COLUMBIA — Missouri coach Gary Pinkel jogged off Faurot Field after Missouri's 41-19 win over Arkansas State. In front of him was the outstretched hand of athletics director Mike Alden. Behind him, his name flashed on the scoreboard as the clock ran out and he officially passed Dan Devine for No. 2 on Missouri's all-time-wins list with 94.
Pinkel couldn't help it. A smile spread across his face.
"We started this thing 13 years ago," Pinkel said. "I'm very appreciative of him (Alden) and the administration.
"A lot of work by a lot of different people."
As for seeing his name mentioned with Devine and Don Faurot, Pinkel couldn't deny the significance.
"I don't get real caught up in that stuff," Pinkel said. "To be named with him is a tremendous honor."
The smile Pinkel flashed after the game has been rare over the past 12 months. The Tigers won only five games a year ago, and Pinkel has been under intense pressure to improve upon that total in 2013, Missouri's second season in the Southeastern Conference.
After Saturday night's win, Pinkel and the Tigers are 4-0, a win away from the 2012 total and two wins from qualifying for a bowl game.
The 4-0 start is what Missouri envisioned, but the Tigers took a path they didn't hope to take.
Trailing at the end of the first quarter against Murray State wasn't part of the plan. Neither was allowing 475 yards of total offense against Indiana. Or getting outgained by Arkansas State until the fourth quarter on Saturday and needing two second-half touchdowns to preserve the win.
"That was tiring," Pinkel said, the smirk from earlier still fresh on his face.
It hasn't been smooth, but Missouri is undefeated at the end of September for the first time since 2010. The Tigers have scored in each of the 16 quarters they have played in 2013. The defense has already intercepted more passes than it did a year ago. And unlike 2012, James Franklin is healthy and playing at a higher level than he ever has in his Missouri career.
"Phase one is complete," Missouri guard Max Copeland said. "We're excited about that, but we're not satisfied with that."
It's hard to be satisfied when it gets so much tougher for Missouri. The Tigers' SEC schedule begins with a trip to Vanderbilt on Oct. 5. A trip to Georgia and home games against Florida and South Carolina follow close behind.
"The competition cranks up here," Pinkel said. "We know that, too."
Pinkel might be smiling, and he might have passed a career milestone on Saturday, but the pressure is still on. Pinkel isn't going home to cross another goal off his checklist, and he refuses to take credit for what Missouri has accomplished until it has reached the final goal.
He knows his journey is far from over.
"A lot of people have helped Mizzou win," Pinkel said. "I just want to keep winning."
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.