The Tigers (1-0) scored on a 100-yard fumble return and a 66-yard punt return and were up 37-13 late in the third quarter.
Illinois redshirt freshman quarterback Eddie McGee - in the game after starter Juice Williams left after a blow to the head in the second quarter - scored from 16 yards with 4:08 to play in the third quarter to cut the margin to 17.
This is Mizzou’s chance.
So I’m confident that even had Pig Brown not intercepted freshman backup Eddie McGee to seal that game with less than a minute left, even had Illinois scored a touchdown to go ahead by one, junior Chase Daniel would have found a way to move the ball downfield quickly and decisively and senior Jeff Wolfert would have nailed the game-winner. Because they had no other choice.
There was no way they could lose this game.
A loss would have represented a painful step backwards in the evolution of Missouri football. I’m not saying Illinois’ group of gifted young players didn’t want badly to win, but they certainly weren’t being dogged by the incessant, panicked feeling of not wanting to see a dream for which they have worked so long and hard slip away before it even got a chance to get going.
"I just wanted to come down with the ball and end the game for my teammates," said Missouri’s strong safety. "I just wanted to get the interception, get on the bus and have a great ride home."
It must have been the sweetest two-hour trip of Brown’s life, because Illinois backup quarterback Eddie McGee granted his wish. McGee, playing for injured starter Juice Williams, lofted a pass for Brian Gamble near the goal line but just off target enough for Brown to snatch it away. Brown’s first Missouri interception ended the Illini’s upset bid and put the final touches on the game’s most outstanding individual performance.
"He won it for us," said Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel a few minutes after the Tigers escaped the Edward Jones Dome with a 40-34 victory.
"I don’t think it does get any better," said Maclin, beaming as he relived the highlights with reporters afterward.
Especially not after his wait. Maclin appeared certain to play as a true freshman last year and was a good candidate to crack Missouri’s starting lineup.
That was until July 25, only 10 days before the start of fall practice, when Maclin ripped up the anterior cruciate and posterolateral ligaments in his right knee while running routes during a voluntary workout.His breakout freshman campaign never had a chance to happen. He had to undergo surgery and spent most of the season on the sidelines with a brace around his leg.
We present to you the 2007 Missouri football team, which is sure to bring you hours of entertainment this fall. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, it is necessary to remind you that this product is not for everyone.
The Tigers are not recommended to those with high blood pressure, anger-management issues or bladder-control problems. It might be wise to take your attention span elsewhere if you are prone to screaming things such as, "Would it kill you to take a snap under center from the 1-inch line?" or "Why would you go for a 2-point conversion now?" or "Could you run a little clock with a 24-point third-quarter lead?"
After yesterday’s season-opening 40-34 victory over Illinois at the Edward Jones Dome, I have a feeling there will be plenty more Saturdays in which the first team to 40 would be wise to score 10 more.