Campus Corner

Missouri camp countdown: 15 toughest losses of the Gary Pinkel era

There have been some memorably bitter losses for Missouri fans to swallow through the years, but Colorado’s fifth-down win and Nebraska’s “Flea Kicker” victory predate Gary Pinkel.

That doesn’t mean Pinkel’s tenure with the Tigers, which enters its 15th season Thursday when fall camp opens in Columbia, has been without heartbreak.

So, what were the toughest losses of the Pinkel era at Missouri?

Keep reading, we’ll also offer our take on the biggest wins, best players and defining moments during Pinkel’s time with the Tigers this week.

PINKEL ERA’S 15 TOUGHEST LOSSES

15. Indiana 2014 — 31-27 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia

Hopes ran high that Missouri could make another run at national-title contention, but losing to the Hoosiers ended those dreams and put a damper on the season. Even without defensive end Markus Golden, it was a loss that shouldn’t have happened.

14. Oklahoma 2008 season — 62-21 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City

Missouri was overmatched by the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship Game and missed the chance to end 39-year conference title drought. Sam Bradford carved up the Tigers’ defense to the tune of 384 yards passing en route to winning the Heisman Trophy.

15. Alabama 2014 — 42-13 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta

The Crimson Tide pulled away in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game and ruined Missouri’s chance to end 45-year conference title drought. Derrick Henry bowled over the Tigers’ defense, which played most of the game without SEC defensive player of the year Shane Ray after his targeting ejection, for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

12. Bowling Green/Michigan State 2001

We’re cheating a bit here, but bookend losses to Pinkel’s first season left little to be encouraged about. The first game was a clunker, a 20-13 loss at Memorial Stadium against Bowling Green, and the finale was a bigger disaster, 55-7 at Michigan State. Things have since gotten better.

11. Oregon State 2006 — 39-38 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas

The Tigers blew a 10-point, second-half lead and lost the Sun Bowl against the Beavers on a two-point conversion in the closing seconds. The loss wasted Tony Temple’s 194-yard, two-touchdown performance and Chase Daniel’s 330-yard passing performance.

10. Iowa 2010 — 27-24 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

Missouri was a hefty favorite in the Insight Bowl against an Iowa team battling injuries and hampered by suspensions. But the Tigers’ run defense was a shamble and Micah Hyde’s meandering 72-yard return of a Blaine Gabbert interception iced one of the more disappointing bowl losses in MU history.

9. Navy 2009 — 35-13 at Reliant Stadium in Houston

It was an uncompetitive mess from the Tigers’ standpoint. MU’s 12th-ranked run defense looked lost against the Midshipmen’s triple-option attack. After scoring on the game’s second play, Missouri managed 298 yards the rest of the way.

8. Syracuse 2012 — 31-27 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia

Winning at Texas A&M in the season finale was going to be a monumental task, so beating the Orangemen was the best way to extend the longest streak of bowl games in program history. Instead, with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson suspended, the Tigers coughed up three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a loss that effectively ended a run of seven straight bowl appearances.

7. South Carolina 2013 — 27-24 in 2OT at Memorial Stadium in Columbia

It’s easy to point to Andrew Baggett’s missed 24-yard field goal in double overtime — a stoink in the infamous north end zone, where the fifth down and Flea Kicker also occurred — as the reason the Tigers’ perfect season abruptly ended. But a fourth-down touchdown pass from Connor Shaw in the first overtime was every bit as painful.

6. Oklahoma State 2008 — 28-23 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia

Fresh off wood-shedding Nebraska in Lincoln, the Tigers’ championship dreams mostly evaporated against the Cowboys in a stunning home loss. Maybe MU was looking ahead to a showdown at Texas a week later, but it was a massive letdown in any case and sunk Chase Daniel’s Heisman hopes.

5. Kansas 2005 — 13-3 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan.

Missouri’s offense was lifeless in a 13-3 defeat at Kansas. It was Brad Smith’s final Border War, but he was bottled up by linebacker Nick Reid and Mark Mangino’s feisty defense for the Tigers’ third straight Border War defeat.

4. Kansas 2008 — 40-37 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

Todd Reesing’s 26-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining landed Kansas wide receiver Kerry Meier — who made the game-winning, over-the-shoulder grab — on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Missouri still won the Big 12 North, but limped to the slaughter against Oklahoma.

3. Troy 2004 — 24-14 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Ala.

Missouri was ranked No. 19 and feeling good about itself in Pinkel’s fourth season before the Trojans embarrassed the Tigers on a national audience during a Thursday night game on ESPN. There were some fluky plays, but there are also no excuses for that loss.

2. Auburn 2013 — 59-42 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta

Somewhere, Tre Mason is still carving up the Missouri run defense, because they never did stop him. He totaled 304 yards and four touchdowns in an SEC Championship Game romp. Auburn rushed for 545 yards and racked up an SEC title game record 677 yards on offense as Missouri missed another chance to play for a national title when Michigan State upset Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

1. Oklahoma 2007 — 38-17 at the Alamodome in San Antonio

Ranked No. 1 in the BCS, Missouri was guaranteed a shot at the national championship (and would have claimed the first conference title in 38 years) with a win against the Sooners. Instead, Oklahoma tamed the Tigers in the second half and Pinkel’s best team was shut out of the BCS altogether.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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