8. Football: Mizzou 38, Arkansas 7 (2007)
It was pretty easy to set up the commercials for the 2008 Cotton Bowl. McFadden! Daniel! Two Heisman finalists go head to head in what is destined to be an offensive shootout! The offensive weapons on the field were rather staggering -- Daniel, McFadden, Felix Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Martin Rucker, Peyton Hillis, Will Franklin ... the list went on and on. Ironic, then, that Tony Temple and William Moore would steal the show.
We remember this game as start-to-finish domination, but that wasn't necessarily the case. One of the major question marks heading into the Cotton Bowl was whether or not Mizzou would be pumped up to play after being passed up for a BCS bowl while two lower-ranked teams they had beaten snuck into the Orange and Rose Bowls. Consequently, Mizzou didn't exactly come out of the gates with guns blazing. As expected, Arkansas rode their big guns into Mizzou territory on the opening drive. McFadden, Jones and Hillis combined for 40 of the Razorbacks' 48 yards, and they advanced to Mizzou's 15 before Brock Christopher stuffed McFadden for a 3rd-down loss, and Hogs kicker Alex Tejada pushed a field goal wide right. Then, on Mizzou's first possession, two Temple carries garnered just five yards, and Mizzou advanced only 25 yards before punting.
After an Arkansas punt, however, Daniel found Will Franklin for back-to-back catches, and Temple raced 22 yards for a touchdown. Mizzou's 7-0 lead held up when Arkansas ran an ill-advised fake field goal punt on their next drive (ill-advised because they had already shown fake before calling timeout) and Stryker Sulak stopped it. After a handful of punts (this was not shaping up to be the shootout everybody expected), Mizzou took over at their 18 with under seven minutes left in the first half. Temple broke off a 22-yard run to the right, then a 38-yarder to the left, then scored from four yards out to give Mizzou a 14-0 lead. Arkansas missed another field goal, and at halftime, Mizzou led 14-0 despite the flow of the game suggesting a pretty even battle.
In the third quarter, however, Mizzou made their move. Jeremy Maclin, having a rather quiet game in Arkansas' "drop 17 guys into coverage" scheme, got a couple of nice gains, and runs of 19 and 9 by Temple got the ball to the Arkansas 4. On third-and-1, Temple plowed in for his third touchdown, and it was 21-0. After a trade of punts, it was William Moore's turn to take over. Felix Jones broke into the open for a 41-yard catch and run, but Moore stripped him from behind and Mizzou recovered. A little later, on a 2nd-and-15, Moore stepped in front of a Casey Dick pass tipped by Sean Weatherspoon and walked in for a 26-yard interception return. The rout was on.
Arkansas responded with a touchdown, but the only drama remaining in the game was whether Temple could make a run at Dicky Maegle's 54-year old Cotton Bowl rushing record. It didn't look promising, as Temple's hamstring had flared up, and he missed three straight possessions. But with 8:43 left in the fourth quarter, he begged his way back onto the field for one more chance at the record. And damned if he didn't get it the first time he touched the ball.
No matter how this game had ended up for Mizzou, the 2007 was one to remember. It was easily their best season since at least the 1970s, and it had resulted in Mizzou's first #1 ranking since 1960, even if it was just for one week. But after the second-half collapse against Oklahoma and the proceeding BCS bowl snub, the season was going to end up with a pretty big twinge of disappointment if Mizzou had gone down to Dallas and lost to a pretty low-rated Arkansas team. Razorback fans were ultra-confident in and around Dallas in the days before the game, and in the end, a lot more rode on this game than what I would have expected on the drive to Dallas. But no worries -- Mizzou came through in every way imaginable. Arkansas actually managed to limit Chase Daniel as well as any team had all season, selling out to stop the pass. But for one brief moment, Tony Temple lived up to every ounce of expectations set for him when he became (supposedly) the most highly-recruited player ever from Kansas City, running around and through Arkansas defenders for 281 yards and four touchdowns, and with a bum hamstring to boot. And that other running back? The Heisman finalist? Twenty-one carries for 105 yards, one of only four times all season he had run for less than 110 yards. Mizzou sacked Dick three times and forced five turnovers, making the big plays like they had all year, and thanks to the dominant win, Mizzou finished #4 in the AP poll. Missouri! Fourth! It was a celebratory end to a season that we will celebrate for a long time to come, and it was quite obviously a Top Ten moment.