A tie game shouldn't leave a fan base feeling deflated.
It's a tie. A clean slate, upon which the story of a game can still be written. Anything can happen.
But fans of the Kansas Jayhawks have been conditioned to believe otherwise. They've seen how quickly good fortune can take a turn for the worse - how second halves are the breeding ground of disaster.
So when Missouri running back Kendial Lawrence plunged in from two yards out less than three minutes into the third quarter - knotting the score of the 2011 Border War at 10 - they found it difficult to muster much faith in a victory.
Their skepticism proved to be well-founded.
Charging back from a 10-0 deficit late in the second quarter, the Tigers scored 24 unanswered points to defeat the Jayhawks 24-10, in what could be the final playing of the oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi River.
"It definitely hurts, not going out on top," said junior quarterback Jordan Webb. "We worked hard, unfortunately things did not fall our way."
The Kansas offense struggled all day Saturday, in every facet of the game. Dominated up front by a physical Missouri defensive line, the Jayhawks averaged just 1.7 yards per carry on 38 attempts. Webb fared no better, completing just 9-of-20 passes for 60 yards, no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
The real story was the Kansas defense. A much-maligned unit, they put together a strong effort versus the Tigers - particularly during a first half in which they held them to 127 yards on 41 plays. Additionally, they forced Missouri quarterback James Franklin into a trio of interceptions before intermission, including one which was returned by junior safety Bradley McDougald for a spectacular 57-yard touchdown.
"I got great blocks from the linemen, linebackers, even the safeties and some of the secondary guys came down and opened the lane up for me," McDougald said. "And I just tried to use my speed to make a play."
In fact, it was the defense who set up both Kansas scores. On the drive preceding the Pick 6, Franklin was intercepted by junior cornerback Greg Brown on the Tigers 35-yard line - which he returned to the 15. The Kansas offense gained four yards in three plays, however, and were forced to settle for a 33-yard field goal which was punched through the uprights by kicker Ron Doherty.
After that early second-quarter burst for the Jayhawks, it was all Tigers the rest of the way. A Trey Barrow field goal with five minutes left in the second quarter cut the lead to seven, and Lawrence's touchdown early in the third erased it entirely.
With the Kansas offense still unable to produce, Franklin found his stride through the air, tossing a pair of touchdown passes - one to Wes Kemp with 5:34 left in the third and another to Marcus Lucas - a 53-yarder - on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Jayhawks did find some life in the form of wide receiver Christian Matthews. A dynamic athlete and former high school quarterback, Matthews has been featured in the Kansas variant of the Wildcat formation - dubbed the Jayhawk - in recent weeks, and with him under center they proved able to move the football.
With 13:13 left in the fourth quarter, Kansas engineered an 18-play, 43-yard drive - largely with Matthews at quarterback - into Missouri territory. The drive soaked up almost nine minutes of clock, however, and when Webb was intercepted by Tigers safety Kenji Jackson on a 4th-and-27 desperation heave, the game was over.
In the locker room afterward, Kansas head coach Turner Gill made an effort to speak with each of his players individually - particularly the seniors.
"I just told them that I'm proud of them and that they played with a lot of heart," he said. "They've always shown that throughout the season, they never quit. I told them that I loved them."
Now, the speculation regarding the continuation of Gill's tenure in Lawrence, Kan. can officially begin - though it has been swirling throughout the media and fan base for weeks.
When asked during the post game if he believed he would be the coach next season, the second-year head coach stated simply that he did. He acknowledged he had not spoken with Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger regarding his future.
Defensive coordinator Vic Shealy noted that while they didn't allow it to consume them, they weren't entirely immune to the speculation.
"But you know, most of us now have been around for a while," he said. "We have a good mature staff, and we kind of know what the score is. And we know that you have to compete and you have to show progress and you have to win ball games. So you think about it, but you don't dwell on it because you can't afford to."
"We just think positive," Sims said. "In our minds, we think Coach is going to be here. We have that mentality that Coach is going to be here, so we will work hard to get what we need to get done. We don't like to think about the negatives at all, just the positives."
"He is a good coach and he has a core group with this class," Hatch added. "The guy is a good man and he wants to win, on the field and off it."