They were only minutes away from hoisting the banner. The Tigers led 17-0 and the coronation party in Columbia was getting ready to kick off. The fat lady was warming up to sing the finale stanza as Gary Pinkel and company were poised to ascend even higher in the BCS and set up a highly probable date with the seemingly invincible Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC title game in Atlanta.
Missouri was so close to sizing up the SEC East Championship rings that they even got sympathy from Texas Rangers fans. The South Carolina Fighting Roosters had been shut out and shut down by an opportunistic and aggressive Missouri defense all night long.
Setting the stage for an improbable comeback was the entry of the injured quarterback Connor Shaw midway in the third quarter. Shaw entered the game facing a 17 point deficit in a hostile environment that was set on a post-game championship party. After stopping Shaw on his initial series, the suddenly befuddled Tiger defense had no answer for the rest of the night as Shaw carved them up like a pumpkin on Halloween.
The electrifying and improbable double-overtime win by the Gamecocks finally came to a sudden and stunning end as the Missouri kicker had the ball hit the upright on the game-tying field goal. For a moment, it looked as if no one on the field grasped what had just played out in front of them; but after an awkward pause, the visiting South Carolina team erupted in an impromptu celebration and spoiled the planned Columbia coronation party.
Shaw engineered an unlikely and epic comeback and it should go down in all-time Gamecocks lore. Even the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier seemed to be struggling to describe it after the game. Shaw gave the Tigers the equivalent of a Missouri boat ride made famous by Clint Eastwood in the movie classic the Outlaw Josey Wales. The rope was cut, and now the SEC East is headed aimlessly downstream and suddenly again wide open.
There was a party in Columbia after all Saturday night; however, that party was hundreds of miles away in Columbia, South Carolina. Depending on what happens the rest of the way, there will likely be another party in Columbia, and the only question is which state will the celebration occur. Stay tuned for more.