Kansas City, MO — If you turned on the news early Thursday evening, all the talk was of two things: the rainy weather and the traffic heading down I-70, on its way to Columbia for the Missouri-Nebraska game.
Everyone knows that Kansas City, 20 minutes from Lawrence, KS, is a haven for thousands of Jayhawks fans. However, since an October 2003 victory over the Cornhuskers, fans of the Missouri Tigers football team have emerged from the doldrums of mediocrity to beleaguer Nebraska fans all around town.
In that 2003 game in Columbia, quarterback Brad Smith led his Tigers to an unlikely 27-point fourth quarter comeback and a 41-24 win over the Cornhuskers.
That win was the Tigers first over the Cornhuskers in 25 years, and sparked a rejuvenation for Tigers fans everywhere, especially in Kansas City where Tigers football has reigned supreme ever since.
So isn't it beautifully ironic how the Cornhuskers were able to go into Columbia, six years after Smith's comeback performance, and score 27 points in the game's final quarter to shock the Tigers 27-12.
The Cornhuskers' fantastic final quarter stunned the 65,826 in attendance at rain soaked Faurot Field, and left weary Tigers fans to deal with a troubling realization: their team's run atop the Big 12 North, after the graduation of Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, and Jeremy Maclin, may have finally run its course.
The Tigers were unable to take advantage of five Cornhuskers fumbles and various special teams miscues. Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert was able to manage the team's offense to a 12-0 lead through the first three quarters. However, he was unable to get the job done in the fourth quarter in the face of a relentless Blackshirts pass-rush, led by All-American Ndamukong Suh.
Before the game, pundits pointed to a battle of untested quarterbacks, most arguing that the highly touted Gabbert, who shunned the Cornhuskers in favor of Gary Pinkel's Tiger program, would certainly outshine Nebraska's Zac Lee.
Nothing could have been further from the truth with the game on the line during the game's final quarter.
Gabbert appeared to lack confidence and was clearly rattled by the Blackshirts' pass-rush. While attempting to hold, and then regain his team's lead, Gabbert completed only two of 11 passes and was intercepted twice.
Conversely, the always confident Lee completed five of six passes, including three for touchdowns, in leading his team to victory.
This game speaks volumes about the job Bo Pelini has done in getting Nebraska back to the top of the Big 12 North. And to the thousands of Nebraska fans and alumni who live in and around Kansas City, this victory means even more.
This victory means Cornhuskers across Kansas City can finally head off to work and not hear about how Gary Pinkel and his Tigers "own" the Cornhuskers. Missouri fans can no longer claim the top spot in the Big 12 North, and will in all likelihood increase their skepticism of Pinkel and his questionable play-calling in close games.
For Pelini and the Cornhuskers, they can now build upon this victory and set their sights on games in the next month against Texas Tech, Iowa State, Baylor, and Oklahoma.
If Nebraska can emerge from those four games with three wins or more, it would likely setup a battle with the Jayhawks for first place in the North on November 14th.
And for Cornhuskers fans in Kansas City, they'd love nothing more than to silence the city's second-most annoying group of fans with a victory in Lawrence.