Missouri coach Gary Pinkel begins his 15th season prowling the Tigers’ sidelines this fall.
With MU’s fall training camp set to open Thursday, it seemed like an appropriate time to reflect on Pinkel’s tenure.
He has the most wins in the program’s history with a 113-66 record since taking over in Columbia during the spring of 2001.
The Tigers have won at least 10 games in five of the last eight seasons, including a share of five divisional championships in the Big 12 and SEC.
Pinkel’s team are 23-5 the last two years, setting a school record for wins in consecutive seasons. That mark includes a 14-2 record in SEC play with two SEC East division titles and victories in the 2014 Cotton Bowl and 2015 Citrus Bowl.
But were any of those the biggest wins of the Pinkel era at Missouri?
This week, we’ll offer our take on the biggest wins, toughest losses, best players and defining moments during Pinkel’s time with the Tigers.
PINKEL ERA’S 15 BIGGEST WINS
15. Kansas 2009 season — 41-39 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Despite 498 yards passing from Jayhawks quarterback Todd Reesing, a late safety and Grant Ressel’s 27-yard field goal as time expired delivered a scintillating Border War victory. Danario Alexander caught 15 passes for 233 yards, Blaine Gabbert totaled nearly 400 yards of offense and Derrick Washington scored twice as the Tigers got payback for 2008’s heartbreaker.
14. Arkansas 2014 — 21-14 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
Championships are never easy to come by and Missouri needed to rally from a 14-3 first-half hole to win its second straight SEC East division title. Marcus Murphy’s spinning, 12-yard touchdown run proved to be the difference in a 15-point fourth quarter.
13. Tennessee 2012 — 51-48 in 4OT at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
Missouri beat Kentucky two weeks earlier for its first SEC win, but this one was a bigger deal. The Volunteers were struggling and coach Derek Dooley lost his job, in part, because of this failure. Still, for the Tigers to snag a road victory in SEC play and in such thrilling fashion was a big moment.
12. Texas A&M 2013 — 28-21 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
Henry Josey’s 57-yard touchdown in the closing minutes proved to be the game-winner as the Tigers clinched the first of two straight (and counting) SEC East division titles. Cornerback E.J. Gaines put star wide receiver Mike Evans in his hip pocket, helping the MU defense bottle up Johnny Manziel.
11. South Carolina 2014 — 21-20 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
The Tigers erased the largest fourth-quarter deficit en route to victory in program history, rallying from a 20-7 hole for a shocking win at a sold-out Williams-Brice Stadium. Big throws from Maty Mauk and touchdowns by Russell Hansbrough got MU off on the right foot in conference play and set the stage for an SEC East division repeat.
10. Oklahoma State 2013 — 41-31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Technically, the Cotton Bowl win came on Jan. 3, 2014, but it capped an incredible breakthrough during the 2013 season. Henry Josey’s three-touchdown performance and Michael Sam’s sack and strip, which led to Shane Ray’s 73-yard fumble-return touchdown, gave “Dancin’ Gary” Pinkel the Tigers’ all-time career wins record.
9. Kansas 2011 — 24-10 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
It may not have been Missouri’s prettiest or most important win against Kansas, but it was a sweet way to end the Border War (for now anyway). The Tigers rallied for a decisive win in the finale of a fiercely contested rivalry that dated back to 1891.
8. Nebraska 2008 — 52-17 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
Missouri hadn’t won at the other Memorial Stadium in 30 years before Chase Daniel and company put it on Nebraska with authority. The win was the Cornhuskers’ worst home defeat in 53 years and the fifth-worst ever in Lincoln at the time.
7. Arkansas 2007 — 38-7 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
Technically, the win came on Jan. 1, 2008, but it capped a breakthrough 2007 campaign under Pinkel. The 38-7 win against the Razorbacks in the Cotton Bowl behind Tony Temple’s record 281 yards rushing was a nice exclamation point to a season that included a Big 12 North title, school record 12 wins and No. 1 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series poll.
6. South Carolina 2005 — 38-31 at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La.
Missouri overcame the largest deficit in program history after spotting the Gamecocks a 21-0 first-quarter lead. The comeback — powered by Brad Smith’s 432 total yards, including 150 yards on the ground with four touchdowns (three rushing) — gave the Tigers the first bowl win under Pinkel and send Smith out in style.
5. Iowa State 2005 — 27-24 in OT at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
Missouri’s season (and perhaps Gary Pinkel’s tenure) was at a crossroads. The Tigers trailed by 10 points against Iowa State midway through the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Brad Smith was knocked from the game. Enter Chase Daniel, who led two scoring drives to force overtime before Adam Crossett’s 26-yard field goal delivered an improbable win. A legend was born (Daniel) and a season was saved (MU would have missed a bowl without the win).
4. Nebraska 2003 — 41-24 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
During Pinkel’s first two seasons, the Tigers didn’t record any wins against a ranked opponent, but that changed as MU ended a 24-game skid against the 10th-ranked Cornhuskers behind four Brad Smith touchdowns. Missouri outscored Nebraska 27-0 in the fourth quarter in snapping a 45-game losing streak against top-10 teams.
3. Oklahoma 2010 — 36-27 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
Missouri improved to 7-0 for the first time in 50 years by knocking off an Oklahoma team that was ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings and No. 3 in the Associated Press poll. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw for 308 yards, including 139 to Jerrell Jackson, in a game that started with Gahn McGaffie’s 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
2. Georgia 2013 — 41-26 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Many wondered if Missouri’s perfect start was a fluke until the Tigers dispatched the then-No. 7 Bulldogs between the hedges. It was the first big-time conference win since joining the SEC and key to MU’s first SEC East division title. It also ushered in the Maty Mauk era after James Franklin suffered a separated shoulder in the fourth quarter. It was Missouri’s first road win against a top-10 team since 1981.
1. Kansas 2007 — 36-28 at Arrowhead Stadium
C’mon, you knew what the biggest win had to be, right? Clinching the Big 12 North and a No. 1 ranking in the BCS was the biggest win in Pinkel’s tenure and arguably the biggest win in program history. The image of Jayhawks quarterback Todd Reesing digging grass from his helmet after Lorenzo Williams and Stryker Sulak dropped him in the end zone remains indelible.