Missouri falls in Pinkel’s final game, Andy Hill named interim head coach

Pinkel finishes his career with an overall record of 118-71.
Eric Beisel, Missouri linebacker, attempts to tackle Alex Collins, Arkansas running back, during Missouri's last regular season football game on Nov. 29 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Gary Pinkel’s final game at the helm of the Missouri football program ended rather sorrowfully Friday as his team fell 28-3 to Arkansas.

The story of the season followed the Tigers to Fayetteville. As the defense was able to hold the Razorbacks to 310 yards — their second lowest of the season — the offense failed to produce any sort of spark.

“I’m proud of our defense for how hard we’ve fought all season,” senior safety Ian Simon said. “I feel like this is the best defense in the country. You line us up against anybody, we’ll stop them.”

The game might as well have been over at the end of the first half. Although the Tigers were able to get on the board with a 35-yard field goal to make the score 14-3 with six minutes left in the second quarter, the 11-point disparity was already too wide for a lacking offense that has only averaged 13.6 points per game — the lowest since the 1971 Missouri team.

Arkansas running back Alex Collins seemed invincible, scoring all three Razorback touchdowns in the first two quarters, including a 25-yard run with less than a minute left in the half. Collins would finish the game with 130 yards and 30 carries to his name, while the Tigers’ entire offense only tallied 171 yards.

The overwhelmingly important story, though, isn’t the lack of production from the offense. The fact that it was the last game — the last loss — for Pinkel, drastically lowering his Tigers’ probability of a bowl game, took precedent.

The 15-year head coach, who has amassed a record of 118-71 in his position at Mizzou, will end with a seven-loss season.

“I didn’t want it to end this way,” Pinkel said, reminiscent of his post-game press conference following his final home game last week. “I also knew the players were not focused like they needed to be. I had the challenge to get that done, and there was just a lot of uncertainty that can’t be prevented.

“I love Mizzou, and not being on the field again, I don’t know how to embrace that. I’ll probably get up thinking I’m going to work tomorrow morning. At the end of the day I feel honored that we could build a program with integrity and a program with a lot of success, even though the last few games we didn’t.”

For the outgoing senior class, which started its Tiger career in a similarly rocky fashion, finishing the 2012 season 5-7 in its first year in the Southeastern Conference, the situation is far from ideal.

“If you look back at the two years we just had, with the two SEC championship games, the senior class didn’t have to go through much,” senior center Evan Boehm said. “You come into this year expecting something like that, and it doesn’t quite work out like that. But you know what? I really wouldn’t want to go through this season with any other team than this team we have right here.”

On Saturday, sources confirmed to Pete Scantlebury of PowerMizzou that quarterbacks coach Andy Hill will be taking over as interim head coach until a replacement for Pinkel is found.

Hill has served as associate head coach under Pinkel since the end of the 2012 season. The coaching search is ongoing, with defensive coordinator Barry Odom considered a favorite among the players.

“I think every single person, coach, player, sports staff, trainer respects the heck out of Coach Odom,” junior linebacker Michael Scherer said after Friday’s loss. “Everybody loves him. You can ask offense, defense, special teams. Whoever it is, they’re going to tell you they love Coach Odom (for) the way he carries himself. There’s a lot of people in that locker room that are hopeful for him. Obviously a lot of us hope he is the guy.”

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