ARLINGTON, Texas — Gary Pinkel stands arms crossed, brow furrowed with only a few minutes remaining on the clock. In a flash, everything changes. He's skipping down the sideline, his fellow coaches and players running beside him.
Not five minutes later, he's standing in a crowd of his players, cameras flashing from every side and a "Cotton Bowl Champs" hat resting on top of his head. He's soaked in Gatorade with confetti sticking to his black sweater vest.
A touchdown from Henry Josey and a sack from Michael Sam were the plays that sealed Pinkel's 102nd win as coach at Missouri, a 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. He had passed Don Faurot for No. 1 on the school's all-time wins list with his second Cotton Bowl victory and achieved the second 12-win season of his career.
He's making his way off the field, hugging his players with tears in his eyes. His voice is hoarse from a grueling week. Fans shout from the stands as he walks through the tunnel and toward the locker room.
"We love you, Gary!"
From 5-7 in 2012 and no bowl game to 12-2, a Southeastern Conference East Division Championship and a win in the Cotton Bowl, Pinkel went from a man under heavy scrutiny to a coach overcome with joy and showered with love (and Gatorade).
"All the drama you don't want, as a coach in the fourth quarter, we had," Pinkel said.
From another game-winning touchdown from Josey — who scored three touchdowns in the game and was named most outstanding offensive player — to the final stand from his defense and the celebration afterward, Pinkel had plenty of tension on the sideline. But it turned to the most unfiltered display of joy he had shown in years.
"When you get that Gatorade poured on your head, that shocked my system," Pinkel said. "It's always great when it happens.
"This isn't about me," he continued. "This is about a championship. You know how hard championships are."
In a week where Oklahoma knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to give the Big 12 bragging rights on the SEC, Missouri was the team to take back the bragging rights from its old conference for its new conference.
"Before the game, (Oklahoma State cornerback) Justin Gilbert said the Big 12 was better than the SEC," senior wide receiver L'Damian Washington said. "I'm just glad my teammates backed me up. Mizzou is here. Mizzou knows what they're doing."
A game that took more than four hours to complete was everything the Cotton Bowl hoped it would be. Cowboys Stadium was a fitting setting for a dramatic, back-and-forth contest filled with milestone performances from likely heroes and a happy ending for a coach who desperately needed one.
"I hope the Cotton Bowl liked that game," Pinkel said.