‘Time for your Tigers’: When Missouri football summoned homecoming magic in 2010 win over No. 1 Oklahoma

With the eyes of college football on Columbia, the Tigers delivered a homecoming performance for the ages 10 years ago in 36-27 win against Sooners.
Edge rusher Aldon Smith celebrates with fans after Missouri's upset win over No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 23, 2010. Shane Epping - University of Missouri

Hello, Mizzou. We’re talking to you. It is time for your Tigers to show me, show you, show the world that you are ready to stand up finally to Oklahoma and step forward as a serious contender and earn the respect you have been denied for decades. — Chris Fowler, ESPN

Thousands of screaming fans, engulfed in gold, raised signs and waved flags as Fowler set the scene for a busy day ahead in college football.

A reported crowd of 18,000 crammed in front of the columns outside of Jesse Hall that morning to watch ESPN’s College GameDay program in person as it visited Columbia for the first — and to date, only — time.

The show kicked off Oct. 23, 2010’s college football coverage, which was set to conclude with that night’s marquee matchup between BCS No. 1-ranked Oklahoma and No. 11-ranked Missouri. The previous two weeks ended with the top team in the country –– first Alabama, then Ohio State –– being upset. Could Missouri make it three straight weeks by taking down the Sooners on its 99th annual homecoming game?

Energy continued to build throughout the morning, and when ESPN analyst Lee Corso picked up the Tigers' black and gold helmet during his game-prediction segment, an already fervent crowd of Missouri fans started to buzz.

But instead of putting the helmet on, Corso threw it back onto the desk and grabbed the Sooners’ mascot head. In a move meant to generate fan reaction, the teasing selection clip made its way into the Tigers’ locker room as another piece of bulletin board material.

“I felt like I was tricked and made fun of,” Missouri receiver Jerrell Jackson said. “That put a fire in my belt, and I know some players were talking about it [before the game] also.”

Missouri alumnus Seth Rosner tuned into Gameday from the nearby Extended Stay Hotel. In years past, Rosner and his wife Katie ––– also an MU grad –– may have been at the columns before sunrise, but they weren’t in 2010. Instead, they spent the morning caring for their three-month-old daughter, Rebecca, in advance of her first homecoming game.

“I have very vivid memories of sitting in the hotel room, waking up early, turning on the television and watching with a lot of pride at what my university and our football program had become,” Rosner said.

Rosner’s connection to MU runs deep. He helped start the “Tiger’s Lair” student section as an undergrad back in 1995. Missouri mascot, Truman the Tiger, attended his wedding. Prior to the 2020 season, Rosner’s missed just two home games in 25 years.

But unlike most regular season games, homecoming is an annual holiday for the Rosner family. Every year, they take their children out of school on Friday to make the drive along I-70 from St. Charles to Columbia. An annual picture beneath the columns acts as a yearly growth chart.

The Rosner family arrived at Lot P around 10 a.m., where they spent their entire day tailgating with family and close friends. As the morning gave way to afternoon, they watched as the surrounding area slowly sprung to life.

“It was a great buildup to the day,” Rosner said. “It was just one of those things where you loved how well the university was portrayed that morning. You enjoyed your time all through the late morning and the afternoon with friends, family and alumni … Just that experience each year is really special for us.”

Around 6:15 p.m., fans began to filter from their parking lot tailgates through the gates of Faurot Field. Sets of extra bleachers brought in and placed in the north and south end zones quickly filled, bringing the official attendance to 71,004 fans in a stadium with a listed capacity of just 62,621.

“You couldn't see the Rock M,” Jackson said. “Everything was filled to capacity, and of course, just the energy was loud and crazy. To this day, I think that was one of the most exciting places I have ever been.”

Those who were in Columbia that night recall the palpable feeling of excitement in the air at Faurot. As pregame festivities concluded and kickoff loomed, the place was ready to explode. All it needed was one electric play.

“That experience, those memories, start right at kickoff,” Rosner said.

McGaffie across the 25, gets to the 28 to the 30, a seam to the 35! Trying to outrun the kicker. He gets to midfield, and he may go! McGaffie to the 40, left side to the 30, to the 20, to the 10, to the five, to the house. Touchdown Missouri! No flags! Gahn McGaffie! — Mike Kelly, KTGR voice of the Missouri Tigers

Visualization played a significant role in receiver Gahn McGaffie’s game day routine. On the bus from the hotel, he envisioned running his routes to perfection. During warmups, he visualized celebrating a touchdown in the back of the end zone. And before running through the tunnel into a pulsating sea of gold, he pictured himself returning a kickoff for a touchdown.

Missouri players knew coming into the game that if the Tigers won the coin toss, they would be receiving the opening kickoff. As one of the largest home crowds in program history roared, McGaffie jogged out onto the field, blood pumping.

