AMES, Iowa – When Thomson Omboga fumbled in the fourth quarter Saturday, no one on the Missouri football team’s sideline felt comfortable.
“It was pretty deflating,” Scott Paffrath, a senior offensive lineman, said. “Everything was going our way, and we had overcome a couple penalties.”
Another unforeseen adversity appeared ready to prevent Missouri’s from winning. The Tigers had advanced to the Iowa State 32-yard line, in range of a winning field goal.
“Pat Ivey (the Tigers’ strength and conditioning coach) looked at me, and I looked at him and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” coach Gary Pinkel said. “We have to fight through a lot.
“I’m very proud of my players. It’s just been very, very difficult, and to see them laughing and smiling and hugging each other, that means an awful lot to me.”
The game went in the Tigers’ favor, though, and after Iowa State kicker Bret Culbertson missed a 24-yard field goal, the Tigers (5-6, 3-5 Big 12 Conference) walked off the field with a 17-14 overtime win and a positive feeling.
“I think it says a lot about the team as a whole,” Paffrath said. “We’re not quitters. Yeah, we’ve been through about as bad as streak as you can get. We drove through it, and that’s good to see. I think that’s what made coach Pinkel happy.”
During Missouri’s five-game losing streak, they failed to make the needed play to turn the momentum in their favor. As a result, the Tigers blew leads of 17 points against Oklahoma State and 21 points against Kansas State then failed to recover.
That letdown didn’t occur against the Cyclones.
The outcome lifted Pinkel’s demeanor and prompted him to joke with the media about A.J. Kincaide’s interception of Bret Meyer in overtime.
“For one brief moment, I was going to go tackle him,” Pinkel said.
Pinkel, though, wasn’t the only one who approached postgame questions lightheartedly. Paffrath said Saturday’s victory gave him a chance to smile.
“I don’t think it takes the pain off the season and the expectations we had,” he said. “It’s nice to see. The coaches have been through a lot and the players have too. It’s just nice to see a smile on their face. It’s nice to be able to talk to (the media) instead of trying to figure out why we lost.”
Saturday’s victory also provides a better send off for the team’s 22 seniors. Instead of finishing with a 31-14 loss to Kansas, they spoiled the first chance Iowa State (6-5, 4-4) had for a conference title since 1912.
“It was like we can finally exhale,” senior safety Nino Williams said. “We got a little bit of the monkey off our back and taste of winning back in our mouth, and for those that were playing their last game at Missouri, it’s great for them.”
Williams also said the win will provide the returning players with a good outlook for spring practice.
“What a great way to end,” Pinkel said. “I wouldn’t want to write the script so difficult, but sometimes that’s how you grow.”
Although the players’ season is finished, Pinkel and his coaching staff’s schedule will keep busy with recruiting, which continued with home visits Sunday.