2007 Big 12 Championship
There are two ways of looking at it: Mizzou didn’t look like Mizzou tonight, or Oklahoma looked exactly like Oklahoma. Actually, both are true.
Up until tonight, the Tigers had scored more than 30 points in every game this season. Tonight they scored 17. Several times when they pushed downfield, Oklahoma pushed them backward. Mizzou had to settle for three field goals and only one touchdown on four trips into the red zone. Oklahoma scored five touchdowns and one field goal on six red-zone trips.
In the end, Mizzou played unlike itself and walked away from the dream of a Big 12 Championship and a national title. Oklahoma played like a championship team and walked out with yet another title.
“We didn’t play up to our potential,” quarterback Chase Daniel said in the post-game press conference, where Pinkel put his hand on his quarterback’s back in a subtle gesture that says everything about this team’s coach-player bond. “We didn’t play like we wanted to. We didn’t play like we practiced all week.”
It is a rare game indeed when Daniel doesn’t throw for a single touchdown. In fact, OU quarterback Sam Bradford had two touchdown passes to overtake Daniel’s total number for the season.
“They did all the things it takes to win in a big game,” Pinkel said of the Sooners, “and they deserve credit for that.”
The team and Mizzou fans won’t be able to think about it like this now, while the sting is fresh, but the season remains a historic milestone: the first time playing for the Big 12 title, the first time winning 11 games, the first time doing so many other things.
But there still will be a bowl game (announced tomorrow), and there still will be a storybook season to build on, even if the story didn’t end like it was supposed to.
“We’ll get over this and learn from it and be a better football team like we’ve done in the past,” Pinkel said. “You learn from these things, and hopefully next time we’re in one of these kinds of games, we’ll play better.”
Photo by Rob Hill
Oklahoma has beaten Mizzou and ended the Tigers’ Big 12 run and national title hopes. Check back here for postgame coverage.
Oklahoma pushed 65 yards down the field and finished with a 4-yard Sam Bradford pass to Joe Finley. It’s an 18-point game, and time grows short (10:33 left).
Much like the first half, the second got off to a slow start. Both teams came up short on their first drives, then Oklahoma took its second drive 80 yards topped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Allen Patrick. Then Chase Daniel threw his first interception of the game, and Oklahoma capitalized with another touchdown.
Again, things were beginning to seem a bit grim for the black and gold, and again Mizzou came back with a drive down the field and into the red zone. Two plays for losses later, though, the third quarter closed with Mizzou facing a third-and-long must-score situation. OU’s up 28-14
Update: Mizzou failed to convert on third down and ended the drive with another Jeff Wolfert field goal. OU 28, MU 17.
Through the season, Mizzou was seven for 12 in scoring on its first possession after halftime. Mizzou’s opponents were three for 12.
Both of those percentages went down in this game. One possession Oklahoma, one possession Missouri, no scores so far.
See highlight photos from a relatively highlight-free first half below:
Photos by Rob Hill
Chase Daniel escapes the grasp of an Oklahoma defender.
Tony Temple rushed nine times in the first half for 26 yards.
Oklahoma defenders prevent Mizzou rusher Jimmy Jackson from getting into the end zone.
Mizzou fans had been mostly quiet in the first half — and not just because Oklahoma fans outnumber them — up until the tying points with 19 second left on the clock. Possibly it’s because the show they’re used to seeing has been a bit slower than usual.
Before this game, Chase Daniel and OU’s Sam Bradford had 33 and 32 touchdown passes, respectively. At the half, that number has increased by zero (both Oklahoma touchdowns came on runs by Chris Brown).
Some more stats from the first half:
- Mizzou has 16 first downs to Oklahoma’s seven. But both of Oklahoma’s red-zone scoring chances have resulted in touchdowns, and Mizzou has settled for field goals on two of three tries. (The good news: Kicker Jeff Wolfert remains perfect in Big 12 play.)
- MIzzou has 192 yards of total offense to Oklahoma’s 167.
- Neither team has a turnover, but Oklahoma continues piling up penalty yards. Oklahoma has nine penalties for 78 yards, but Mizzou has just one penalty for 10 yards.
Despite the relatively slow pace of the first half, Mizzou’s last-minute score to tie things up means that after the half, we’ve got a game.
After a slow start, Mizzou ties it up right before the half with an 84-yard drive capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Chase Daniel and a two-point conversion reverse pass from Jeremy Maclin to Martin Rucker. Things might have been looking a little grim going into the half otherwise. Now it’s tied 14-14.
Stay tuned for some halftime stats and photos.
