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Published: Monday, 1/6/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Bowl victory caps Pinkel’s comeback

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Musings on a snowy — enough already! — Monday morning:

Pinkel Pinkel
AP Enlarge

Not many college coaches enjoyed a bowl win as much as Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. If you haven’t seen his locker room dance yet, look for the video online. Pinkel channeled his inner Michael Jackson as best a 61-year-old man can.

Mizzou beat Oklahoma State 41-31 in the Cotton Bowl on Friday to cap a 12-2 season and, most likely, a top-5 final national ranking.

It also capped quite a comeback for the former University of Toledo coach, who had a rough couple years with a divorce, an embarrassing and expensive drunken-driving episode, and a 5-7 record a year ago in the Tigers’ debut season in the rugged Southeastern Conference.

That was all as unlike Gary Pinkel as was his victory dance.

As the 2013 season began few were on a hotter seat.

The sense in Columbia, despite his considerable success with a long-suffering program, was that Pinkel’s tenure had run its course, perhaps become stale, and that free of the Big 12 his operation wasn’t good enough to compete with the high-level teams of the SEC.

Winning the SEC East crown and beating a Big 12 power in the Cotton Bowl gave Pinkel and his Tigers a last laugh.

The win also made Pinkel the winningest coach in Mizzou history. He is 102-63 in 13 seasons; Don Faurot won 101 games in 19 years and they named the stadium after him.

Pinkel, 73-37-3 in 10 years at Toledo, also goes in the books as part of a very select group of coaches — Bear Bryant is another member — to lead two different FBS-level schools in career victories.

All in all, it was a pretty good year and a pretty good comeback. Dance away, coach.

■ Many fans in these parts missed the Missouri game because it was played opposite the Orange Bowl featuring Ohio State and Clemson.

In that one, the Buckeyes lost when scoring 35 or more points for the first time in the history of the program. OSU has played a whole lot of games since 1890.

Clemson ran 76 plays and averaged 7.5 yards per play en route to a 40-35 victory.

Considering the season-long concern with the Buckeye defense, it is understandable that critics are calling into question the future of co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

In the final three games of the season — a shootout win over rival Michigan and consecutive losses to Michigan State and Clemson — OSU gave up more than 1,600 yards and 115 points.

It didn’t help that Bradley Roby missed the game with an injury, Joey Bosa was at less than his usual effectiveness with an ankle issue, and Noah Spence was suspended.

It exasperated already-existing depth problems and turned Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins loose on an endless series of bubble screens — misdirection plays have certainly been an OSU defensive weakness — that helped add up to 16 catches and 227 yards.

More than defense led to the OSU loss, for sure, but head coach Urban Meyer has a tough call to make on Fickell, who has been at Ohio State as a player or coach for most of the past two decades.

I don’t know if someone has to change, but something does. The Buckeyes’ defense must be better.

■ We won’t see many if any better, more incredible, or more unbelievable games during the NFL playoffs than the Colts’ comeback from a 38-10 second-half deficit to a 45-44 win over Kansas City.

It marked the third time the Chiefs have had their postseason hearts broken by the Colts through the years, from Lin Elliott’s three missed field goals in 1995 (his final game) to a shootout between Peyton Manning and K.C. running back Priest Holmes in a 2003 meeting that was the first no-punt game in playoff history.

Now, this Andrew Luck classic, the quarterback’s 10th fourth-quarter or overtime comeback win in just two seasons with Indy.

Enjoy the day off, kids.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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