Tuesday, October 19, 2010
It is still, and always will be, one of the most memorable plays in college football history.
And it's a play that shouldn't have been.
Oct. 6, 1990, the north end zone at Faurot Field. A play that will live in infamy.
Fifth down. Hopefully, the officials can now count to four.
The Colorado Buffaloes were given an extra down and made the most of it, as Charles Johnson scored a touchdown on the game's final play, the Buffaloes beat the Tigers 35-33 and went on to share the national championship.
Now, the Buffaloes (3-1) come to Columbia on the 20th anniversary of the blunder -- and for the final time in Big 12 play, as Colorado is bolting for the Pac 10 after this season -- with the No. 24 Tigers (4-0) waiting for Saturday night's reunion (6:07 p.m. kickoff, Fox Sports TV).
And even though Missouri coach Gary Pinkel wasn't around at the time, he's very well aware of what happened.
"Bob Stull (the Missouri coach at the time) and I are friends," said Pinkel, who was in his final year as an assistant coach at Washington in 1990. "I remember watching it on TV. ... I was really, really disappointed for Bob. I really felt bad for him, because you have to get big wins to move and advance your program."
The Tigers finished 4-7 that year and Stull was fired three years later.
"He was a great coach and a great guy and a great friend, and that would have been a big win for him and propelled the program," Pinkel said. "Any program you're trying to build, you need some big wins from a confidence standpoint.
"That was just real unfortunate."
But that was then, this is now. And even though the Tigers have won four straight over the Buffaloes by a combined score of 149-27, this looks to be a tougher challenge.
"Colorado is playing very, very well," Pinkel said. "They had a very impressive win over Georgia (29-27) Saturday night. They are very good on the defensive side and their quarterback, (Tyler) Hansen is really doing well. I'm very, very impressed with him and how he is quarterbacking his team."
Hansen, a 6-1, 205-pound junior, has completed 67-of-105 passes for 716 yards and five touchdowns. He's won the job over senior Cody Hawkins, son of head coach Dan Hawkins.
"You can just see the experience take over," Pinkel said of Hansen, who's also rushed for three touchdowns this season. "He's using his athleticism, his quickness and his speed, and puts a lot of pressure on the defense in many, many ways.
"He keeps drives alive and he converts third downs, and I'm just very, very impressed with how he's matured."
Junior running back Rodney Stewart has rushed for 402 yards and three scores.
"They're running the football well," Pinkel said "That's what they believe in doing and playing good defense, and that's gotten them off to a very good start this year. Our challenge is to work hard and try and play our best football game.
"We're going to work very hard to do that."
But the Tigers, who are 12-point favorites, know it won't be easy. Top defenders for the Buffs include junior safety Anthony Perkins (33 tackles, 19 solo) and sophomore linebacker Jon Major (23, 14).
"We ended the non-conference season 4-0, like we wanted, but now the games are tough every week," Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "Everybody is a competitive team in the Big 12 and we're excited to play Colorado.
"Any time you beat a high-quality team like Georgia, you're going to have momentum coming into the next game."
The Tigers will still be without defensive end Aldon Smith, who will miss his second straight game with a fractured fibula.
"It's still a team defense," Pinkel said. "People who replace injured players have to raise their level up and play well, and all the players around them have to play well. That's just part of football.
"Certainly, Aldon is a great young player and he certainly adds a lot to our defense. But as the season goes on, who knows who we'll be missing in a game, for whatever reasons. Somebody's got to step it up."