It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
When Missouri plays Nebraska, MU is supposed to be the team to drop kicks, commit penalties and allow 452 yards.
Somewhere along the way, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel changed that. His team should have been down on itself after the embarrassing loss to Kansas., but it wasn’t. Nearly every player sounded confident and upbeat heading into Saturday. Receiver Darius Outlaw spoke at length about execution, preparation and focus. His teammates echoed his sentiments, never once conceding that Nebraska was supposed to be the better team.
Pinkel said his team had not been playing the way it was capable of and wanted it corrected.
“I think they wanted to win and were doing okay the first four games, but we just weren’t playing like we were lighting our hair on fire, just absolutely getting after it,” Pinkel said. “That’s the way I like to play football and they did that.”
Missouri responded to Pinkel’s challenge in a big way. Every bounce went MU’s way, Pinkel called plays with no fear and Brad Smith was the player everyone remembers. The Tigers bounced back from the Kansas loss and a 10-point deficit to dominate Nebraska in the fourth quarter.
The 41-24 win was easily the biggest of Pinkel’s three year stint at Missouri. The Tigers improved to 5-1, 1-1 in the Big 12 Conference and Nebraska fell to 5-1, 1-1. After a two-week hiatus, Missouri moved back into the Associated Press poll at No. 24.
Some would say beating the Cornhuskers, who dropped from No. 10 to No. 18 in the poll, was one of the biggest wins in Missouri football history. They might have a strong argument.
The win was the Tigers’ first against a top 10 team since they beat No. 9 Mississippi State on Oct. 3, 1981. It was also MU’s first win against a ranked team since 1997, a streak of 20 games. Perhaps most important, the win broke Nebraska’s streak of 24 consecutive wins against the Tigers.
Receiver Sean Coffey could think of only one word to describe the landmark win.
“History,” Coffey said. “History, history, history.”
Missouri has a chance to top its historic win right away. The Tigers play No. 1 Oklahoma in Norman at 6 p.m. Saturday. Fox Sports Net will broadcast the game.
Simply put, Missouri beat Nebraska by getting creative in all facets, and it started with Pinkel.
With the Tigers trailing 24-21 early in the fourth quarter, Pinkel called for a play that Oklahoma had burned his team with in 2002, a fake field goal. Holder Sonny Riccio took the snap, stood up and rolled to the right where tight end Victor Sesay was open in the corner of the endzone. Riccio floated a perfect pass over Nebraska’s T.J. Hollowell. Sesay hauled it in and the celebration at Memorial Stadium was on.
Early in the game Missouri used gimmick plays like a “bloop kick” and the “Diamond Throwback Screen” to take a 14-10 halftime lead. The Tigers recovered two dropped kicks, two fumbles and defensive end Zach Ville intercepted a Jamaal Lord pass. Turnovers were just the beginning of Nebraska’s problems.
The Cornhuskers committed nine penalties, including six false starts that the raucous Missouri crowd almost certainly had something to do with. While Nebraska’s offense was hurting its cause with penalties, Missouri’s dominated the Cornhuskers vaunted “Blackshirt” defense.
The Tigers rolled up 452 yards of offense led by Smith’s brilliant performance. Smith torched the Cornhuskers for 350 yards passing, rushing and receiving. In the process, he tied the school record with four touchdowns.
Pinkel said he felt like his team needed to take some chances to get the win.
“I felt we hadn’t beaten those guys in 25 years, and we were going to be aggressive,” Pinkel said. “We felt we had to do some of those things.”