COLUMBIA, Mo. - Undoubtedly with a good deal of reluctance, the Missouri Tigers waved goodbye to the Colorado Buffaloes here Saturday night. It's tough to see an easy mark leave the neighborhood.
No. 24/22 MU administered one last whipping before CU bolts the Big 12 Conference next season for the Pac-10, slapping the Buffs 26-0 at Faurot Field in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
"It's really, really frustrating to come out and play like this," CU senior cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "I have no idea why (it happens) . . . they've just got it out for us; they whip us good."
Falling for the fifth consecutive time to Mizzou and losing its 13th straight regular-season road game, CU saw a modest two-game win streak halted and dropped to 3-2. MU remained unbeaten (5-0) and signed off in the series with a 40-32-3 advantage (8-7 in the Big 12).
"Luckily, we're not playing Missouri next year," junior quarterback Tyler Hansen said. "You hate to say that, but . . . ."
But . . . it's true.
Since 2006, the Tigers have owned Dan Hawkins' Buffs, outscoring them 203-40 and usually adding a shot of trickery at an opportune time. Last year in Boulder it was a fake field goal in a 33-3 MU-dominated first half; this year it was a fake punt as the Tigers swept to a 19-0 first-half lead.
"It's like they've got these stunts they save for us," senior linebacker B.J. Beatty said. "Those plays really have been big for them."
And they've been devastating for the Buffs - especially given an offense that never found itself and special teams play that was subpar almost across the board. Together, they negated a decent defensive performance.
"Our defense played really, really well," CU coach Dan Hawkins said. "They gave us a short field a couple of times and we couldn't take advantage."
Hawkins pulled starting quarterback Tyler Hansen late in the third quarter, using senior backup Cody Hawkins for the entire final quarter. But both suffered red zone failures as CU was shut out for only the second time since 1988 (262 games). The first was Mizzou's 58-0 blowout win in 2008.
Of being taken out, Hansen said he "didn't understand . . . I was confused at first." Hawkins indicated he was seeking to generate some offense with the change, but added Hansen remains the starter.
In his three quarters, Hansen completed 15-of-21 passes for 117 yards, while Cody Hawkins - playing the final three plays of the third quarter and all of the fourth - was 16-of-25 for 133 yards with one interception. Hansen was sacked three times and Cody Hawkins once, losing a combined 27 yards.
After topping 230 yards rushing in the past two games, CU was held to 61 (counting the sack yardage) Saturday night. Dan Hawkins said MU's defensive front "did a good job stunting and looping . . . they gave us problems."
So did penalties, which the Buffs seemed to shake against Georgia. Last week's three flags increased to eight this week, most of them on the offense.
Mizzou, meanwhile, wasn't as overpowering offensively as in its four previous games against CU. After averaging 496.1 total yards a game in the past three, the Tigers had 345 in this one. QB Blaine Gabbert completed 17-of-29 passes for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns and the Tigers ran for 119 yards.
But their two longest runs were on a fake punt (26) and by their backup quarterback (37) in the fourth quarter when the outcome was clear. Minus that pair of runs, MU's ground total was 56 yards.
"We made Missouri look a lot better than they are," claimed Cody Hawkins.
Whatever, the Buffs struggled early on special teams and throughout the night offensively. In addition to Cody Hawkins replacing Hansen, freshman Justin Castor was given a chance at placekicker in place of senior Aric Goodman, who missed a crucial 40-yard field goal attempt when MU's lead was only 5-0.
Hansen called the special teams mishaps "rough . . . they can kill momentum and the morale of the team."
But before they were victimized by their own special teams play, the Buffs were victimized by the Tigers'. CU started its first two possessions at its own 2- and 1-yard lines, respectively, courtesy of punts by MU's Matt Grabner.
The first possession ended in Zach Grossnickle's partially blocked punt and put the Tigers at the Buffs' 40-yard line. CU's defense forced Mizzou into its second straight three-and-out, but for the second time, Grabner pinned CU inside its 2.
The Buffs ran only one play on its second series, which ended in a safety when Hansen was ruled to have intentionally grounded the ball from his own end zone.
Dan Hawkins, who argued with officials about the safety, claimed a would-be receiver - tight end Ryan Deehan - "got tackled" on the play, while Hansen simply termed it "a rough play call."
