The blowout never came.
Missouri couldn’t make up for the Sooners’ three-touchdown outburst in the second quarter, losing 34-13 at Memorial Stadium. The No. 24 Tigers matched mighty Oklahoma tit-for-tat in the second half, though, giving them something positive to take from the loss.
The Tigers’ defense held Oklahoma’s high-powered offense to 116 yards and three points in the second half, earning a favorable review from wide receiver Darius Outlaw.
“I’d say that was a good thing,” Outlaw said. “They were ready. They just struck quick early. Second half of football, they played real good ball. Two thumbs up for the defense.”
Missouri’s only hiccup came in the second quarter, when Oklahoma scored 21 points in a span of about six minutes. Missouri got the ball back with the score tied at 10, but it went three-and-out on its next series, and Oklahoma scored each time it got the ball the rest of the first half.
Oklahoma quarterback Jason White threw two touchdown passes and Antonio Perkins returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown. That was all it took. The Tigers, who again dropped out of the top 25 in Sunday’s Associated Press poll, never recovered.
“What we have to be able to do is when we get hit with a big momentum play, we have to be able to come back and regroup and slow it down,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.
Missouri did, eventually. By the time it did, though, it was too late, especially against Oklahoma’s All-American laden defense. While Missouri’s defense was holding the Sooners offense in check, its counterpart one-upped it. The Tigers gained 64 yards in the second half.
“I thought we competed and played better in the second half,” Pinkel said. “They had a great defense, and we had trouble moving the ball. We couldn’t hardly do anything because of their defense.”
Pinkel wouldn’t concede that the Tigers had pulled off any kind of moral victory, but to shut down an offense that had scored 52 or more points in its past four games, even if it was only for one half, gives Missouri’s often beleaguered defense something to build on.
Of Oklahoma’s 424 total yards, 224 came in the second quarter, and if the Sooners’ three-touchdown burst at the end of the half is thrown out, both teams scored 13 points.
“I felt like our defense stood up to the challenge in the second half,” Missouri free safety Nino Williams II said. “We’ve got to get better in the second quarter. We let some big plays go.”
One bad quarter was enough to keep Pinkel from being impressed.
“I’m not a moral victory guy,” Pinkel said. “I don’t do that. The first thing I told my football team is that I’m disappointed we didn’t win the football game. I’ve been in this business a long time, and I know we got beat by a great football team.”
If Pinkel did believe in moral victories, this would be one. The Tigers held Oklahoma to its second-lowest point total and its second-narrowest margin of victory. Most important, Missouri didn’t give up against Oklahoma, which is unanimously the best team in the country.
“We fought,” Outlaw said. “We fought as hard as we could. Everything we had from the first play to the last.”