COLUMBIA — Disbelief.
Just as quickly as San Diego State coach Brady Hoke had the marquee victory of his coaching career, he lost it.
Hoke couldn't believe that Missouri's T.J. Moe received a pass on the 37-yard line. He couldn't believe that Moe ran up the field and paused just long enough to allow San Diego State defensive back Jose Perez to run into teammate Miles Burris, clearing the field for the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the game.
The funny thing is, Hoke said he never believed San Diego State was going to win the game.
He didn't believe the Aztecs could win when Ronnie Hillman ran the ball 93 yards for a touchdown to give his team the lead in the fourth quarter. Not when Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw two interceptions in the dwindling minutes of the game, and not when the Aztecs had the ball, trailing by only a field goal.
"We didn't deserve to win it, we didn't deserve it," Hoke said.
And because his team didn't deserve to win, Hoke said he didn't believe his team had a chance to win — and, according to Hoke, his players didn't believe they could win either.
"I didn't think they believed they could win when they showed up here," Hoke said.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was in a different camp. He never doubted for a second that San Diego State could come to Columbia and defeat the Tigers.
Pinkel has seen a game like Saturday's before. Nearly annually, Pinkel's Tigers are taken to the brink of defeat, or further, by a non-conference, underdog opponent.
In 2004 it was a loss to Troy, in 2005 a loss to New Mexico. Last season Bowling Green frightened the Tigers into the fourth quarter, and now, in 2010, the Tigers were taken to the edge against San Diego State.
"I thought San Diego State certainly played very, very well. Probably good enough to win," Pinkel said.
The mood outside the San Diego State locker room after the game was painfully solemn, with coaches and players heading to the team bus shaking their heads in a silent procession — the defining victory of their collegiate careers taken away by a last-minute touchdown.
Perez, whose open-field mishap was critical to the Benny Hill-like game-winning touchdown, could only describe the game as "tough."
"We're down, it's a tough loss," Perez said. "It was tough for us. It's tough right now."
Quarterback Ryan Lindley couldn't believe the game ended the way it did either. He was on the sidelines, thinking he was a minute from victory. The players were preparing the Gatorade bath for Hoke when Moe scored the touchdown.
"Complete disbelief," Lindley said. "But that's the way it is, things happen for a reason."