- David Ubben, College Football
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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Tim Barnes remembers well. He should, he was there.
Missouri's senior center had -- in the most frustrating sense -- a front-row seat to Oklahoma's dominance on the line of scrimmage in three victories over the Tigers in 2007 and 2008.
Missouri left as losers, never coming within single digits of the Sooners, who celebrated a pair of Big 12 titles and a national championship appearance at the Tigers' expense.
"They pretty much handled us up front," Barnes said.
The quiet flights home from Norman and later San Antonio in 2007. A year later, the bus from Kansas City.
There wasn't much silence in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, following the Tigers' 36-27 win over No. 1 Oklahoma -- and there won't be in this midwestern college town for some time.
The Tigers' linemen on both sides of the ball are to thank.
"Our ability to run the football for 178 yards was huge. The offensive line played very, very well," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who earned his first-ever win over Oklahoma and the program's first-ever win over a No. 1 team.
Blaine Gabbert completed 30 of 42 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown. Why? Well, it was obvious.
"He got a lot of time to throw," Pinkel said.
Way more than Chase Daniel got. The holes were bigger than the ones former backs Tony Temple and Derrick Washington tried to fit through. These Tigers won, and they did it by imposing their will on two Sooner lines filled with piles of recruiting stars that couldn't do anything about it.
This was a win over a No. 1 team, and it was a win over one of the Big 12 bullies that have tormented the Tigers, beating Pinkel 11 consecutive times before tonight.
It was a win for the program, and those players from the recent past were there to celebrate. Former receiver Tommy Saunders smiled amidst the sea of students on the turf, looking for someone to hug. Former linebacker Brock Christopher found one of his old teammates, defensive lineman Bart Coslet, and welcomed him with a huge, congratulatory hug.
There's no ceiling for Mizzou anymore. It left Faurot Field with the students carrying the goalposts to Harpo's downtown, celebrating through the steady rain. Players like Saunders, Washington, Christopher, Daniel and Temple helped Missouri reach that ceiling.
"We wanted to come out there and prove to everyone that this year," Barnes said, "it was going to be a little different."
Message received. The defense held the Sooners to just 99 yards rushing.
Missouri knew this would be different early. The first time a Tiger touched the ball, Gahn McGaffie raced into the end zone on an 86-yard kickoff return. The first run from scrimmage: 20 yards by De'Vion Moore, longer than any other carry by a tailback in any of those three games in which Missouri failed to take its next big step as a program.
"We have a lot more experience and guys are getting better," Barnes said. "We wanted it so bad. I know for the linemen, it's just a little different for us."
It's different for Mizzou as a whole now, too, and Gabbert left no doubt as to what "it" was.
"I give all the credit in the world to our offensive line. They did an extremely good job winning the battle in the trenches," he said, "and that's why we were successful tonight."
The defensive line played just as well, pressuring the Sooners and hurrying Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.
The only thing the Missouri defense seemed to do wrong all night was fail to take an interception return into the end zone, a pick only created by Aldon Smith's pressure on Jones. Smith tipped the ball to himself and had to settle for a 58-yard return into Oklahoma territory, swinging the game's momentum and setting up a touchdown that put Missouri ahead 14-7 early.
"We'll talk about that later," Gabbert said of the return with a wide smile.
Pinkel couldn't help but crack a joke at the weaving return, too: "He's always talking about playing tight end," he said.
Smith's return to the field -- one he later said he had to make against the No. 1 Sooners -- from a broken fibula, helped spur a line that disrupted Oklahoma's passing attack, limiting them to just 60 yards passing in the second half after 248 in the first. None of Jones' final seven passes found their receivers; one found Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden deep in Oklahoma territory, which set up a field goal that put Missouri up 29-21.
"Our defensive line did really, really well, and that tempo of offense is very, very difficult," Pinkel said of the Sooners' high-speed attack. "When you win games like this, generally you go to the line of scrimmage and that tells the story."
It was a different ending this time for the Tigers, a story in Missouri's history that will be retold for decades. But after Saturday's celebration late into the night, they'll wake up on Sunday knowing that what happened on Faurot Field on Oct. 23, 2010, is exactly that: history. And that story's ending has yet to be written.
"We play Nebraska next week," Pinkel said. "This isn't the national championship."