TEMPE, Ariz. — At Missouri’s postgame news conference, T.J. Moe sat straighter than he’d sat all season. His eye-black smeared, he clutched his orange Gatorade bottle and seemed close to tears.
The sophomore wide receiver, whose 15 catches for 152 yards were a season best, dropped the pass that could have led to a Missouri victory. With his team trailing 27-24 with 2:15 left in the game, Moe ran down the Missouri sideline and dove for a pass by Gabbert.
Initially, it was ruled complete. The Tigers had a first down and were ready to continue their drive down the field. It was what quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the rest of the Missouri offense expected. They believed they could score, that they could undo the Gabbert interception that was returned for a touchdown.
“We had all the confidence in the world,” Gabbert said. “We’d drive them up and down the field for most of the game. It’s a game of inches. You either catch it or you don’t. It’s all up to the refs. T.J. (Moe), I know for a fact, gave 150 percent out there.”
Missouri’s confidence — even its chance at a win — shattered after referees reviewed the catch and ruled it an incomplete pass. The ruling was met by a chorus of boos from the Missouri sideline, and Moe himself doubted the reversal.
“I thought I had it, but I guess they had some evidence that said I didn’t, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Moe said.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel declined to comment on the ruling. He did acknowledge that, though it had an impact, one play can hardly decide a football game. Instead, Pinkel lauded his team’s receivers, who combined for a total of 406 yards.
“We leaned on the pass because obviously it was working at a very high level,” Pinkel said.
With time, Moe might realize that his performance on Tuesday night amounted to much more than the incomplete pass. If anything, the loss only served to make the Tigers hungrier for a successful season in 2010.
“We are going to have one hell of a football team,” Gabbert said.