Mizzou looked a bit more like itself its first drive of the second quarter — up until it got to the 9-yard line. Chase Daniel connected twice to Tommy Saunders for 21 yards total. Daniel tucked his head and ran multiple times, including once for 19 yards. In the end, though, the Tigers failed to get into the end zone three times and had to settle for an 18-yard field goal from Wolfert.
Mizzou leads 3-0 at the end of the first. After two failed drives, Mizzou got on the board first with Jeff Wolfert’s field goal. Now Oklahoma is threatening at the start of the second quarter on the Mizzou 4-yard line.
Two high-powered offenses have had slow starts in the first quarter. The other story of the first quarter is penalties, particularly for Oklahoma. OU has 53 yards on penalties, and Mizzou has 10.
Update: The Sooners get on the board to start the second quarter with a 3-yard TD run by Chris Brown. 7-3 Oklahoma.
Mizzou scores first with a 29-yard field goal from Jeff Wolfert, his 88th straight successful kick in Big 12 play.
Up until this game, Mizzou had scored a touchdown six of 12 times on its opening drive. Not so this time.
Now we’ll see what Oklahoma can do after a punt. On the season, Mizzou’s opponent has scored on the opening drive only once, at Colorado.
Update: Not much. Oklahoma’s on to punt, too. Both teams looked shaky on their first possessions.
The clock just ticked under 20 minutes until kickoff, and Marching Mizzou is on the field. There’s plenty of black and gold here, and the Mizzou fans are plenty loud, but the red may outnumber the black and gold.
Fun fact for the moment: We’re about 450 miles from Norman, Okla., and 857 miles from Columbia. Is proximity a factor? Either way, it looks like a lot of Mizzou fans made the trip. And now we have our first official “M-I-Z, Z-O-U” of the night.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said former Tiger defensive guard and linebacker Bob Luther today. Luther, along with his brother and nephew, came to see if the team can do something it hasn’t done since he played in 1969: win a conference championship.
The Luthers and other Mizzou alumni packed the San Antonio Convention Center for a tailgate/rally sponsored by the alumni association. There was music, there was food, and there was a lot of speculation about tonight’s game.
Brock Hessing told stories of his playing days under Dan Devine in the late 1950s. He recounted the locker room scene after a particularly bad loss to Oklahoma:
“We sat there the biggest part of an hour. Our uniforms had dried completely while we sat there in silence. Well, he came in and said, ‘To you seniors, I promise you that in two years when we come back to Norman, we will beat Oklahoma, and we will dedicate the game to you.’ Exactly the way he promised it, it played out … I think Gary Pinkel and Chase and the whole team are going to do the same thing for all alumni at the University of Missouri tonight.”
Gary Pinkel often refers to Chase Daniel as a “battlefield commander” who has several “weapons” at his disposal. The metaphor makes sense in reference to Mizzou’s high-powered offense, with ranks fifth nationally in total offense and which is the only team in the country to score more than 30 points in every game in 2007.
Here are a few more stats to chew on before today’s game.
- Chase Daniel ranks second in the Big 12 and fourth in the NCAA in all of these categories: touchdown passes (33), completion percentage (70.5 percent), completions per game (29.08), total offense per game (350.75) and passing yards (3,951). He’s not far behind in several other categories.
- Martin Rucker has the most receptions per game (6.36) of any tight end in the country.
- Jeremy Maclin already holds the NCAA freshman record for all-purpose yardage (2,509).
- Jeff Wolfert is perfect in field goals and extra points in Big 12 play this year and, in fact, in his entire Big 12 conference career. That’s 87 straight kicks made.
With all that offense, though, the defense’s increasingly tough performance often gets overlooked. In Big 12 play, Mizzou ranks first in the conference in total defense. William Moore leads the Big 12 in interceptions (7) and has stepped up in the absence of a much-missed Pig Brown.
The team knows it faces a true challenge in Oklahoma, though. OU quarterback Sam Bradford has built some numbers like Chase Daniel’s, with 32 touchdown passes. Bradford leads an offense whose 43.83 points per game actually top Mizzou’s 41.92.
“Our guy has done pretty well,” OU Coach Bob Stoops said at the press conference yesterday. “For the first time being out there as a redshirt freshman, we couldn’t ask for much more.”
The Mizzou players also respect Bradford’s abilities. “He’s really poised in the pocket, especially for a freshman,” defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams said earlier in the week. “We’ve just got to get to him.”
The most common sound on San Antonio’s Riverwalk last night was a mixture of “M-I-Z, Z-O-U” and “Boomer Sooner” as Mizzou and Oklahoma fans battled to be the loudest. The Golden Girls helped with their own coordinated effort as they walked through the crowd, and one non-fan added her own “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E” cheer to the friendly fracas.
