The Chase Daniel era ended at Missouri with an overtime victory in the Alamo Bowl. It likely was the finale for sophomore Jeremy Maclin, too.
The 25th-ranked Tigers' All-American led the nation in all-purpose yards for the second straight season, and has been projected as an early first-round NFL draft pick. He was the catalyst on Monday, awakening a slumbering offense with a 75-yard punt return and then catching the winning touchdown pass to beat Northwestern 30-23 in San Antonio, Texas.
It would appear Maclin, who has 4.3-40 speed and good hands and toughness to match, has little more to prove at the college level after racking up 2,833 yards this season, fifth-most in NCAA history.
"When that punt went up in the air and didn't have very much hang time I said, 'Mistake," Daniel said. "`You all are going to pay for it."
After the game, Maclin was noncommittal about his future plans.
"There's a lot more I want to achieve at this university," Maclin said. "I'm going to sit down and talk to Coach (Gary) Pinkel, (wide receivers) Coach (Andy) Hill and the rest of my teammates and my family to see what the best decision for me. "
Even without the Maclin factor, massive change is coming for the Tigers after consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in school history, a feat somewhat watered down by modern schedule-makers. Missouri (10-4) made it to double figures on the third try after stumbling against Kansas in the regular-season finale and then getting blown out by Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game.
The turnover includes the coaching staff for the first time in Pinkel's eight seasons at the Columbia, Mo., school. Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen was hired as head coach at Wyoming earlier this month, and sat side by side with new coordinator Dave Yost during the Alamo Bowl.
Wyoming is scheduled to play Missouri in 2011 and 2012, although Christensen has indicated he'd rather play someone else.
Daniel's final season was a falloff after he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a junior, but he's the leader of a group that went to four straight bowl games while finishing seventh in NCAA history in passing touchdowns (101) and total offense (13,486), and 10th in career yards passing (12,515).
He shrugged off a three-interception day against Northwestern in time to lead Missouri to consecutive bowl victories for the first time since 1978-79.
"You just have to battle," Daniel said. "Would I have liked to not throw those picks? Yeah, of course. But I take the win any single day over numbers."
Missouri groomed highly touted freshman Blaine Gabbert as Daniel's replacement, electing to play him especially early in the season rather than redshirt him.
Chase Coffman, the most prolific tight end in NCAA history, figures to be the second Missouri player to be drafted after a stellar four-year career. Two offensive linemen, tackle Colin Brown and guard Ryan Madison, have exhausted their eligibility along with possession wide receiver Tommy Saunders.
On defense -- Missouri's weak link all season -- seven starters must be replaced. Among them is end Stryker Sulak, who led the team with 10.5 sacks and missed Justin Smith's school record by a half-sack. An eighth defensive player, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, might be NFL-ready after playing the Alamo Bowl on his 21st birthday.
"It was just fun to be out there flying around, and I was happy to make some plays for my team," Weatherspoon said. "It's just a great birthday present."
Safety William Moore, considered a top NFL prospect on defense last year, was hindered by a foot injury much of his senior year and enters the winter as more of a longshot prospect.
Jeff Wolfert, at 94.9 percent the most accurate kicker in NCAA history even after missing a field goal attempt that would have won Monday night's game in regulation, finished as the school's career leading scorer with 361 points.
"When you miss it, you have to fight," Daniel said. "And what a better way to go out than to play some more football."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)