18 March 2011

Year In Review, A Look Ahead

Tiger football records 4th 10-win season, Mike Anderson's 3rd 23-win season
by MizzMatt
Columbia, MO-  It's not often that we get to talk about consistency at MU, unless you're talking consistently bad.  Our major sports are known for being sporadic at best.  An eight win football season here, a four win season there.  25 wins in basketball this year, 15 the next.  The last few years, however, have ushered in a new era of Mizzou athletics.

Gary Pinkel, ca 2000
Gary Pinkel was brought in from Bowling Green State University to replace the retiring Larry Smith (b. Sept 12, 1939 - d. Jan 29, 2008).  Smith, who had only two winning seasons and consecutive bowl appearances ('97 Holiday Bowl vs Colorado State [loss] and '98 Insight Bowl vs West Virginia [win]) in seven seasons.  After taking the reigns in 2000, Pinkel's Tiger career started where Smith's left off, with back to back losing seasons.  Then, something happened in 2003.  We won. 
Not only did we win, but we beat Nebraska for the first time since 1978.  Not only did we beat Nebraska, but we had a 8-5 winning season. 
But alas, in 2004, our sporadic side kicked in again, and we went 5-6 as they tried turning Brad Smith (right) into a pocket passer.  The alumni and the fair weather fans that had haunted Mizzou football all throughout Larry Smith's tenure were starting to get antsy for more wins. 
Bring in 2005, and on the legs of Smith, we did just that.  Win.  We beat Nebraska for the second time in three years en route to a 7-5 season.  Then 8-5 in 2006.  What was happening to Tiger football?  We were starting to become good.

2007.  The Chase Era.  Chase Daniel, Chase Patton, Chase Coffman.  12-2 overall record, and we only lost to one team all year (Oklahoma, twice).  This was unheard of around Mizzou Nation.  A 10-win season in football?  That's only happened once before (1960 under Dan Devine).  A #1 national ranking?  Again, only once (1960).  We've had a couple of 10-loss seasons under Al Onofrio and Woody Widenhofer ('71 & '85), but there was no way we could have multiple 10-win seasons. 
Sure enough, in 2008, we picked up where we left off.  Behind the arm and mobility of Daniel and the leaping ability of Coffman, along with star return man and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Tigers went 10-4, for just the third 10-win season in school history, first back-to-back.

2009 ushered in the Blaine Dynasty.  Blaine Gabbert led the Tigers to their fifth consecutive winning season, fifth consecutive bowl game and Gary Pinkel's sixth bowl appearance since coming to Faurot.  Surly we're bound to have another lackluster season, right?  2010 proved us right and wrong at the same time.  Yea, we had our third 10-win season in four years, finishing at 10-3, but we very easily could have been undefeated in the regular season.  We showed our inconsistency,  beating then number one ranked Oklahoma for the second time in 20 years, but then turning around and losing to Nebraska in the first quarter.  The hangover stayed with us through the Texas Tech game as well, losing by 7 after jumping to an early 14-0 lead.  Off to our sixth consecutive bowl game, where we would show yet more inconsistency and fall by three to the Iowa Hawkeyes.  Our three losses in 2010 were by a combined 24 points.  We now have regular season dominance, but our post season still needs improvement.

And that's where we make the jump to basketball.  Mike Anderson came into Mizzou Arena in 2006, following a handful of years under a controversial coach who brought shame to a once great program set up by Stormin' Norm Stewart.  Anderson's squad was coming off of seven years of punishment under the old coaching staff (we shall not name him here, for fear of our lives), but he has turned the program around in a relatively short amount of time.  A team that was notorious for flopping out of the Big 12 tournament in the first or second round did something nobody thought would happen.  They became conference champs in 2009 when they beat the Cinderella Baylor Bears in the championship game.  That year, they made a deep tourney run, before being bounced out in the Elite Eight, just the third time they've made it that far in March Madness. 

Many people think that Anderson, who became the fastest MU coach to reach 100 wins (5 years compared to Norm Stewart's 7 years) this past season, should think about taking a job offer down in Razorback country, which is home for the Anderson clan.  To those people, I ask- "WHY?!"  He's turned a program that was laden with regulations and sanctions from the NCAA back to a team that has national prowess.  This past season (2010-2011) was a bit on the shaky side, as we went an even .500 in conference and lost all but one conference road game (Iowa State), but we recorded our third 20+ win season in three years.  That's not something to shake a stick at.  We've now gone 31-7, 23-11, 23-11 over the past three seasons.  Granted, that's not great, but it's still good.  Besides, wouldn't you like to see Anderson stick his money where his mouth is when he told the Missouri state senate that he would "bring a national championship to the state of Missouri"?

Our futures look bright as far as athletics go, and while we have room for improvement, we've come a long way.  After all, when was the last time we could say we beat Oklahoma in football and basketball in the same year?

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