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December 3, 2008

SCS.comOne of the few bad things about working for any athletic department is that holidays are essentially non-existent. Those managers who go to practice every day spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday on the practice field and then left Friday to go to Kansas City.

I spent Friday night at a friend’s house in Kansas City and met the guys at Arrowhead Stadium early Saturday morning. The game was an early morning kick off and that meant we were at the stadium around six in the morning. For those who stayed at the hotel the early morning wake up call was especially tough thanks to some Kansas fans who decided to pull the fire alarm at the team hotel around 3 am on Saturday morning.

For weeks leading up to the game there had been mass speculation concerned with whether or not the Tigers would wear gold jerseys for the game against their archrival Kansas Jayhawks. The equipment staff is in charge of the jerseys so people were constantly asking me and other members of the staff if this rumor was true; however, many of us did not know. It was not until Saturday morning that the head equipment manager announced that indeed the speculation was true and Mizzou would be donning the gold jerseys for the first time since 1984.

When the players walked into the locker room and saw the gold jerseys already on the shoulder pads in front of their lockers, the usually quite locker room erupted with cheers of excitement. That sentiment was echoed when the first players went on the field to warm up and the crowd saw the jerseys for the first time; they were a huge hit!

Unfortunately the excitement of the gold jerseys did not transfer onto the field and the Tigers stumbled in the early going. Missouri’s first three possessions resulted in an interception, a punt and a fumble, and the fifth was capped by a safety; however, despite all of Mizzou’s struggles Kansas led by only nine at halftime.

The second half started and the Tigers looked prized for a come back scoring on their first two possessions, including a one-play 35 second touchdown pass to cut the lead to three by the end of the third quarter. Mizzou’s third quarter rally set up what some are calling the best seven minutes of football this year.

With just over 11 minutes left in the game Mizzou took possession and drove 79 yards for a touchdown; however, in just over two minutes Kansas was able to answer with a touchdown of their own. The Jayhawk’s score gave Mizzou the ball trailing by three points with 4:26 remaining in the game.

Mizzou’s offense drove down the field and scored with just under two minutes left in regulation. Fans from both sides were yelling and screaming and the stadium was in a frenzy; however, the Tigers had left too much time on the clock.

In one minute and twenty-three seconds the Jayhawks ran 9 plays and moved the ball 67 yards resulting in a touchdown on a fourth down conversion. Mizzou got the ball back; however, a field goal with no time left fell short giving Kansas a 40-37 Border Showdown victory.

It was a crushing defeat and the aftermath was evident in the locker room. As I waited outside to get in the locked door I was a bit intimidated. Several players simply sat in front of their lockers in disbelief; the feeling of what a great game had been played was not enough to console them after such a tough loss.

As we packed the truck the snow and ice that had been falling throughout the game continued to fall. Once the truck was packed we sent it on its way down I-70 towards home. After dropping off one of the managers at the hotel where he left his car we too headed home. After sitting in traffic, we arrived at the facility just before seven and immediately went to work.

We unloaded the player’s bags and washed the jerseys and pants. The grass at the stadium had soiled many of our jerseys and after the wash we took special care to see which ones were still marred with mud and paint; however, much to our surprise, the new material washed out nicely.

After checking the jerseys for holes and hanging up jackets that had been worn on the sideline we were allowed to go home. As we left the facility it was just after 10 o’clock and most of us enjoyed getting home at a reasonable hour.

Sunday was the end of the year team banquet; however, there is still much work to do. Next Saturday we will head back to Arrowhead for the Big 12 Championship against the Oklahoma Sooners and then await our fate the following day to see just where we will be headed for our bowl game. With such an exciting time ahead of us, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

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