KANSAS CITY, Missouri — BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall first heard about the unrest on the Missouri campus last Sunday, and for about a day wondered whether their game at Arrowhead Stadium would even happen.
Mendenhall was glad it did. He just wasn't happy about the outcome.
Drew Lock threw for 244 yards and a go-ahead touchdown, the Tigers added another score later in the fourth quarter, and Missouri beat the Cougars 20-16 Saturday night to cap a tumultuous week that began with a boycott and included the resignation announcement of its coach.
"We really believed we would come here and win, and we thought we were going to win right up until the end," Mendenhall said, "so this loss stings."
Tanner Mangum also threw for 244 yards for the Cougars (7-3), hitting Francis Bernard with a short TD pass with 7:19 left to get within 20-16. But the Missouri defense stiffened the rest of the way, sealing a victory in a game that could have never happened.
The game was put in doubt last weekend when black players said they wouldn't practice or play until university system president Tim Wolfe left office. The team joined a student activist group that had been trying to get the president's attention for months over a series of racist events, and a graduate student, Jonathan Butler, who had started a hunger strike as part of the protest.
Not playing the game could have cost Missouri $1 million or more.
Wolfe ultimately resigned on Monday, and the tension began to subside by the end of the week, when it became clear that the game would go on as scheduled.
"Obviously we knew it was happening, but we weren't focused on it at all. We were just focused on our game plan and what we could control," Mangum said. "We knew they were going to come out with a lot of emotion and a lot of energy for their team, for their coach."
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who had stood by his striking players, announced Friday that he would step down at season's end. The winningest coach in Missouri history revealed he had been diagnosed with lymphoma in May, and had undergone several rounds of treatment over the summer.
It was against that backdrop that the Tigers headed down Interstate 70 to Arrowhead Stadium for their game against BYU, which had been riding a five-game winning streak.
The Cougars trailed a field goal-fest 6-3 at halftime, but they briefly pulled ahead late in the third quarter, after Lock's interception gave them good field position. Algernon Brown's 11-yard touchdown run made it 10-6, silencing a sparse but heavily pro-Missouri crowd.
Missouri answered with arguably its two most important touchdowns of the season.
The first came on Lock's go-ahead fade pass to Moore, who managed to get a foot down in the corner of the end zone early in the fourth quarter. It was the first TD pass thrown by the Tigers since Oct. 3 against South Carolina, a span of nearly five games.
On the ensuing offensive play, Mangum fumbled the ball while getting sacked. Moments later, Tyler Hunt barreled in from a yard out to give the Tigers a 20-10 lead — and give their beleaguered fans an opportunity to celebrate for the first time in weeks.
"It was emotional, for sure," Tigers linebacker Mike Scherer said. "We wanted to do it for coach. We wanted to do it for everything Columbia has been through, Mizzou has been through. We wanted to rally for each other, no matter our color, our race.
"Maybe," Scherer said, "the city of Columbia, Mizzou can rally the same way we did."
There were no protests or other incidents surrounding the game, though one fan was denied entry with a sign referencing "Concerned Student 1950" — the name of the activist group. A spokesman for the Chiefs said security made a mistake not letting the fan in.
Otherwise, the majority of signs referenced campus unity. And as the final minutes ticked off the clock, chants of "Gary Pinkel" began to rise from the Missouri fans still in the stands.
"I wasn't sure what was going to happen today," said Pinkel. "It's just very flattering. That's the biggest thing you're going to miss, the kids. That's what you do this for."
AP college football: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org