COLUMBIA – After clinching bowl eligibility with a mid-November victory over Kansas State, the Missouri football team set out to catch the attention of the higher-tier bowl games looking for a Big 12 Conference participant.
Senior offensive lineman Kurtis Gregory said that helped spur the team to victories over Big 12 North Division rivals Iowa State and Kansas.
The Mizzou Athletic Ticket Office will begin taking online orders for the Texas Bowl beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday at www.mutigers.com. Fans may also order over the phone by calling 1-800-CAT-PAWS (884-PAWS in Columbia) or in person at the Mizzou Arena Ticket Office beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, but are strongly encouraged to order online to ensure prompt service. Mizzou's tickets are priced from a range of $25 to $75.
The Mizzou Alumni Association will host the Official Mizzou Texas Bowl Tour Dec. 30 - Jan. 1. Full air/land and land-only packages are available to Houston. To join the Official Mizzou Texas Bowl Tour visit www.MizzouSportsTravel.com or call 888-MIZZOU-1 (649-9681). The association will plan bowl events for Tigers fans including a pregame tailgate.
"Once you get eligible, (you say) 'Whew, now we're bowl eligible. OK, let's see how good of one we can go to,'" Gregory said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work for us this time."
On Sunday, Missouri (8-4) accepted a bid to the Texas Bowl, which had the last choice among bowl eligible teams from the Big 12. Oklahoma (7-5), Iowa State (6-6) and Texas A&M (6-6) were all selected ahead of the Tigers despite having fewer wins.
Missouri's opponent in the Texas Bowl will be Navy, which in early November accepted an invitation to play in the game. The Midshipmen (8-4) will close their regular season Saturday in Philadelphia against Army. The Texas Bowl is set for Dec. 31 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
One of Navy's losses was by only four points at eventual Big Ten champion Ohio State in the season-opener. Missouri is 2-0 all-time against Navy, with the last meeting in 1961 at the Orange Bowl, where the Tigers defeated the Midshipmen 21-14 to cap off an 11-0 season.
During Missouri's official bowl announcement Sunday evening, coach Gary Pinkel briefly addressed the league's bowl selection system, but only after being asked about it.
"I certainly think the process in the Big 12 has been frustrating, but I also don't think this is the really appropriate time (to talk about it)," he said. "I think that's a conversation, a discussion at a later point."
Gregory said he would not worry about whether Missouri should have been selected earlier for a more well-known bowl game.
"Yeah, you're upset about it," he said. "But you look at it for the program, and it's better for the program that we're going to this one."
In 2007, the Orange Bowl selected Kansas over Missouri despite the Tigers' division title and win over the Jayhawks. Last season, the Gator Bowl selected Nebraska, even though Missouri beat the Huskers in Lincoln and again won the Big 12 North.
Gregory said those situations are similar to the one this year.
"The Cotton Bowl ended up being just phenomenal for us," he said. "I didn't even know we got passed over last year (by) the Gator Bowl until I was doing some reading this year.
"The Texas Bowl is, in essence, the better one for us to go to," he said.
He cited Missouri's heavy recruiting in that state and the game's wider television coverage on ESPN as the primary reasons. The Insight Bowl, which selected Iowa State instead of Missouri, is played in Arizona and broadcast on the NFL Network.
To get the Insight Bowl invitation, the Cyclones also leapfrogged over Texas A&M (Independence Bowl), another Big 12 team which beat them this season. Iowa State had a huge following for its 37-29 victory over Pitt in the 2000 Insight Bowl. Iowa State sold about 12,000 tickets for that game; another 8,000 ISU fans bought tickets from the bowl.
Senior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said even though the past two wins didn't push Missouri into a different bowl game, they will benefit the team in the postseason.
"When you get a few wins in a row, it definitely gives your team confidence," he said. "So hopefully we can go into that game with that same confidence, knowing that we just won a big game."
Senior defensive lineman Jaron Baston said the win over Kansas reflected the team's development.
"We lost a few games early in the season because we didn't know how to fight at the end of the game," he said. "The KU game, it was a fight all the way through. It just showed how much this team has grown."
— The Associated Press contributed to this story