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December 29, 2010
TEMPE, AZ--Within minutes of Missouri's heart-wrenching 27-24 loss to Iowa, the questions focused on the future for two Tigers. Aldon Smith and Blaine Gabbert will both weigh their decisions whether to return to Missouri or enter the NFL Draft next season.
"I don't even know when the deadline is," Smith said.
Informed it was January 15th, the redshirt sophomore said, "I guess we'll know on the 15th then."
Gabbert also wasn't tipping his hand.
"Everything is going to be evaluated after the season," said the junior quarterback. "We haven't heard any results back. We will address that situation when it arises."
If this was Gabbert's last game as a Tiger, he left a positive impression. He completed 41 of 57 passes for 434 yards, all season highs.
"This is one of the best games I've seen him put together," Smith said of Gabbert. "He was on fire. He made a mistake, that's all."
Ultimately, it is that mistake many will remember. Gabbert scrambled left and lofted a pass in the direction of Wes Kemp, who the quarterback thought was going to release down the field. Instead, Kemp had turned back to block as it appeared he thought the quarterback would run. Gabbert's pass went straight to Iowa's Micah Hyde, who returned it 72 yards for a touchdown that gave the Hawkeyes the winning points.
"I just got greedy and I forced it," Gabbert said. "I should have thrown that ball away."
"That sucks," Smith said of the focus on the interception. "People focus so much on the bad stuff that you do and don't see some of the good. But I know they saw something today. They had to see something. All the great plays that he made with his feet and his arm, if they didn't see that then, you know, they're blind."
Ultimately, Gabbert came up one play short and so did Missouri's comeback bid when a pass to T.J. Moe was overturned and ruled incomplete on replay.
"One play is not going to decide a football game. He also made a lot of great plays," Gary Pinkel said. "You look at that one, but I thought he played remarkably well."
Was it well enough that he will leave Missouri after three seasons? He said no decision has been made. Pinkel didn't want to talk much about that possibility after the game.
"What I want is I always just want the best for my players," Pinkel said. "The information, and what I add to it is how I would counsel my son."
Both Gabbert and Smith admitted the prospects for next year's Missouri team could figure into their decisions. The Tigers bring back 21 of the 22 players on the offensive two-deep if Gabbert returns. Adding five-star prospect Sheldon Richardson to Smith, the Tigers could feature one of America's best defensive lines next season.
"That means everything," Smith said. "These are my friends, these are my family. Everything gets so weird after that last game, all the emotions, everything. Blaine, my friends, everything's going to have an impact on my decision."
"We're gonna have one hell of a football team. I can tell you that right now," Gabbert said. "People should watch out for us next year because we've got a lot of guys coming back and we're hungry."
The only question now is if Gabbert and Smith are two of those guys.
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