The cheer-off continued this morning at ESPN’s College GameDay — broadcast right in front of the Alamo. Mizzou fans screamed, then got even louder as they saw themselves broadcast on the big screen. It’s a mark of success for Mizzou that this popular show appeared for the first time ever at a Mizzou game this year (at Oklahoma), and then did it two more times (Kansas game and today).
Photos by Rob Hill
Above, Mizzou fans roar for ESPN’s College GameDay at the Alamo. Tim Hazlett of Kansas City, Mo., joined the crowd, below.
In his press conference today in San Antonio, Coach Gary Pinkel referred to his Tigers as a “business as usual” team. About an hour later, when they strolled casually into the Alamodome and took a look around, it seemed like it might be true.
This team makes the ubiquitous “one game at a time” cliche come true. In previous years, as Mizzou’s ranking and national stock has risen, play has dwindled.
This year, as each week has brought more attention, more naysayers and more national possibilities, the players have tightened their focus. They hadn’t won at Colorado since 1997. No problem. They hadn’t won at K-State since 1989. Big deal, even with the Kansas showdown looming a week later. They had to win their sixth game straight — against an undefeated Kansas, no less — to get to the Big 12 Championship. Done.
“I think definitely the past seasons have really helped us out a lot,” said Lorenzo Williams earlier this week. “We know what happens if you don’t take it one game at a time, if you get too busy or wrapped up in rankings or wrapped up in what’s coming ahead.”
As soon as each game is over, though, it’s on to the next bit of business. Here’s the scene in the locker room after the Kansas game, as described by Williams: The team has just clinched the Big 12 North title and probably become the No. 1 team in the country, but the players aren’t celebrating as much as you’d expect.
“You could see in guys’ eyes that they weren’t done yet.” Williams said. “They wanted more.”
Injury update: Pinkel also noted today that tight end Chase Coffman is “questionable” for tomorrow because of his ankle injury. Coffman has practiced some this week, but whether or not he plays will be a game-day decision.
Photos by Rob Hill
Lorenzo Williams, Gary Pinkel and Chase Daniel take a walk around the Alamodome.
Mizzou football players were not alone when they boarded their buses this morning and began their trip to San Antonio. Even if only for a few short steps, fans cheered on the No. 1-ranked team in the country as its members exited the athletic complex shortly before noon and prepared to travel to the Big 12 Championship. Expected ups and downs of battle showed in the athletes’ faces. Some wore expressions of joy. Others stoicism.
Several fans held the most recent issues of Sports Illustrated with Chase Daniel’s picture on the cover. Mary Sexton, who took off work today, was one of them. “I just wanted to tell them to take down the Sooners,” Sexton said.
Chris Witthaus, an MU student who held a ‘Go Tigers! Beat OU!’ sign, will be making the trip, too. Immediately after the send-off ended, Witthaus planned to begin the 14-hour roadie with a few friends. “I’m leaving right now,” he said.
To high-pitched cheers and high-raised hands, both buses, stealth in their design, headed out.
Photos by Shane Epping
A fan sends the Tigers on their way from Columbia to San Antonio with a high five.
It’s not just a sports exaggeration; Mizzou truly is No. 1.
At the No. 1-ranked Tigers’ weekly press conference this past Monday, radio commentator John Kadlec was wearing his Mizzou jacket with a makeshift “#1” on the back created with athletic tape. He didn’t have the patience to wait for the official version.
Kadlec — who as a player, coach and commentator has been a part of Mizzou football on and off since 1947 — knows that building a program requires more patience than that. As a big fan of seventh-year Coach Gary Pinkel (pictured), he’s glad the University had patience through losing seasons and negative pressure.
“When he came here, he knew what he wanted to do” Kadlec says of Pinkel. “I tell you what, it’s a real mark of a man to stick to his philosophy and stick to what he believes in, and to eventually have success.”
Pinkel has shown patience, too, and loyalty to his coaches. When people were down on offensive coordinator Dave Christensen after the 2004 season, Pinkel stuck with him. Now Christensen runs the 5th-best team nationally in total offense. Patience pays off.
Pinkel also was shown patience in return by administrators such as Athletics Director Mike Alden and Chancellor Brady Deaton, he says: “I think you have to have a real strong administration to be able to stand up to all those outside pressures and say, ‘This is the guy I believe in.’ ” Patience pays off again; the team has gone from 5-6 in 2004 to 11-1 in 2007.
It also helps that this year’s senior class actually started to grow impatient.
Tight end Martin Rucker sums it up: “Going through those seasons of upsets and highs and lows, I think we just kind of laid the groundwork for this season, and we didn’t want to go back down those roads. We just finally said we’d had enough.”
Photo by Rob Hill
If any sight best represents the surreal beauty of this Tiger football season, it may be Truman the Tiger doing the Heisman pose in front of an endless crowd on the south steps of Jesse Hall.
