COLUMBIA – An entire stadium seemed to hold its breath as the last seconds ticked down in Saturday night's Homecoming game.
Then the clock ran out, a tremendous cheer went up and a euphoric throng of gold-clad Mizzou fans left their seats as one. Some ended up on the field, where they hugged, cried, cheered and – in keeping with long tradition – toppled the goal posts.
It was the first time Missouri had defeated Oklahoma in more than a decade.
The rest flooded out into the streets of Columbia, headed for cars, homes, parties and (especially) bars. Mobs stopped traffic, revelers scaled balconies, hundreds of bodies crushed into a single mass of crazy, jubilant celebration at the intersection of Tenth and Cherry streets, where the fans gathered outside Harpo's to cut the goal post in pieces.
Chris Inabnit, 24, suddenly found himself with a power saw in his hands in the middle of a chanting crowd.
“I got a hand on the post and next thing you know, I have a saw in my hand, and I’m like, ‘I’m that guy!’” he said breathlessly.
The crowd roared as he started up the saw, and groaned when the end of it broke off. A handsaw was produced, and new hands took it up in a frenzy. Blood smeared the end of the goal post and no one knew whose it was.
In the atrium of a business building on Tenth Street, another group of students carved up a piece of goalpost with a power saw. A short distance away, an unluckier group took turns attacking their two-foot section with a rapidly dulling hacksaw.
For more than half an hour, the crowd just stood chanting: “M-I-Z-Z-O-U.”
Brenton Eichelberger managed to snag one of the first pieces of the post, after wrestling with another student for it. He wore it proudly on his wrist and proclaimed he was going to put it on his mantelpiece.
"Sometimes they get them, sometimes they don't," said Assistant Fire Marshal Debbie Sorrell of the goalposts. Sorrell said that the situation downtown was otherwise under control. She stood next to a ring of police cars and gestured at the crowd in front of her.
"Everything else," she said, "is Homecoming."
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sarah Reeves, 21, as she watched her boyfriend and others scale the side of Harpo’s to the second floor balcony.
“Even though everyone was betting against us, I knew we were going to win,” Reeves said. “There was just so much electricity in the air. How could we not win?"
Similar scenes of revelry played out all over town. Outside of the Sigma Pi fraternity house on Providence Road, a man motioned the foot traffic along. "Winner's sidewalk," he called out. "Winner's sidewalk only."
At Campus Bar and Grill, a beer bottle rolled off of the rooftop bar, narrowly missing a woman standing below.
Many of the Oklahoma fans left before the game was even over. Red-shirted, heads down, they trickled steadily out of Memorial Stadium even as minutes remained in the game. They were far from home, their boys were losing and they wanted to escape the celebration and the inevitable traffic snarl that would follow.
One red-shirted fan stuck around. But by just after midnight, when he ended up at Harpo's, he was having a very bad night.
"You have scabies!" one heckler yelled at him. "I'm sure you're a nice guy, but you have scabies."
The unlucky Oklahoma fan declined to give his name.
Not all of the celebrating was out of control. Bess Mitchell and John Seitz walked hand-in-hand up Providence Road following the game. Both of them graduated from MU in 1959, and both had traveled far to be there tonight – Mitchell from Texas and Seitz from Kansas.
"The last time I saw Mizzou beat Oklahoma was in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1960," said Seitz.
The two knew each other in school, but had lost touch over the years before reconnecting at an alumni event last year.
"I am so ecstatic," Mitchell said. "I thought I was going to cry. I probably will cry, later."
All over Columbia, late into the night, fans drunk with beer and victory yelled that this was their best day at MU, and MU's best day.