigers' six losses in the past two seasons.
Their heads hung low, weighed down by a season overflowing with unfulfilled expectations.
When they weren’t answering questions, their glassy eyes were glued to the white tablecloth in front of them, the minutes made even more painful by the triumphant voices leaking through the walls of the Oklahoma locker room into the interview room, punctuating what seemed like every moment of silence.
For all of 2008’s shortcomings, Missouri knew a win Saturday night over Oklahoma would turn Chase Daniel’s three interceptions against Oklahoma State and the defense’s affinity for giving up big plays against Kansas into hazy memories on the way to a BCS bowl berth.
But a 38-7 halftime deficit against the national championship-bound Sooners put to bed any dreams the Tigers had of redeeming their season.
After watching Oklahoma celebrate a 62-21 victory for their third consecutive Big 12 Conference title, a trip to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio was clearly not what the Tigers had on their mind before their matchup with the Sooners.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a disappointment, especially when, two years in a row, you had a chance to go to two big BCS bowl games,” said junior defensive tackle Jaron Baston on Saturday.
With three weeks until they’ll suit up again, the Tigers’ 24-hour rule requiring players to flush the results of the previous week’s game was lifted, giving Missouri a bit of extra time to recharge and digest the results of its past 13 contests.
“We won’t be practicing for a few days this week. Guys will deal with it the best they can, they’re all competitors,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “This is not the fun part of the business.”
The Tigers have had to see that part of the business all too often when they’ve run into Big 12 South powers Oklahoma and Texas. After Saturday’s loss, Pinkel is now 0-10 against the Sooners and Longhorns in his eight seasons at Missouri.
“Until you win the Big 12 championship, you haven’t arrived,” Pinkel said. “We’ve done a lot of good things at Mizzou. But have we arrived? No. When we win a Big 12 championship, we’ll have arrived.”
For the past decade, that’s meant a Big 12 North team having to beat Oklahoma or Texas at a neutral site in the championship game.
“When they line up in front of you, they know they’re going to win,” Baston said. “We were playing, and one of the offensive linemen were like, ‘What are ya’ll mad at? This is what we do.’ They just know, they’re confident in their game plan.”
Senior safety William Moore, who sat out most of the game after suffering an injury to cartilage in his ribs on Wednesday, came away impressed with the Sooners as well.
“I don’t see one negative with that football team,” he said. “They came out tonight and proved why they should be in the national championship game.”
According to Pinkel, making that jump boils down to one thing.
“I think it’s consistency,” he said. “It’s my job to get there, so if it’s not there, it’s not there yet. It’s my job, and I’ve got to get that done.”