October 29, 2011: Mizzou 38, Texas A&M 31
Texas A&M made a habit of blowing fourth-quarter leads in 2011, and Missouri was more than happy to oblige. After a thunderous 20-yard touchdown run by James Franklin gave the Tigers an early lead, A&M would go on a 28-7 run before Trey Barrow finished the first half with a 26-yard field goal. A scoreless third quarter meant that the Tigers headed into the fourth quarter down 11 points.
When James Franklin was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the A&M 43 early in the fourth, it felt like Mizzou had wasted a chance to crawl back into the game. But with A&M driving, dagger in hand, Randy Ponder picked off Ryan Tannehill and returned the ball 45 yards to the A&M 30. Henry Josey carried twice for 22 yards, and Franklin took the ball in from eight yards out to make it 28-24. After an A&M punt, Josey went 43 yards to the A&M 36, and Franklin carried another 13 yards on the next play. Three plays later, Josey scored from 11 yards out, and with 7:38 remaining, Mizzou suddenly had a 31-28 lead.
A&M would tie the game with a 31-yard field goal, and after a Mizzou punt, the Aggies drove the ball to the Mizzou 42 with 32 seconds left. In need of a few more yards to get into field goal range, however, Tannehill was sacked by Jacquies Smith and fumbled. Dominique Hamilton recovered, and after two quick passes, Mizzou was in position for a 46-yard field goal at the buzzer. Wide right. Overtime.
Mizzou took the ball first and quickly got a first down. But the Tigers stalled and faced a third-and-8 from the A&M 11; enter sophomore Marcus Lucas, whose fade-route touchdown gave Mizzou a 38-31 lead. On A&M's possession, Brayden Burnett and Sheldon Richardson stopped Ryan Swope on a third-down end-around, and Hamlton batted down a fourth-down pass. Ball game.
November 19, 2011: Mizzou 31, Texas Tech 27
Technically, this one wasn't a Gary Pinkel comeback.
November 2011 will be remembered mostly for the announcement that Mizzou was moving to the SEC. But the month also featured one of the most tumultuous weeks of Gary Pinkel's career.
On the evening of November 16, four days after Missouri's win over Texas, Pinkel had two "jumbo" glasses of wine and got pulled over and issued a DWI. He was suspended for the Texas Tech game, and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel took over as interim coach. And Missouri proceeded to fall behind, 14-0.
Mizzou finally got on the board when James Franklin capped a 90-yard drive with a five-yard score, and Trey Barrow hit a 39-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer to cut Tech's lead to 17-10. But the Red Raiders scored on their opening drive of the second half and led, 20-10, with just 20 minutes remaining. Missouri scored on a short Michael Egnew reception, but Tech immediately responded with a touchdown of its own, and the score was 27-17 heading into the final quarter.
Even in the fourth quarter, it was a slog. A 32-yard pass from Franklin to Wes Kemp led to a short Marcus Lucas touchdown, and the Tigers made it 27-24. Tech went three-and-out, but Mizzou had to punt the ball right back. Tech went four-and-out, however, and Mizzou got another shot with six minutes left. Franklin hit Lucas for gains of 13 and 22 yards, then rushed for 19 yards to the Tech 21. He plowed forward for four yards on third-and-2, then scored from nine yards out. Mizzou 31, Teech 27, 2:22 left.
Ballgame, right? Not so much. Seth Doege found Eric Ward for 17 yards on third-and-9, then hit Darrin Moore for 23 yards. Three short passes and two runs gave Tech second-and-6 from the Mizzou 7 with 37 seconds remaining. But Dominique Hamilton, defensive hero of the A&M game, deflected a Doege pass at the line, Michael Sam snared the interception at the Mizzou 4, and Dave Steckel moved to 1-0 all-time as Missouri's head coach.
