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.
From the standpoint of pure stature, this game took a hit because of Georgia's eventual 8-5 record. The Bulldogs were snakebitten by injuries (even by 2010s UGA standards) and lost five games by five or fewer points, all to teams that won at least nine games. A slightly lighter schedule and/or a couple more breaks could have made this a 10-2 or 11-1 team.
But never mind year-end computer ratings and whatnot -- in the present tense, there was no doubting how significant this game was. Before this game, Missouri fans were suspecting that their team was pretty good. And after 60 minutes in Athens, it was time to start dreaming big about where 2013 might be headed.
History + Stats
So far every game in this series has been at least 30 years old, which meant I felt the need to walk through how the game unfolded, why it was important, etc. I don't really think that's necessary here. We all remember this game.
Instead, I'll just ask what your favorite moment was. The list of candidates is immense.
1. Down 7-0 after a couple of iffy offensive possessions, Mizzou ties the game with a perfect nine-play, 79-yard drive. James Franklin completes passes to Bud Sasser, Marcus Lucas, and L'Damian Washington, then closes the drive with a five-yard score.
2. After a Georgia three-and-out, Mizzou takes over near midfield, then takes a 14-7 lead thanks to two passes to Washington -- a 17-yarder on second-and-8, and a 16-yard touchdown strike.
3. The Tigers extend the lead to 21-10 on one of Marcus Murphy's shiftiest runs, a 36-yard score in which he spent about 20 yards trying to maintain his balance but still running too fast for a Georgia defender to catch him.
4. On the next play after Murphy's score, Shane Ray sacks and strips Aaron Murray, and Michael Sam recovers the ball and rumbles 21 yards for a touchdown and a sudden 28-10 lead.
5. With Georgia driving in response, Lucas Vincent forces a fumble at the Mizzou 7, and Markus Golden recovers. The first half clock runs out with Mizzou up 18.
6. The third quarter completely belongs to Georgia. Mizzou punts three times, Georgia scores twice, and with 15 minutes left it's 28-20 with the Dawgs driving. They score six plays into the final period, but the two-point conversion falls incomplete, and Mizzou still leads, 28-26.
7. James Franklin separates his shoulder, and everything appears to be falling apart. But Maty Mauk enters the game, gains six yards on a third-and-6 run, then sets up a perfectly timed trick play: A double pass from Mauk to Sasser to Washington in the end zone. It's called Colt 45, and despite a missed PAT, it extends the lead to 34-26.
8. It's still a one-possession game, but Markus Golden sacks Murray on third down to end one drive, then Randy Ponder picks Murray off on the next. Ponder's return sets Mizzou up at the Georgia 33, and after a 20-yard pass from Mauk to Dorial Green-Beckham, Henry Josey dives in from seven yards out. 41-26. Ballgame.
9. Kentrell Brothers picks off a pass with under a minute left to seal the deal. Mizzou moves to 6-0.
10. Here's the amazing postgame locker room celebration.
The number of players you have to mention to properly tell the story of this game is surreal. And in none of the 'highlights' above did I mention perhaps the best player in the entire game: Andrew Wilson.
I'm really happy for Kentrell Brothers in being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. He's been great for Missouri this year -- as great as I hoped he'd be, and my expectations were pretty high. That he's a sophomore makes it all the better. But he really was the second-best Missouri linebacker on the field on Saturday.
This really might have been Andrew Wilson's best game. His stat line was fine (four solo tackles, seven assists, 0.5 tackles for loss, and a break-up), but that only tells part of the story. One of those tackles came after he straight stood up Georgia's great fullback, Quayvon Hicks. Another came as he met Hicks one-on-one on third-and-1 and knocked him straight to the ground. [...]
Mizzou's defense is predicated on bending, then making plays with its collective back near the goal line. Wilson was involved in a good number of drive-killing plays.
And seriously, you have to be a man to do what Wilson did to Hicks on those plays. My goodness. Grown man football.
I probably don't have to tell you how the rest of this season unfolded. Mizzou returned home, and in Maty Mauk's first start the Tigers thumped No. 22 Florida, 36-17. They slipped up in overtime against South Carolina but won out from there, clinching their first SEC East title with a 28-21 win over Texas A&M two days after Thanksgiving. They led Auburn late in the third quarter in Atlanta but faded late, then took down Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl to finish 12-2 and fourth in the polls.
With so many great personal stories and so many larger-than-life characters, this season will forever be one of the most memorable and emotional in Missouri's history. And for all intents and purposes, it began on October 12 in Athens.