That’s just what happened at the “spirit rally” tonight, a last big celebration before fans and players head to San Antonio for the Big 12 Championship. The band and cheer squads got the crowd excited, though the crowd didn’t need much prompting. Anne Deaton, wife of the chancellor, danced with the rest of the revelers on the steps. Everyone ignored the cold and guzzled free coffee and hot chocolate.
“It’s never, ever been a better time to be a Tiger than right now,” shouted Gary Link, color commentator for the Tiger Network.
Several players spoke, and their personalities showed in their brief statements. Defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams played to the women in the crowd. Kicker Jeff Wolfert spoke quietly and efficiently. Tight end Martin Rucker (pictured above) said he couldn’t have written the season any better; fans probably agree since he stayed here instead of heading to the NFL. Chase Daniel was supremely understated, saying all the team has to do is win.
Crowd member Nathan Williams of Columbia thinks it’s going to happen. Williams has been going to games for 25 years, some of them as a ticket-taker or usher, and wore a jacket and hat covered with slogan-filled buttons from past games.
“I love ‘em,” Williams said of the Tigers. “I think they’re going to beat Oklahoma this week. I believe they’re up for it this time.”
Photos by Shane Epping
Nathan Williams has buttons from games dating back to 1988 on his jacket and hat.
Coach Gary Pinkel (above) feels the love from the crowd (below).
Break out the red carpet. Mizzou football players and coaches are getting more awards and nominations than a high-minded Hollywood drama. Here’s a list of just a few of the awards or nominations:
- Quarterback Chase Daniel: Heisman contender, Davey O’Brien finalist, Walter Camp finalist, Manning finalist, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team, Academic All-Big 12 (an honor that 14 Tigers earned)
- Tight end Martin Rucker: Mackey Award finalist, All-American First Team, All-Big 12 Second Team
- Receiver Jeremy Maclin: Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team
- Center Adam Spieker: Rimington Award finalist, Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, All-Big 12 First Team, Academic All-Big 12
- Defensive lineman Lorenzo Williams: All-Big 12 First Team, Academic All-Big 12
- Coach Gary Pinkel: AP’s Big 12 Coach of the Year (an honor shared with Kansas’ Mark Mangino)
What makes this all the more impressive is that this list is by no means comprehensive.
Columbia’s celebration of Tiger football has been going on unofficially all week in the form of tiger tails hanging from car trunks, people decked out in Mizzou gear and business marquees spelling out pro-Mizzou messages.
Now there will be several official chances for home-front celebration:
Tonight (Thursday), there is a a “spirit rally” at 7 p.m. on the south steps of Jesse Hall. Coach Gary Pinkel will speak, as will Tiger players. The Mizzou Alumni Association will offer free coffee and hot chocolate.
Fans can send the team on its way at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the athletic complex at the corner of Stadium and Providence. Fans should park on the west side of Memorial Stadium and use the bridge to get to the complex.
If you can’t make it to San Antonio but still want to watch the game with a crowd, there’s a giant watch party at Mizzou Arena starting Saturday at 6 p.m. The event is free, and concession stands will be open.
Far, far away from Columbia, a different kind of watch party will take place. Sgt. Derick Moudy of Marceline, Mo., says that he and fellow soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan got to watch the Mizzou-Kansas game and plan to watch the Big 12 Championship, too, as work allows.
“Everybody here is excited about the upcoming games,” Moudy writes, “and the interest the university has in us is generating more excitement. The team store (Tiger Team Store) is sending us some Tiger Football shirts. The guys are pumped about that.”
The Mizzou Tigers are headed to the Big 12 Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. So is Mizzou Wire’s Live Wire Blog.
Our special Big 12 Championship edition will cover the team, the fans, the trip and everything that goes along with this historic game against Oklahoma.
This game will answer many questions:
Will Mizzou win 12 games in a season for the first time ever (they already hit the record 11 mark)?
Can Gary Pinkel lead his confident Tigers past Oklahoma — a team that has won five of six games against Mizzou since the Big 12’s inception in 1998 and holds a 64-23-5 series lead?
Can the team capture Mizzou football’s first Big 12 title ever and first conference title since winning the Big Eight in 1969?
Will Lou Holtz and other sportscasters learn how to say Chase Daniel’s name right? (There’s no ‘s’ at the end, people.)
Follow us to San Antonio as we learn the answers to these questions. My partners in coverage will be Rob Hill, longtime MIZZOU magazine photographer, and Shane Epping, Mizzou Wire photographer.
Check back for more coverage throughout the next few days, or subscribe to the Live Wire Blog feed to keep up.
Photo by Shane Epping