November 10, 2012: Mizzou 51, Tennessee 48
The 2012 season was one of the most frustrating campaigns in recent Mizzou history, not only because of the losing record, but because of everything it took to earn that losing record. The offensive line was crushed by injuries. Dorial Green-Beckham was suspended against Vanderbilt in a game in which Missouri needed one more big offensive play. Sheldon Richardson was suspended against Syracuse in a game in which Missouri needed one more big defensive play. Missouri made its SEC debut, led Georgia in the third quarter of the SEC opener, and all but fell apart over the final ~7 conference games.
But there was still the November 10 trip to Knoxville. It didn't lead Mizzou to higher heights, as the Tigers would lose their final two games and finish 5-7. But Mizzou needed something positive to remember from 2012, and the Tigers delivered it against Tennessee. Eventually.
In the early going, it appeared that an explosive, flawed Tennessee team would pull away with this one. Up man Jimmie Hunt retuned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, and that was the only scoring Mizzou would manage in the first 30 minutes. Tennessee led, 21-7, and it could have been a lot worse if not for Mizzou recovering a fumble inside its 10 and UT missing a 42-yard field goal.
James Franklin, still recovering from a knee injury, completed just two of eight first-half passes for 18 yards and took a six-yard sack. That's nine pass attempts for 12 yards. Total first-half yardage: Tennessee 384, Missouri 64.
But if you let an opponent hang around for long enough without putting the game away, the opponent might eventually come to life. On the first play of the second half, Kendial Lawrence raced 77 yards for a touchdown. Tennessee would go back up, 28-14, but Lawrence capped a 65-yard drive with a one-yard score to make it 28-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Missouri blew a series of second-half opportunities -- the Tigers got to the UT 37 but lost a fumble, they got to the UT 46 but punted, they got to their own 43 and punted -- but Tennessee's offense had completely dried up as well. With 4:43 left, Mizzou got the ball back at the 24 and started matriculating. Franklin hobbled 23 yards to the Vols' 41, then found Marcus Lucas on a beautiful, desperate fourth-and-9 pass to keep the drive alive. After three rushes lost five yards, however, Franklin had to create some more fourth-down magic. He did just that, hitting DGB in the front corner of the end zone with 47 seconds left. 28-28. Overtime.
Missouri's offense went from horrible to solid to unstoppable over the course of 60 minutes and change. Franklin found Jimmie Hunt for a 24-yard touchdown in overtime, but Tennessee responded with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Bray to Rajion Neal. UT utilized a fake field goal to score from five yards out in the second overtime, but Franklin hit Lucas for an 18-yard score on third-and-three to respond. DGB scored from 10 yards out in the third overtime, and Mizzou missed the mandatory two-point conversion; Tennessee responded with a 13-yard strike from Bray to Justin Hunter and ALSO missed the two-pointer.
In the fourth overtime, however, Mizzou seized control. Tennessee faced a fourth-and-3 from the Mizzou 18, and with a shaky place-kicker and a defense that hadn't stopped Missouri in quite a while, head coach Derek Dooley elected to go for it instead of attempting a field goal. Ian Simon broke up a short pass to Zach Rogers, however, and Mizzou needed only a field goal to win. Three rushes gained seven yards, and redshirt freshman Andrew Baggett trotted onto the field for a 35-yarder. He hit it pure, and Mizzou escaped Knoxville with a signature win.
January 3, 2014: Mizzou 41, Oklahoma State 31
Sure, there were moments of trepidation. Mizzou was threatened by Toledo in the second half, briefly trailed Arkansas State by three, lost most of a big lead and then got it back against Georgia, trailed Texas A&M by seven in the third quarter, et cetera. But for the most part, the Tigers' 2013 season was defined as much by a lack of comebacks -- a lack of a need for them, that is -- as a propensity for clutch, late play. Whereas seemingly every win in 2010 required a rally, Mizzou's 2013 campaign didn't require nearly as many.
Still, just for the sake of reliving it one last time, we'll point out that Missouri trailed Oklahoma State, 31-27, with five minutes left in the Cotton Bowl. Take it away, Mike Kelly.
September 27, 2014: Mizzou 21, South Carolina 20
Fifty-three minutes of frustrating, humbling, anxious football ... and seven minutes of near-perfection.