Mizzou had a 12-point lead Thursday night with 15 minutes to play and it seemed like everything was going the Tigers way. Then, within the span of 2 minutes to start the quarter, Nebraska had grabbed a 13-12 lead and they never looked back. What happened and how can the Tigers adjust for next week's game with Oklahoma State?
"We call it the human element," linebacker Andrew Gachkar said. "You look at the scoreboard and you're thinking, 'We got this game in the bag.' And obviously, we didn't."
On the 3rd play of the 4th quarter, as the rain was letting up just a bit, Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee found Niles Paul on a seam route across the middle and he took it to the house for a 56-yard touchdown.
Although the long play cut the lead to 12-7, Mizzou fans still had to be feeling good about their chances to win in the nasty conditions with the way their defense was playing.
Then came Blaine Gabbert's first career interception, a pass that was gobbled up by All-American candidate Ndamukong Suh. The Huskers scored 2 plays later on another pass to Niles Paul and just like that, Nebraska led 13-12.
"It's like you get hit in the mouth once and you're kind of dazed," senior defensive tackle Jaron Baston said. "You get hit again, and the next thing you know you're knocked out. You don't realize it coming."
Once the Huskers got the lead, the Tigers couldn't step up mentally or physically as they gave up 27 points in the 4th quarter. The Mizzou offense had a chance late to possibly tie the game at 20, but penalties and poor offensive line play killed the last hope and sent the Tigers home losers.
"You felt like you were going to go out there and do something about it and you couldn't just do anything about it at the time," Gachkar said. "I mean, it's just one of the worst feelings in the world."
Although the defense imploded in the 4th, sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert put the blame squarely on himself.
"It just came down to capitalizing tonight and we couldn't do that," Gabbert said. "It boils down to me."
Looking toward future games, what can the Tigers do to make sure they finish stronger? Gabbert feels like it is a simple fix.
"[We just need to focus] on being more mentally stable," Gabbert said. "You can't have those penalties, but in the end we have to overcome those.
This was a tough game in tough conditions against 2 evenly matched teams, but the Tigers could not avoid mistakes in the 4th quarter and that was their undoing. Mizzou left too many points on the board because of costly penalties (they had 100 yards of penalties) and costly turnovers cost them the shot at opening up 5-0 in 2009.
The Tigers go into a hostile environment against a highly ranked Oklahoma State team next week, but you have to feel good about their chances after getting their wakeup call on Thursday night.