COLUMBIA — There's a certain point at which a one-sided rivalry becomes comical. In the Colorado-Missouri rivalry, that point came on the first play of Colorado's second possession Saturday night.
With the ball on the Colorado 1-yard line, Buffaloes quarterback Tyler Hansen took the snap in the end zone. Missouri linebacker Will Ebner chased Hansen, forcing the junior quarterback to roll to his right. Then Hansen threw the ball.
A pass to no one.
The ball fell to the turf and rolled out of bounds at the 20-yard line, 15 yards away from any receiver, coach, ball boy or cheerleader.
The Tigers on the field turned to the referees nearly simultaneously. The Missouri sideline started doing the safety dance, the players' and coaches' hands together above their heads as they pleaded with the referees to throw a flag.
A short referee meeting later, the ruling on the field was an intentional grounding in the end zone, a spot that results in a safety, two points for the Tigers.
Things didn't get better for the Buffaloes after that. Missouri's 26-0 victory wasn't flawless, but the Tigers' shortcomings paled in comparison to Colorado's.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel wasn't fazed by the nature of the victory.
"It was certainly a good victory for us, I was glad that we kept the shutout," Pinkel said. "We didn't move the ball like I wanted to. ... We struggled. You know, they're a really good third-down defense, but we've got to move those chains."
With a week's worth of dropped passes, a handful of untimely delay of game penalties, a quarterback change and an intentional grounding in the end zone, third-down defense might have been the only thing working for Colorado on Saturday.
Even when things did go well for Colorado, the team's luck changed soon thereafter.
When the Buffaloes forced the Tigers into three-and-outs on MU's first two possessions, Missouri punters pinned Colorado inches from the goal line. Missouri's only unsuccessful punt occurred when Trey Barrow faked the punt and scrambled for 26 yards and a first down. Through three quarters, Barrow's 26-yard run made him Missouri's leading rusher.
But the fake punt was not a fluke. Barrow said that the team had practiced the play approximately 15 times in the last three weeks.
“We go through it in practice all the time, and I was just excited to get an opportunity. In practice it works a lot like that too," Barrow said. “I was more excited than nervous, because it had been working (in practice) and I finally got an opportunity to run the ball in the Big 12.”
The play caught Colorado completely by surprise, and Missouri capitalized on the extended drive when Gabbert threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jerrell Jackson.
The Buffaloes did string together two strong drives in the first half and looked poised to crack the Missouri shutout with 40-yard field goals, but Colorado missed the first kick and Missouri blocked the second.
All the luck and fortune in the game tilted toward Missouri, much like the series itself in recent years. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins' teams have played the Tigers five times, and Missouri has won each of those matchups by a combined score of 203-40.
The Buffaloes threatened to score twice in the fourth quarter, going for it on fourth down three times in all.
On the first two fourth-down attempts, Missouri defensive back Kip Edwards played spoiler. On the first fourth-down try, Edwards blitzed from the cornerback position, chopping down the legs of Hansen for an 8-yard loss.
Edwards victimized backup quarterback Cody Hawkins on the second fourth-down attempt, intercepting a pass and returning the ball 47 yards.
Colorado went for it on fourth down for a third time in the fourth quarter, but a false start penalty pushed the Buffaloes into a fourth-and-16. Hawkins' pass to the end zone was overthrown and incomplete.
Colorado had eight penalties in the game, but they came at the most inopportune times. Edwards' sack on fourth down was preceded by a delay-of-game penalty, and a third-quarter drive by the Buffaloes was derailed by two consecutive penalties, pushing the Buffaloes out of field goal range.
Blaine Gabbert did not play in the fourth quarter but said that he would play next week when the Tigers travel to Texas A&M.