Despite disappointment, fans have hope

Sunday, December 2, 2007 | 10:32 p.m. CST; updated 11:08 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — On the morrow following the defeat, rain fell on empty Columbia streets, the wind blowing almost silently through leafless autumn trees.

It was, by all appearances, exactly as it seemed: a December morning, cold, quiet, wet and gray. And yet it wasn’t that at all. It was ... a Sunday mourning.

It was the end of a week’s stay in the limelight for MU, the program and the town — seven days in the top spot until the elusive National Championship bid had been run down.

Following Saturday night’s loss to Oklahoma — and any chance of a national championship for the football team — there should have been sorrow and disappointment in Columbia Sunday morning. And there was.

There was also something else: pride and hope.

Jeff Jones stood outside the First Presbyterian Church on Hitt Street in a black suit, holding the door open for incoming churchgoers. Standing under an overhang, sheltered from the rain, Jones spoke for the plural.

“All in all, it was a great season,” he said. “There’s nothing to be disappointed in. Everyone I’ve talked to has had the same thought.”

Down the street from the Presbyterian Church at The Upper Crust Bakery and Cafe, manager Tom O’Neill leaned against the glass baked-goods case at the front of the store, waiting for the after-services rush to hit. He was down but still faithful.

“I’m bummed, but Mizzou’s my team,” O’Neill said.

Sure, the loss was painful to take.

“Last night, I was weary. This morning, I’m unsettled,” said Ryan Westhoff, a third-year law student at MU. The day after, however, Westhoff saw a positive outcome from what he called MU’s “definite Cinderella story.”

MU football now has a solid foundation, hearkening back to the teams of the 1960s, from which it can grow, he said.

“I’m hopeful we’re going to build from this.”

Westhoff, who spent his Sunday morning studying in Brady Commons, still has his football priorities set.

“I’m going to be really upset if I see KU as the second Big 12 team in the BCS,” he said.

There were of course those who did not watch the game, or watched only casually. MU junior Kristen Saunders watched the game from a sense of what she called her “college duty.”

Ten a.m., Sunday, found Saunders as one of the few people on the cold, wet downtown Columbia streets. Having done her duty the night before, she woke early Sunday and headed downtown to return a pair of shoes.

She was sad, she said, but now that’s past.

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