Thank goodness for BVC and Doc taking a bullet and providing immediate post-game therapy when most if not all of us wanted to do anything but reflect on what had just taken place Friday.
This game was A&M redux, complete with a brilliantly timed fake punt executed masterfully by Sam Irwin-Hill. First half with all the makings of a blowout, offense can't deliver the decisive blow when the opportunity presents itself, offense stagnates, defense weakens and finally breaks after far too long without any support whatsoever from the offense.
And, of course, it was a little MSU redux as well. In Stark-vegas, we built a 10-0 lead, couldn't build on it, held on for dear life but gave up a big play late and ultimately lost 17-10. A theme, sadly, this year: Good, but still not able to close good teams in the fourth quarter.
It was impossible, for some of us anyway, to express anything other than disgust in the immediate aftermath of that day-after-Thanksgiving turkey. The reversed call burned in my gut like the infamous 1982 mystery PI call on Danny Walters in Texas Stadium that derailed what was on track to be a special season.
The disgust was directed solely at the replay booth, which on Friday operated by its own set of rules; at Missouri's Shane Ray, who delivered as cheap a shot as you'll see late in the fourth quarter on BA; at Missouri's fortunate placement in a down SEC East and relative two-year cake walk to Atlanta; at the missed opportunities that allowed MU to hang around and ultimately benefit from our lack of depth on a defense finally worn down like waves pounding the wrack line on a beach.
But disgusted at circumstances, that's all. Our boys were heroic in defeat and in its aftermath. BVC was right to peg this one of his favorite Hog teams, and I'll heartily join him in that assessment. 6-6 is heroic, and nothing short of it, this year with this schedule under these circumstances.
- Eight of eight conference games against ranked foes, all but two of them ranked in the top 10 the week we played 'em.
- No blowout losses, and in four of six losses we held 4th quarter leads. Several times this season including Friday, we dominated -- dominated -- good teams for more than a half.
- And, of course, the 15 returning starters, eight on D.
The sting of Friday lingers, though, and there are questions. Why keep BA in the game when he clearly couldn't function? Why go for it on fourth and 3 when the D saw it coming and a 47-yard FG would've quelled MU's mo and delivered a 17-6 lead headed into the final quarter? And fumbles aside, why not more touches for 32 and 3 or targets for Henry and Cornelius? (And man, did we miss Derby...)
But trust in the staff, we must, and I do. As disappointing as Friday was, letting another one slip through our fingers, it's hard to stay discouraged with a big picture looming on the horizon as big as Alex Collins' smile.
We all wanted to head to the bowl toting a nice top 25 ranking and Skipper-sized momentum on our collective shoulder. But here's the rub: Top 25 or not, we're headed to a bowl. After two years of Purgatory, we're back and ahead of schedule.
Shreveport (or Birmingham, Nashville, wherever) and whichever sad sack Big 12 or ACC team is charged with providing the opposition for bowl No. 40, had better gear up. The late December forecast calls for Hogs.
Rested, healed, battle scar-laden, hungry Hogs. Oh, and we'll bring a pretty damn good football team with us too.