Analysis: Tiger football earns respect with win over Sooners

Missouri outscored Oklahoma 16-6 in the final quarter to earn the victory.
Sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith celebrates with his team and fans Saturday night on Faurot Field. Smith returned an interception 58 yards to the Oklahoma 12-yard line.

The fans were on the field before the final seconds could tick off the clock. The goalposts ripped down, fans and players united at midfield, the scene was a dream come true for Tigers across the country. The No. 1 team in the country had fallen at the hands of Missouri.

The Tigers turned doubters into believers at Faurot Field on Saturday, in front of a sellout crowd of 71,004 people. Questions were raised prior to the game as to how good Missouri really was. Despite its 6-0 start, Missouri had yet to play a top-level team. Those questions were certainly answered Saturday night.

“If you want to notch your program up respect-wise, you have to win games like this,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “And we’ve fallen short a number of times. It gets very frustrating, but one thing we all are around here, and it starts with me, is that I’m a competitor, and I’m a fighter, and we just kept competing.”

Junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert also acknowledged the respect Missouri earned with the victory.

“We’re fighters,” Gabbert said. “Not a lot of people gave us respect coming into this football game, so we had to come out here and take it.”

After staying with the Sooners for three quarters, the Tigers trailed by only one point heading into the fourth. Missouri rattled off 16 consecutive points to put the game out of reach. The success in the fourth was largely due to the play of Gabbert, who completed eight of nine passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in the final quarter.

“That’s huge that he didn’t turn the ball over," Pinkel said. "It’s a great win for him as a quarterback, because he did little things to help the football team. He also did some great things to give our team a chance to win.”

The Tiger offense was firing on all cylinders throughout the game. Although Missouri had 84 more total yards than Oklahoma, the true disparity was shown in the ground game. The Tigers rushed for 178 yards to the Sooner’s 99, largely due to the success of the offensive line.

“The first time we came out there we had a real good play,” senior center Tim Barnes said. “We knew we could do that the whole night if we came off the ball like that, and we did. Oklahoma has a real good front, but we just played a really good game.”

Another key for the Tigers was the return of sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith. Smith recorded two tackles and a key interception that he returned 58 yards to the Oklahoma 12-yard line, eventually setting up a touchdown run by junior tailback De’Vion Moore.

Smith, who had missed the previous three games with a fractured right fibula, said the victory was a dream come true.

“I’ve been dreaming about this game since they said it was on the schedule,” Smith said. “This is a dream come true for me, the team and everybody else. It’s unreal right now.”

The Tigers are now off to a 7-0 start for the first time in 50 years. Despite the win, Missouri must now go on the road to face a tough Nebraska squad.

“Coach told us to enjoy this one, but it’s going to get bigger each week,” Barnes said. “Next week is going to be another huge game, and we have to take it one game at a time.”

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