"It feels real good," senior linebacker Brandon Barnes said. "I'm not going to lie to you. It's my first time in five years going to a bowl game."
At 5-3, the Red Raiders will have to wait for their chance, with games against Colorado and Baylor before the frightening finales of Texas and Oklahoma.
Representatives from the Alamo and Independence Bowls were on hand for the game, which Fox Sports Net regionally televised.
Missouri has already surpassed its five-win season in 2002, and Pinkel's teams have improved their record in each of his three years at Missouri. Missouri also completed a three-game set with Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas Tech at 2-1.
There's been something different about the air in Columbia this season, with the Tigers expecting – not wishing for – a bowl games after five years of mediocrity and struggle since. In 2001, Missouri had B.B.T, for Bowl-Bound Tigers, pasted on its team bus, but those expectations quickly faded, and Missouri finished 4-7.
The Tigers were talking bowl last season, too, and had a shot in its last game. But that shot came against Kansas State, and the Wildcats shut out the Tigers and their bowl hopes, sending Missouri to a 5-7 finish.
"In our past two years, we haven't been close to as mature as we are now," sophomore cornerback Calvin Washington said.
In 2003, the Tigers have changed their words. On more than one occasion, the Tigers have talked about Big 12 titles and national championships, not only bowl games. But most of all, they tried to stay as far away as possible from talking what's more than one game ahead of them.
"You gotta earn that," Washington said. "You gotta earn to feel that way. You gotta believe that this team is capable of something. When you know you have a good team and players with the same vision as you, you can do those things. You can put that out there. It's even bigger than that. We got other things on our mind, too."
It's not only talk, though. The Tigers have rebounded from potentially crippling calls and plays throughout the season, and Texas Tech was no exception. Near the end of the second quarter, officials called an offensive pass interference penalty on Sean Coffey, wiping out a touchdown. Brad responded right back on the next play, scoring a 27-yard touchdown run on third-and-22.
On the next possession, Missouri cornerback Shirdonya Mitchell was called for unnecessary roughness when he hit Texas Tech receiver Wes Welker after the play had ended. It gave the Red Raiders the ball at midfield, but Missouri forced the Red Raiders to punt with 30 seconds left.
"We have players that believe in each other and believe in coach Pinkel," center A.J. Ricker said.
As B.J. Symons and Texas Tech struck again and again in the second half, the Tigers held their own. In the process, Smith set a Missouri single-game touchdown record and ran for the second-most yard by a quarterback in NCAA history, and running back Zack Abron tied Corby Jones on Missouri's all-time touchdown list.
Jones was the quarterback the last time Missouri went to a bowl game. But at least now for Missouri, 1998 won't be referred to as "the last time" anymore.
"Ah, five years, five years," senior wide receiver Darius Outlaw said. "I've been waiting five years to say Missouri is bowl-eligible. It's great."