Senior night ends with a record and a white rock

Boehm, on senior night: “You always see it. All my four years I saw it and watched and one day that was going to be me. I didn’t realize how fast it would come.”
Missouri Tigers coach Gary Pinkel speaks with senior center Evan Boehm (77) before kickoff at Faurot Field in Columbia on Nov. 21, 2015. Mizzou lost to Tennessee, 19-8.

Evan Boehm stood on the 50-yard line Saturday night and looked out upon an empty Memorial Stadium.

With his white rock from the “M” at the north side of the stadium cradled in his arms, the senior couldn’t help but reminisce of everything he’s experienced in his four years at Missouri.

There was his first career start in 2012, against Southeastern Louisiana, a 62-10 victory.

There was the 2013 win over Texas A&M that gave Missouri its first-ever Southeastern Conference championship game berth. Fans had stormed the field in a sea of black clothing on a night much like Saturday’s.

Nobody hopped over short the brick walls of Faurot Field this time, though. The Tigers lost 19-8 in an ugly, cold and downright mess of a football game. It was not only coach Gary Pinkel’s final game at home, but also senior night for 21 players who would never put on the black and gold uniform in front of tens of thousands of Missouri faithful again.

“You always see it,” Boehm said. “All my four years, I saw it and watched and one day that was going to be me. I didn’t realize how fast it would come.”

This wasn’t how he envisioned his final game at Faurot Field in a Missouri Tigers uniform.

With a single digit on the scoreboard and small patches of fans scarcely dispersed through the bleachers, the senior who started every game of his career walked off Faurot Field for the final time Saturday night.

But he did so in style.

As the team emerged around Pinkel and fans chanted the coach’s name into the frigid air, Boehm and fellow offensive lineman Connor McGovern hoisted the teary-eyed coach onto their shoulders and carried him into the locker room.

Missouri lost, but Pinkel deserved a proper goodbye.

“Connor and I told each other we have to do this,” Boehm said of the gesture. “He deserves this. If that didn’t happen then there’s something wrong. He’s a legendary coach, a legendary father.”

Pinkel came forth from the Missouri locker room Saturday night with glossy eyes and a lump in his throat. He felt like he let his team down with all the distractions and the final result of an ugly senior night loss.

“He said that to us too (in the locker room),” Boehm recalled. “I had to speak up and say something to him. That’s not it at all … I said, ‘Coach, you better not say that again because that’s not true.’”

Boehm snapped the ball shortly after 6:15 p.m., marking his 51st consecutive start in Missouri black and gold — a program record.

As a freshman, he started all 12 games in the Tigers’ inaugural Southeastern Conference season. They struggled, stumbling their way to a 5-7 record and failing to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2004. Regardless, the grizzly freshman was named a First-Team Freshman All-American by College Football News.

After back-to-back SEC East championships, this year — his final one in Columbia — has been eerily reminiscent of 2012. The Tigers are 5-6 and travel to Arkansas next Friday to play what could be their final game of the year, barring a surprising victory.

To say the 2015 campaign has been frustrating for Boehm and his offensive line unit would be a gross understatement. Before Saturday night’s cold mess of a football game, the Tigers had rushed for a mere 120.9 yards per game, which ranked 117 out of 127 FCS teams.

Ending his final home game with a loss and possible sub-.500 record wasn’t how Boehm ever envisioned it. For the past two years, senior night ended with a rushed field, singing, celebrating an SEC championship game berth.

That wasn’t nearly the case Saturday night.

“It’s tough,” Boehm said. “It’s hard. To send all the coaches out this way and this class.”

As a captain, he took the leadership role very seriously. It wasn’t just about football on the field. He took freshmen under his wing, like roommates Drew Lock and Cam Hilton. They hang out at Boehm’s house all the time, soaking up the presence of a Missouri football record holder. They’ll play video games or do laundry or just sit and talk about anything and everything but football.

“He’s not one of those guys that, if you’re a freshman, he’ll push you to the side,” Hilton said.

Even so, after everything that happened this season, Boehm wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The team struggled offensively all season and underperformed for a majority of the year, leading to the possibility of a missed bowl game. But he started every game of his career.

Every. Single. Game.

Putting on that black face paint and Missouri Tigers helmet every Saturday meant the world to the kid who grew up outside of Kansas City.

“I think I made the best decision of my life playing here for Coach Pinkel and his coaching staff,” Boehm said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

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