MU led 2-0, and CU hadn't begun to crumble. Neither did it start when Grant Ressel kicked a 47-yard field goal, sending the Tigers very uncomfortably ahead 5-0 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
No, the Buffs had begun sagging - yet. Toney Clemons returned the kickoff 53 yards to the Tigers 44-yard line, and Hansen used the next six plays to march CU to the MU 23.
But what could have been a drive for the lead stalled at that point, and on fourth-and-seven Goodman was sent in to attempt a 40-yard field goal. His kick drifted wide left - he's 1-for-4 on the season with all the misses wide left - and that was when the Buffs also began drifting.
Mizzou responded to CU's missed opportunity and Goodman's missed kick by driving 77 yards for its first touchdown. The drive stayed alive courtesy of another CU special teams disaster: on fourth-and-four at the MU 44, Trey Barrow replaced Grabner as the Tigers punter, took the direct snap and never considered using his right foot - except to repeatedly put it in front of his left one on a 26-yard gain to the CU 30.
Two plays later, Gabbert took advantage of a blown coverage to hook up with Jerrell Jackson for a 30-yard score. Ressel's PAT pushed the Tigers in front 12-0.
Still, CU hadn't succumbed.
Cornerback Jalil Brown gathered in a fumble forced by defensive end Chidera Udo-Diribe at the MU 13-yard line, offering the Buffs another chance to wriggle back into the fight. It was another chance wasted.
After Hansen and his offense lost 19 yards on their first three plays, CU summoned Castor to attempt a 40-yard field goal. His kick appeared dangerously low when it left his foot, enabling D-lineman Terrell Resonno to block it.
The Tigers downed the ball on their own 3-yard line, so on the bright side, the Buffs figured they at least could come out this kicking nightmare with decent field position.
Gabbert skillfully marched Mizzou 97 yards in 17 plays - seven of them passes gaining 75 yards. He linked up with tight end Michael Egnew for a 10-yard scoring pass that sent the Tigers to their locker room with a 19-0 halftime lead.
Even though the Buffs were scoreless, they might have taken some satisfaction that last year's halftime score was 33-3 - and they had held the Tigers to only three points in the final two quarters in Boulder. Set to receive the second-half kickoff and perhaps flip the momentum, CU couldn't do it.
The Buffs drove to the Tigers' 40- and 37-yard lines on their first pair of second-half possessions, but penalties sabotaged both. By quarter's end, with Mizzou still leading 19-0 and CU's offense gasping, Dan Hawkins decided a switch to his son might produce some late energy.
Starting at the MU 48, Cody directed the final three plays of the third quarter and moved the Buffs as far as the Tigers 17, where on fourth-and-seven CU was whistled for a delay of game. On fourth-and-12 from the 22, Hawkins was sacked by defensive back Kip Edwards for an 8-yard loss.
So much for the QB change, the drive and CU's scant chances of salvaging this one . . .
Mizzou pulled Gabbert in favor of freshman James Franklin, who promptly pushed the Tigers 70 yards in eight plays - the last a 7-yard scoring pass to Egnew. Ressel's extra point sent MU up 26-0 with 9:24 to play.
Just under 3 minutes later, Cody Hawkins was intercepted by Edwards, who returned the pick 49 yards to CU's 32-yard line. The Tigers tried to add a "nice knowing ya" TD, but the Buffs defense held and Cody Hawkins drove CU to the MU 12.
From there, the Buffs retreated - a false start pushed them back 5 yards - and on fourth-and-15 at the 18, Cody Hawkins threw high for Scotty McKnight in the back of the end zone.
The Tigers killed the final 1:02 and said it was good - really good for the past five years - knowing you. As long as Mizzou isn't in any Pac-10 expansion plans, the fit is a good one for CU.
BUFF BITS: Saturday night's attendance was 62,565 . . . . McKnight (five catches, 72 yards) has now caught a pass in a school-record 41 consecutive games (42 counting postseason) . . . . The Tigers' five-game winning streak is MU's longest since a six-game streak from 1979-84 . . . . The Buffs' last win against the Tigers was 41-12 in Boulder in 2005 . . . . CU has had at least one QB sack in 25 straight games. Defensive end Josh Hartigan recorded Saturday night's sack, giving him three in the past two games . . . . Hartigan also made his first career interception in the fourth quarter . . . . CU is at home on consecutive weekends - Oct. 16 vs. Baylor (5 p.m., FCS) and Oct. 23 vs. Texas Tech (TBA).