The Missouri Tigers suffered a potentially devastating loss on Saturday night, at home, to the South Carolina Gamecocks. After leading 17-0 heading to the fourth quarter, the Tigers allowed South Carolina to rally and tie the game with just 42 seconds left in regulation.
After trading touchdowns with South Carolina in the first overtime, Missouri lost in the second extra period when kicker Andrew Baggett hit the left upright when trying to tie the game at 27.
This loss was a difficult one for Missouri to swallow. The Tigers dominated most of the game behind quality play from quarterback Maty Mauk, running back Henry Josey, wide receiver Marcus Lucas and defensive end Michael Sam. However, it was South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw that stole the show in the end, coming off the bench to lead the Gamecocks to victory.
Missouri now faces a crossroads in its season. The Tigers, who were picked to finish sixth in the Southeastern Conference‘s Eastern Division in the preseason, can bounce back and continue what has been a great 2013 season. Or, they can let this loss linger, which will result in more losses down the line.
The schedule for the Tigers is not brutal down the stretch, but it is challenging. Missouri hosts the Tennessee Volunteers this weekend, followed by a trip to Lexington to battle the Kentucky Wildcats.
After a week off, Mizzou visits the Ole Miss Rebels before hosting the Texas A&M Aggies to close out the regular season. All four of these games are winnable for Missouri, especially with quarterback James Franklin returning at some point in the near future. The challenge for Gary Pinkel and his staff is to not let one loss linger and crash what could be a special season.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.