Nightmare twist to a dream season

Call this the morning after the morning after.

Aspirin just doesn't do much for this headache.

On Monday, the Missouri Tigers and their fans were still trying to digest what happened Saturday night, when Missouri blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter in a 27-24 double-overtime loss to South Carolina.

"One game, one loss, won't define our season," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "What will define us is how we deal with it. Our guys are certainly frustrated and disappointed, and they should be. It stings, it hurts.

"They are competitors and we will have to bounce back from this."

But "this" was certainly a nightmare twist for a dream season.

You can't blame one area for this meltdown, it was all three. The only one not to blame in a Tiger uniform is Truman.

* The offense had just 38 total yards in the fourth quarter. Matty Mauk finished 10-of-25 for 249 yards --- but 96 of those came on a catch-and-run by L'Damian Washington.

Do you miss James Franklin yet?

* The defense surrendered 177 total yards in the fourth, not to mention 17 points. And in the first overtime, it gave up a touchdown on 4th-and-goal --- from the 15. A stop there and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

"Certainly," Pinkel said, "that was a big play."

Ya think?

* And the special teams ... well, they weren't very special. Andrew Baggett --- who tied a school record by making five field goals last week --- missed from 46 yards in the fourth, breaking his string of nine straight makes. And of course, he doinked one off the left upright in the second overtime to end it.

From 24 yards. Or basically an extra point.

Definition of obstruction: 1. One that obstructs 2. An obstacle.

For the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night, the obstruction was Will Middlebrooks. For the Tigers, it was the left upright.

This ill-gotten boot didn't necessarily cost the Tigers a win, but it certainly guaranteed them a loss.

"It is his job, it is his responsibility," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "But there were other plays; there were plays you can look back and get a first down here, a third-down completion here ... that type of thing through the entire game.

"So it's not one guy here, we all could have done something different."

The Tigers (7-1, 3-1) are now ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, No. 9 in the BCS. They were No. 5 in both last week. And with a win, Missouri would have maintained its two-game lead in the SEC East and had a three-game lead over South Carolina.

Instead, the lead is just one game over South Carolina (6-2, 4-2), which obviously holds the tiebreaker.

The Gamecocks have just two SEC games left, both at home against Mississippi State and Florida. The Tigers still have home games against Tennessee (6 p.m., Saturday) and Texas A&M, and road games at Kentucky and Ole Miss.

So if South Carolina wins its final two games and Missouri loses just one of those four ... well, you know. Don't make your reservations to Atlanta just yet.

"There's still a lot out there for this football team," Pinkel said.

Pinkel has a 24-hour rule.

"What the 24-rule is that it doesn't matter if you win or lose," he said, "you deal with it and you move on. If you hang on to a loss or you hang on to a victory, it's not good."

Easier said than done. Because this one "stings."

And it will stick with the Tigers and their fans for a lot longer than 24 hours.

Pass the aspirin.