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Missouri's 20 biggest wins, No. 18: Oklahoma State 1983

The Savitar

Once more: This is a look at 20 games in which a) the combined quality of Missouri and its opponent was really, really high (they're ranked in order of combined S&P+ percentile ratings), and b) Mizzou won.

We take a trip back to 1983 for a game between two awesome teams with shaky records.

Date Opponent Result Mizzou
Rk Opp.
Rk Percentile
18 11/12/83 Oklahoma State W 16 10 0.921 10 0.914 12 1.835
19 10/13/73 Nebraska W 13 12 0.851 21 0.975 4 1.826
20 11/5/83 Oklahoma W 10 0 0.921 10 0.893 14 1.814

The 1983 season was a what-if year for both Missouri and Oklahoma State. While Nebraska was awesome, Oklahoma's season had fallen apart (by OU standards) with the drama surrounding Marcus Dupree's departure and a couple of close losses. The Sooners were unranked following a loss in Columbia, and there was a power vaccuum when it came to that No. 2 spot in the conference.

Missouri had the defense to fill that spot, but the Tigers had suffered frustrating losses to Wisconsin and ECU (and was about to suffer another one at Kansas). Oklahoma State had whooped Texas A&M in College Station and, incredibly, lost to Nebraska by just four points, 14-10. (They lost to OU by one the week after NU.) The Cowboys were on the verge of being ranked but suffered an inexplicable one-point loss to Kansas State the week before their trip to Columbia.

Another roll of the dice could have resulted in incredible seasons for either or both of these teams. They had the components -- Mizzou had its best defense in ages and an offense that was inconsitent but explosive. OSU also had the defense under fifth-year head coach Jimmy Johnson, holding Nebraska to 14 points and not allowing more than 21 points in a game all year. The 'Pokes also had Ernest Anderson, 1982's leading rusher who was battling injuries all year: After rushing for 1,877 yards a year earlier, he managed just 631 in 1983. What if, what if, what if.

Two desperate teams took the field on November 12, 1983. A strong finish for either would result in a bowl game; in the end, both would make it: Mizzou played BYU in an epic Holiday Bowl, and OSU beat No. 20 Baylor in the Bluebonnet Bowl. But they didn't know that at the time.

In front of 41,459 in soggy, chilly conditions in Columbia, OSU seized control early. Harry Roberts returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, and after an interception set OSU up near midfield, the Cowboys took a 10-0 lead on a 25-yard Larry Roach field goal. Considering how good OSU's defense was, a 10-point deficit probably felt like 20.

Mizzou fired back immediately, though. Marlon Adler capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive with a shot to George Shorthose for 23 yards and a touchdown. A few minutes later, Adler hit Shorthose again down the sideline for a 41-yard score. Despite a missed PAT, the Tigers held a 13-10 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, Brad Burditt added a 23-yard field goal to put the Tigers up six. But the missed PAT loomed large. After stifling OSU's offense for much of the game, Mizzou allowed the 'Pokes hope late. OSU drove 62 yards inside Mizzou's 25 in the closing minutes.

On first down from the Mizzou 22, Mizzou stuffed Anderson for no gain, but on third-and-long, quarterback Ike Jackson found a wide open Malcolm Lewis inside the 10. But Lewis ran before he had the ball; he dropped the big strike, setting up a fourth down. And on OSU's last-gasp hope, Jay Wilson (father of recent Mizzou linebacker Andrew) hit Jackson as he was throwing, and the ball fluttered incomplete. Final score: Mizzou 16, OSU 10.

The stats pointed to a comfortable Mizzou win: The Tigers outgained the Cowboys by 104 yards (357 to 253). But the early turnover, the return touchdown, and the late drive put this one very much in doubt.

It was a redemption game for Shorthose. The junior from Jefferson City had struggled to live up to the star-recruit status he was given in 1980. Through his freshman and sophomore campaigns, he had managed just 245 receiving yards and 357 rushing yards, but he had five for 113 against OSU. He would finish the season with 32 catches and 483 yards before breaking out even further (33 for 601) as a senior in 1984.

It's a good thing, too, because Mizzou knew it didn't have the pieces to run the ball effectively. Adler's 11-for-20 performance, with 208 yards, two scores, and two picks, was vital. (Adler also pinned OSU inside its 5-yard line twice with punts.) OSU, meanwhile, got 114 yards from Ernest Anderson, but Jackson was just 13-for-25 for 98 yards and an interception.

Back-to-back wins over Oklahoma and Oklahoma State moved Missouri back into the AP top 20. This being the what-if season it was, however, the Tigers would fall right back out of the polls with a 37-27 loss at Kansas. On paper, this was a strong, occasionally brilliant team. In reality, it doesn't always play out like it should on paper.

Mizzou finished just 7-5, OSU 8-4. But the teams' fortunes would take a sharp turn the next year. The Tigers lost a ton of close games thanks to a rebuilt defense, and Warren Powers was fired, setting in motion a couple of hires (Woody Widenhofer, Bob Stull) that exposed Mizzou's crumbling football foundation.

OSU, meanwhile, lost Johnson to Miami but replaced him with assistant Pat Jones, who led the Cowboys to three 10-win seasons in five years before running afoul of the NCAA.