A crowd of over 71,000 pushed post-Thanksgiving plans to the side and decided, instead, to fill Faurot Field to capacity Friday afternoon. They would not leave disappointed as Missouri overcame a 14-6 third quarter deficit to hold off the upstart Arkansas Razorbacks on a sunny and unseasonably warm day in Columbia. National respect may have evaded this team for much of the season, but the Tigers will be heading to Atlanta once again to play for the SEC Championship.
“We’re not worried about respect, we’re worried about getting a championship for this program and that’s the main focus now. We know we can come in and do it.” Senior captain Markus Golden said after the game.
“I could care less about the respect. I’m here to win championships and that’s what we want to do and along that course then maybe we’ll get the respect. Until then, we’ll just keep winning.” Sophomore Quarterback Maty Mauk added.
Before visions of playing in Atlanta for a second straight season could become a reality, the Tigers were faced with the daunting task of knocking off the much-improved Arkansas Razorbacks in the first installment of the Battle-Line Rivalry (a name which hopefully sounds better as time goes by). Mizzou inexplicably found themselves in the underdog role once again in this contest, despite being higher ranked, boasting a better record and playing at home. Arkansas managed to grind their way to a 14-6 halftime lead, but the Tigers (as has been the case much of the season) saved the heroics for the second half as the offense put together back-to-back scoring drives to take a 21-14 lead late in the game. Missouri’s senior captain, Markus Golden forced a fumble on Arkansas’ final drive to secure the win. Golden was his typical humble self when talking about the play.
“Really, man, it ain’t about me. It ain’t about me,” Golden said. “It’s about everybody else, man. That’s how I got here, not being about myself. Being about the team and being about the people in my circle. I’m just blessed to have all the people that helped me. Today, man, it don’t get no better than this. It don’t.”
The Missouri fans, which have been through so many ups and downs throughout the years, took to the field in celebration just after Maty Mauk kneeled the ball on the final play of the game. It was a celebration that was much deserved after what this football team has accomplished. Fans loudly chanted “SEC SEC SEC” while joyously running amok on the field and even took selfies with players. Complete strangers hugged each other, an embrace which always seems perfectly normal in the realm of emotion that you only find in sports. “Black Friday” will definitely have new meaning to Mizzou fans after embracing that moment.
“Nothing’s been easy about this, but you know, that reflects this league. You’ve got to embrace it and battle. I think we’ve done a great job of that and I’m very happy for everybody.” Head Coach Gary Pinkel said following the win.
Welcome (Back) To Atlanta
For the second consecutive season, the Missouri Tigers will be heading to Badstreet USA to play for the SEC Championship. Last year, the Tigers ran up against Auburn, a team of destiny who rushed for over 600 yards in route to a wildly entertaining 59-42 victory last season. This year, Mizzou will face either Alabama or Mississippi State with the opponent set to be determined by late Saturday night. Missouri has not won a conference championship outright since 1969 but have been knocking on the door for the past seven years, first in the Big 12 and now in the SEC. The Tigers will be an underdog once again, but picking against this team has made a lot of national pundits look silly all season long.
Missouri will be playing the role of spoiler in this game as Mississippi State or Alabama will assuredly be in the College Football Playoff should they win in Atlanta. Merely making it to this game has baffled many of the old-guard SEC folks and it is obvious that many would have preferred to see Georgia make it to the championship game instead, but Gary Pinkel and his Missouri program have been silencing critics for the past two seasons and winning the SEC would be the ultimate call for respect that the Tigers so richly deserve.