Winning the game that clinched the North Division, put Missouri in next week’s Big 12 championship game and gave the Tigers a chance to play for a national championship made Saturday special.
That it happened against second-ranked and archrival Kansas, spoiling the Jayhawks’ perfect season in the process, made the evening incredible.
Missouri owned most of the night, rolling to a 36-28 triumph in front of 80,537, the second-largest crowd in the history of an Arrowhead Stadium that appeared and sounded split. The fans started their separation at the 50 yard-line, with Missouri fans crowding the stadium’s East side and the Kansas faithful packed on the West.
But the Tigers couldn’t count the triumph until a safety in the final 30 seconds sealed the win.
College football’s riches now await the Tigers, who will meet Oklahoma on Saturday in San Antonio in their first Big 12 title game appearance.
LSU’s loss on Friday means the nation’s top two teams in the polls and Bowl Championship Series standings lost this weekend. Missouri, fourth in the BCS and third and fourth in the polls, could go to No. 1 when the lists are released today.
How? The Tigers were behind West Virginia in the BCS standings, but the triumph over the Jayhawks could be interpreted by the polls and computers that comprise the BCS as more impressive than the Mountaineers’ 66-21 romp over No. 20 Connecticut.
But no matter where the Tigers land today, they’ll play in the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 7 in New Orleans if they avenge their regular-season loss to the Sooners in the Alamodome.
For the Jayhawks, their greatest regular season ends at 11-1, and they’ll await a bowl assignment. Attending the game were scouts from the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Holiday bowls. Kansas could land in a BCS bowl as an at-large team.
Saturday, a shootout was expected but never materialized, thanks most to the Tigers defense, which kept the Jayhawks out of the end zone for the first 2 ½ quarters while building a 21-0 lead.
Missouri had surrendered some big numbers lately, a total of 58 points in its previous two games.
And Kansas had been an offensive machine, leading college football in scoring at 45.8 points.
But the Jayhawks had not operated against a defense as quick and tough as Missouri’s, especially when Kansas reached the scoring zones.
The first three times the Jayhawks pushed inside the Missouri 20 they came away empty-handed.
Missouri’s defense dominated the first half as the Tigers took a 14-0 lead at the break.
Kansas, which entered the game ranked second in the nation in scoring at 45.8 points per game, was held scoreless in the first half for the second time this season. Kansas kicker Jeff Webb missed field-goal attempts from 33 and 45 yards.
Meanwhile, Missouri shook off a sluggish start and got a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Chase Daniel, 1 yard to tight end Martin Rucker and 11 yards to wide receiver Danario Alexander.
At halftime, Missouri had outgained the Jayhawks 272-139. In the first quarter Tigers safety William Moore picked off a pass from Todd Reesing, the Kansas quarterback’s first interception in six games, a streak of 213 attempts.