COLUMBIA - With just under four minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter of Texas's dismantling of Missouri, the tipping point was finally discovered.
It took a 31-point deficit. It took two trainers helping Blaine Gabbert off the field. It took the decision not being a decision at all. But it finally happened.
Second-team quarterback Jimmy Costello got in the game.
Faced with a 3rd and 20 Gabbert dropped back to pass only to be sacked by Texas defensive end Eddie Jones for a 14-yard loss. Gabbert remained on the field for a short time and after he got back to his feet was tended to by head athletic trainer Rex Sharp and another member of the Missouri training staff.
The sophomore quarterback stood with the two trainers for a bit before finally making his aided limp off the field. But despite how injured Gabbert looked, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said that the decision to remove him was based more on the score than his health.
"He was real upset when we took him out, but as the third quarter went and we got that turnover, if we had been in a position to score, we would have played him," Pinkel said.
Talk about Gabbert's ankle has surrounded the program for the last two weeks. After suffering the injury in the first quarter against Nebraska, Gabbert has yet to look effective. After throwing two fourth-quarter interceptions in the loss to Nebraska, Gabbert was just 22 of 44 with three interceptions against Oklahoma State.
Gabbert was 8 of 16 for 84 yards before exiting Saturday night's 41-7 loss to Texas. But whether or not Gabbert's ankle played a part in Missouri's loss may not be the most important question. The dismantling of the Tigers may not have looked any different even if Chase Daniel was behind center.
The question, going forward, will be how the Tigers decide on their starting quarterback. The fact that a series of worst-case scenarios is what it finally took for Costello to get into the game may be indicative of Missouri's hesitation to play the former walk-on.
Costello and true freshman Blaine Dalton were battling for the backup quarterback position throughout fall camp, trading time with the No. 2 offense during practices and scrimmages.
But after being arrested on a DWI charge Dalton was dismissed from the team a week before the team's first game, and rather than being able to choose between a high-profile recruit and a former walk-on, Costello was handed the backup role.
After his name found its way into conversation following Gabbert's injury, Costello entered the game only to throw two interceptions on his six pass attempts.
Gabbert entered the post-game interview room with a cast on his foot, but was just as adamant about his health as he's been over the last two weeks. Asked whether or not there would be a point where his toughness may be a detriment to the team, he responded by saying that when he's too hurt to play he won't be the one making the decision.
"That's up to the training staff," Gabbert said.
He then said that he feels he's still capable of making the same types of plays he could make before the injury.
Costello said that he would go about his preparation next week in the same way he did last week. Whether Gabbert is going to play or not doesn't change the way he gets ready for the game.
But according to Gabbert, it's going to take another set of extreme circumstances for that to matter.
Asked whether he would be Missouri's starting quarterback next week against Colorado, Gabbert didn't hesitate.
"No doubt about it," he said.