Mizzou delivers national powerhouse vibe on the field and in the stands - KMOV.com

Mizzou delivers national powerhouse vibe on the field and in the stands

(KMOV) -- Short of a win over Texas this weekend, there will be little consolation to Missouri Tigers fans for last week's upset loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

That's understandable enough. A loss this week would all but doom the Tigers' national championship hopes.

But if the Columbia faithful can take solace in anything that took place last Saturday night, it is the big-game atmosphere that the gathered masses produced at Faurot Field.

Thanks to a combination of how good this team has become over the past few seasons under the guidance of coach Gary Pinkel and quarterback Chase Daniel, there haven't been too many tense situations at Faurot. Exactly one of the 17 home contests Mizzou has played since 2006 has been decided by less than two touchdowns. That's a good thing: Missouri is 15-2 in those games. Removing drama from competition tends to be the sign of a good football team.

But as far as the aura of being in a football stadium is concerned, it's hard to beat a hotly contested game, an event that doesn't have its outcome determined prior to kickoff.

Saturday night featured just that sort of event in Columbia, and while it didn't end the way the Tigers would have liked, the fans made it a night to remember.

In a prime time, nationally televised game against a ranked opponent, the house was rocking from the start. The applause was thunderous for the entire Tiger lineup, but it reached a new level for the introduction of Daniel, wearing uniform number 25 instead of his customary 10 in honor of fallen teammate Aaron O'Neal.

The spectators had their heads in this one from the moment it started to well past the final gun. When Missouri sputtered in the first half, they were a bit apprehensive but continued the buzz. The big hits elicited roars, particularly when Oklahoma State star wideout Dez Bryant met the carpet courtesy of two Missouri defensive backs. There was some frustration in the third quarter when the team failed to take control of the game, but the true show came in the fourth quarter.

Even as Missouri fell behind by 11 points with less than seven minutes to play, the crowd hung right in. There was no mass exodus to beat traffic on the way home. There were few heads hanging. The noise was there all drive as Daniel calmly led the home team to a score in less than two minutes.

With the Tigers trailing by five and less than five minutes to play, Oklahoma State had the ball, and it's hard to imagine that Zac Robinson's offensive line had much of a chance to hear him barking signals. The crowd, on its feet throughout the second half, roared with every play. Missouri got two stops, setting up the biggest defensive play of the season in Columbia, the Tigers needing to keep the Cowboys from converting a third-and-10 to get the ball back with a chance to win.

If there is a moment Tigers fans will keep in their hearts forever from this game, it's that one.

Junior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon walked toward the sidelines, waving his arms to implore the crowd to get loud. Several of his teammates stood on benches on the sidelines to do the same. None of this was necessary.

The sound started to build slowly as the play clocked ticked down. Fans in the student section began to jump nervously, bobbing up and down in the stands, knowing that the season was on the line. The nervous energy simmered as the teams came to the line of scrimmage.

And then the Missouri Tigers stopped the Cowboys after three yards on third down.

The noise was deafening.

The confidence in the building was off the charts, something so rarely seen for a team trailing by five points in the final three minutes of a game. There was something akin to fear appearing on the OK State sideline. There was no doubt at Faurot Field. With the top scoring offense in the Big XII getting the ball back, those in the stands just knew how this would end. The country's leading Heisman candidate would bring the Tigers to the end zone one more time to keep the undefeated season alive, and their fans would bring the noise.

Or not.

That path to destiny met a roadblock in the form of Patrick Lavine, who intercepted Daniel's pass on the third play of what might have been the drive to victory. In a whoosh, the air seemed to leave the building.

But the fans didn't.

Even with almost no chance left to win, after a few down seconds in the moments after the interception, the fans remained on their feet, hoping somehow for a miracle. They didn't get one as a punt return failed on the last play of the game.

When it was all over, finally, they fell quiet, only then beginning to absorb the fact that their beloved team had fallen.

Many stayed rooted to their seats for several minutes after the game ended, taking in the fact that Missouri no longer had a zero in its loss column. They were drained.

They were drained because they cared. Because the Missouri Tigers have taken this town of Columbia by storm, and because, as a result, more than 60,000 people come to Faurot Field on a regular basis hoping for nothing more than a win, and countless others sit in front of their television sets living and dying with this team.

Saturday night's game didn't produce the desired result, and as KMOV colleague J.J. Bailey notes, some fans strayed from rationality in their assessments after the fact.

But despite some of the negativity afterwards, the heart-and-soul caring of the Mizzou faithful made Faurot an even more-special-than-usual place to be for three and a half hours last weekend, and there's something to be said for that.

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