Missouri cracks top 10 polls after win
Monday, October 25, 2010
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Thousands ignored the obligatory public address announcement to stay off the field. One goal post was gone, hauled off to a nearby tavern, and the uprights were missing from the other end zone as Missouri fans savored a rare victory over Oklahoma.
The band played at midfield as players and coaches shared hugs and raised arms in triumph.
The occasion would have been every bit as memorable if the Sooners hadn't been No. 1 in the BCS. Missouri's convincing 36-27 victory Saturday night was only its second in 21 games against a longtime nemesis and snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Sooners dating to 1998.
The last two meetings had been especially crushing, both coming in the Big 12 championship game and one ending the Tigers' one-week stay at No. 1 in 2007.
"You talk about it forever," coach Gary Pinkel said. "If you can beat Oklahoma, what would that do for your program? We did it."
The delirious bedlam was reminiscent of the scene after the Tigers (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) ended a 24-game losing streak over 25 years against Nebraska in 2003, rallying in the second half behind Brad Smith's four touchdowns, and both goal posts fell.
Now, another demon exorcised in front of a sellout crowd of 71,004 mostly clad in yellow.
"If you want to notch your program up, you've got to win games like this," Pinkel said. "We've fallen short a number of times. But I'm a competitor and I'm a fighter."
On Sunday, they were rewarded by moving up 11 spots to No. 7 in the AP poll and jumping to No. 6 in the BCS standings. The loss knocked Oklahoma from third to 11th in poll and to ninth in the BCS standings.
"You've just got to rise to the occasion," Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "This is an extremely big game for this team, this university and this state.
"We just showed them that we're here to stay."
Missouri is 7-0 for the first time since 1960 and the third time in school history heading into next week's game at No. 14 Nebraska (6-1, 2-1). The Tigers have won two of the last three against the Cornhuskers.
"When you keep winning games," Gabbert said, "the games keep getting bigger."
Gahn McGaffie returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Jerrell Jackson had season bests with nine catches for 139 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown, and Gabbert was 8-for-9 for 95 yards in the fourth quarter.
The last two games, Gabbert has thrown four touchdown passes with no interceptions.
Perhaps biggest of all, a much improved defense had two interceptions that led to 10 points and allowed only 101 yards after halftime.
"When you win a game like this, it just shows that it wasn't all in vain," cornerback Kevin Rutland said. "All your hard work wasn't in vain."
Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray, coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, was held to a season-worst 49 yards on 12 carries, although he caught a short touchdown pass. The first six games combined, Landry Jones had only three interceptions.
"The effort's there, our kids played hard," coach Bob Stoops said. "I wish we'd have played better and taken care of the football, of course."
After falling behind 21-20 late in the third quarter, Missouri reasserted itself and put the game away with 16 straight points in the fourth quarter. Against a team that had never trailed at the end of any quarter all season, too.
Nursing its one-point lead, Oklahoma went three-and-out on two of its next three possessions. The other time, Zaviar Gooden jumped a sideline route for an interception at the Sooners' 22 that led to a field goal.
Oklahoma had only one first down in the fourth quarter, was outgained 192-16 and had the ball for 1:45, but capitalized on Mossis Madu's 77-yard kickoff return that set up Trey Millard's short run with 6:06 to go. Stoops came under fire for his decision to go for a 2-point conversion, and Jones' incomplete pass made it a two-score deficit.
"To me, it was the only thing to do," said Stoops, who ticked off the other things that had gone sour, including Jimmy Stevens' missed 31-yard field goal in the third quarter.
"Turnovers will get you beat, that's one thing I learned," tight end James Hanna said. "You've got to be ready every night, it doesn't matter who you're playing."
Besides committing a season-high three high turnovers, Oklahoma matched its season worst for scoring. The Sooners will try to bounce back Saturday at home against Colorado and players said Stoops kept it positive in the locker room.
"He just told us to keep our heads up," running back Roy Finch said. "We're still No. 1 in the (Big 12) South right now."
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