published Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

SEC: Missouri has known heights, heartbreaks

University of Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, left, and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive after an announcement that Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri  will join the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2012-13 academic year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
University of Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, left, and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive after an announcement that Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference effective July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2012-13 academic year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Photo by Associated Press.

Less than 12 hours after LSU defeated Alabama 9-6 in overtime last Saturday night in college football's latest "Game of the Century," the Southeastern Conference announced that the University of Missouri would become the league's 14th member.

The Tigers haven't been in a game of the century, nor have they won a conference championship since sharing a Big Eight title in 1969, but they are not without gridiron success through the years. In fact, Missouri was the only program nationally throughout the 1960s that never lost more than three games in a season.

That's not a shabby statistic, nor is the list of actors who have attended or graduated from Missouri: George C. Scott, Robert Loggia, Tom Berenger, Brad Pitt and Chris Cooper.

Oops. Did we digress from football?

Missouri produced two of the top 10 players in the 2011 NFL draft, defensive end Aldon Smith and quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but the most recognizable player in program history is former San Diego Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow.

Here are some other basics about the SEC's new Tigers:

HOMECOMING BIRTH?

In 1911, the Missouri Valley Conference started requiring its football games to take place on campus.

That altered the Kansas-Missouri matchup, which had been played annually in Kansas City. Worried that the game would not attract a big crowd in Columbia, Tigers coach Chester Brewer pleaded for graduates to attend.

The alumni responded, helping produce a crowd of more than 10,000, and Missouri claims that was when the homecoming concept was born. That has been challenged by Baylor and Illinois, who claim to have staged homecoming games before 1911.

A DEVINE RUN

Dan Devine coached the Green Bay Packers from 1971 to '74 and led Notre Dame to the 1977 national championship, but his longest career stint was 1958-70 at Missouri. Devine went 92-38-7 in his 13 seasons with the Tigers and led them to the Orange Bowl twice, the Sugar Bowl once and the Gator Bowl once.

Missouri's 1960 team broke a 14-year losing streak to Oklahoma, ascended to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll and won its first nine games. The Tigers lost their regular-season finale to Kansas but rebounded to defeat Navy in the Orange Bowl.

The loss to Kansas later was forfeited by the Jayhawks for their use of an ineligible player, so the '60 Tigers are credited with an 11-0 record.

Devine's Gator Bowl trip occurred after the 1968 season, when his Tigers thumped Alabama 35-10. At the time, it was the worst bowl loss in Alabama history.

"They ran up and down the field on us like we were some barber college," Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant said.

FAUROT FIELD

With a capacity of 71,004, Missouri's Faurot Field will rank 10th in size in the SEC, topping the venues at Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

Named for coach Don Faurot, who guided the Tigers from 1935 to '42 and again from 1946 to '56, the horseshoe-shaped stadium contains a grass bern at the curved end with a giant "M" formed out of whitewashed rocks. Fans of opposing schools have tried to rearrange the rocks throughout the years to make a letter of their liking.

After Missouri seniors play in their final home game, they can take a rock from the "M" as a keepsake.

HEARTBREAK, PART I

On Oct. 6, 1990, Missouri fell victim to the "Fifth Down."

In the final minute against visiting Colorado, Buffaloes quarterback Charles Johnson spiked the ball on first-and-goal with his team trailing 31-27, and a second-down run by Eric Bieniemy was stopped shy of the goal line. Colorado used its final timeout at that point, but the officials failed to flip the down marker to reveal that it was third down.

The Buffaloes ran the same play to Bieniemy with the same result, and then Johnson spiked the ball with two seconds left on what should have been fourth down. On the free play, Johnson scored on a keeper to give Colorado a controversial 33-31 win.

Colorado went on to win the AP national championship in 1990. Missouri finished 4-7.

HEARTBREAK, PART II

Seven years after the "Fifth Down," Missouri endured another loss every bit as agonizing.

Poised to pull off a colossal upset of No. 1 Nebraska in 1997, the Tigers led 38-31 with seven seconds remaining. The Cornhuskers were at Missouri's 12-yard line but were out of timeouts.

Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost threw over the middle to Shevin Williams, who bobbled the ball before it slid down his legs as he was being tackled. Williams landed on the ground but kicked the ball into the air, and Matt Davison dove in the end zone to make the catch for the Cornhuskers.

Tigers fans at the opposite end of the stadium from Davison's score thought Frost's pass was incomplete, so they started tearing down a goal post before they were cleared out by security. The extra point tied the game at 38-38, and Nebraska won 45-38 in overtime.

The Cornhuskers went on to claim a share of the national championship in Tom Osborne's final season as coach. They wound up defeating Missouri 24 consecutive times before current Tigers coach Gary Pinkel directed a 35-14 home victory in 2003, his third season at the helm.

SAYING GOODBYE

By bolting from the Big 12, Missouri will be leaving a lot of games with different items at stake.

Missouri and Iowa State have played for the Telephone Trophy every year since 1959. That tradition started before the '59 contest at ISU when a Tigers assistant in the press box put on his headset and could hear conversations from their Cyclones counterparts.

The Tigers and Oklahoma have played for a Peace Pipe since 1929, and the Indian War Drum has gone annually to the Kansas-Missouri winner since 1947.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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