Oklahoma kicker Patrick O’Hara sent a ball spiraling end-over-end towards the north end zone. The ball bounced five yards in front of McGaffie who picked it up and started to accelerate.

“Me being the type of player I am, I know how to set up certain blocks to make people shift a certain way,” McGaffie said. “So when I caught the ball, I veered off to the right –– even though I was already on the right to begin with –– which made everyone shift to the right. By the time I pick the ball up from the ground, all the blocks are pretty much set up for me to dart through the middle, and then the rest is history.”

Jackson was huddled up on the sideline with the offense when he glanced up at the video monitor. He couldn't suppress his disbelief as McGaffie emerged from a crowd of defenders near midfield. The mass of fans shifted in excitement along the bleachers, forcing Rosner’s wife and daughter to quickly sit down and get out of the way.

“It just gives you the idea of how packed that stadium was and how vibrant and energetic that it was,” Rosner said. “She just had to get out of the way of the celebration of one of the great plays in [Missouri’s] history.”

On the field, McGaffie had nothing but daylight in front of him as he crossed the 50. With his eyes locked on the end zone, all he could think about was cutting off defenders' angles and not getting caught by the kicker.

O’Hara couldn’t keep up.

As he crossed the goal line and stopped to savor the moment in the back of the end zone, McGaffie endured what he called one of the biggest tackles of his life, as linebacker Jeff Gettys completely knocked the wind out of the five-foot-ten receiver. Sprawled on his back, McGaffie took it all in –– from the reverberating roar of the crowd so loud that he couldn’t hear anything being yelled in front of him to teammates rushing over from the sidelines to mob him.

When he reflects back on that image today, he credits the blocker that cleared a path throughout the entire run: his best friend and roommate, Robert Steeples.

“I always tell him that I am forever grateful for that block that pretty much helped me run into the end zone without being touched,” McGaffie said. “To have that experience just with the team, but also with one of my best friends made that moment even better and more special.”

The opening return instilled even more confidence in a team that didn’t need much of it. Players had confidence in quarterback Blaine Gabbert to outduel Oklahoma gunslinger Landry Jones. They knew that their defense could lock down a dynamic Sooners attack that fielded DeMarco Murray, Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills.

“They had all those guys, and they were not able to dominate like they had been previously playing any team before us,” McGaffie said. “Just knowing what we had [on defense] and the game plan that we had for them and seeing it executed at a high level is the best to watch.”

Missouri’s stingy defense kept the Tigers in the game until the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the offense put the game away for good.

Gabbert takes the snap. Pressure up the middle, now throws a seam pattern. Jackson at the 17! Spins off a defender. To the ten, to the five, to the house. Touchdown Missouri! –– Kelly

The play was called “Deuce X Switch,” a switch concept specifically designed for Jackson to run a bend route. In this play, coach Gary Pinkel wanted Jackson to run straight down the field, and if there were two safeties high, he would need to run in between them. Gabbert found him with a perfectly-placed pass into a tight window.

“Once that ball was snapped, Blaine did a good job of hitting me where only I could catch the ball,” Jackson said. “I caught the ball with the intention of taking the hit and going to the ground. That momentum going downward versus [the defender’s] momentum hitting me up put me back on my feet, and I took it to the house.”

The Oklahoma defense, which spent the entire night chirping at the Missouri offense, could offer no retaliation as the Tigers took a 26-21 lead –– one that proved to be insurmountable.

As the offense jogged to the sidelines, fewer than 13 minutes separated the Tigers from a thrilling upset win on homecoming –– a result ripe for a field storming.

As time continued to tick away, an equipment manager began to shout a vital message to those along the Missouri sideline; if fans stormed the field, players would need to keep their helmets on or risk a fine.

When the final whistle sounded, players began to celebrate, but as students spilled onto the field, the only thing Jackson could think about was keeping his helmet on.

“Of course I was excited that we won, but I was holding my helmet so hard,” Jackson said. “I’m already a broke college student, I can’t take a $400- or $500-buck fine. I remember really holding my helmet and playing tug-of-war with it during the whole storming [of the field].”

From his seat near the south end zone 60 rows above the field, Rosner celebrated the win by taking it all in. He reminisced about his time as a student at MU when he stormed the field after a win against Kansas in 1996; he still has a piece of the goal post from that game.

With his wife and infant daughter in the stands alongside him, he watched current students experience what he did back in the ‘90s.

“You just get to a different point in your life and you enjoy experiencing it,” Rosner said. “Not through the eyes of the students, but just watching them savor [the win] and thinking back to your own college experience.”

Missouri is a football program often overlooked in the national conversation. A program occasionally shoved to alternate networks to make way for a “better” game. But for one day in October 2010, the Tigers were the talk of the college football world.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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