COLUMBIA — Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett had a job to do.
South Carolina took a 27-24 lead over Missouri in double overtime. The 24-yard field goal was one Baggett has made plenty of times, both in practice and in games. This one would have sent the Tigers to triple overtime. It would have given them another chance to win. It would have kept the perfect season alive.
Instead, Baggett drilled the kick with enough power to make it from 20 yards farther. But the ball smashed into the left upright, sending a thud throughout a suddenly silent Memorial Stadium.
Was the snap high? A little bit. Should the place holder have had the laces facing away from Baggett as he kicked? Yes. Were there a dozen other plays in the game which could have won the game for Missouri or at least made sure it didn't come down to a kick? Absolutely.
None of that mattered to Baggett though. The ball fell to the turf after smacking the upright, and Missouri lost. Baggett's stomach dropped.
"Get me out of here," Baggett recalled thinking.
He wasn't thinking about the excuses, about what went wrong or what other plays could have helped the Tigers win. Baggett was thinking about how he was responsible for a heartbreaking loss.
"It doesn't matter what those other things are," Baggett said. "I have to make that kick. It doesn't matter if the ball is horizontal on the ground, I have to make that kick. I didn't, and that's on me."
Baggett went straight to the tunnel and into the locker room as the fans headed for the exit. His stunned teammates attempted to console him, pointing to plays they could have executed better to give Missouri a chance to win.
"I can go through all the things that went wrong," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "That was the last one, so obviously people look at that, and that's it."
The kick was all Baggett could think about. He saw his parents shortly after the game but ended up spending the night alone, sitting and thinking about what had happened. He shut off his phone to avoid the onslaught of negativity that was coming his way on Twitter. He's not sure if he slept at all.
Pinkel couldn't help but worry about his kicker.
"Of course I do," Pinkel said. "That's our job. We've got his back."
Baggett didn't do interviews after the game but took the criticism in stride at Missouri's media day Monday. He's turned his phone back on, too, after avoiding the Internet following the game. To his surprise, the messages he received were mostly positive, even if most people point out the negative ones.
Like the rest of his teammates, Baggett is blocking it all out. The kick, the loss, the backlash. It's more important to forget the miss than to think about what went wrong and how to correct it.
"Nobody’s comment will ever make me feel worse than I did on that field," Baggett said.
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.