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.
In its previous two games, MIzzou had walloped Nebraska at home, then traveled to Yankee Stadium to throw over and run through NYU. Faurot's first great Tiger squad needed to get past an awesome Oklahoma team to secure a Big 6 title.
History + Stats
I've written about this one before, but let's set the table. This was Don Faurot's fifth season at Mizzou; since taking over after the miserable Frank Carideo era (three years, two wins), he had immdiately restored some semblance of competence, going 12-11-5 in his first three years, then managing a 6-3 step forward with sophomore Paul Christman in 1938.
The Tigers expected to be good in 1939, but after a slow start that featured a loss at Ohio State and a 9-7 slog over Kansas State, they reached a cruising altitude a lot higher than anticipated. When OU came to town, the Tigers had won five games in a row, outscoring Iowa State, NU, and NYU by a combined 68-26.
OU wasn't so bad itself. Tom Stidham's Sooners had finished the 1938 regular season 10-0 (scoring margin: 185-12) before falling to a spectacular Tennessee team in the Orange Bowl and came to Columbia 6-0-1, dinged only by a tie against SMU. They hadn't lost a regular season game for two years and one month. Their defense wasn't quite as sharp as it had been the year before, but their offense was even better.
A top-five Sooner team against a Mizzou squad ranked for the first time. This was a huge game.
Mizzou was welcomed home after the NYU win at the Wabash train station by a large crowd and a brass band. And now they had to refocus again because OU was coming to town. According to Bob Broeg, "Missouri's business manager of athletics, Virgil Spurling, estimated he could have sold 50,000 tickets for a game that drew an overflowing 26,500, then the largest number to see a football game in the state."
Ever since a respectable season-opening tie against SMU, Oklahoma had plowed through the rest of its schedule. The Sooners whooped Texas in Dallas (24-12), destroyed Kansas (27-7), OSU (41-0) and Iowa State (38-6), and crept by a game Kansas State team (13-10) in Manhattan the week before.
With the relatively weak schedule, OU had actually dropped from No. 3 to No. 5 over the last month, but the Sooners would have every chance in the world to impress voters by finishing up with road trips to Columbia and Lincoln. They were not going to roll over for Mizzou in what was potentially the biggest game in Tiger history at that point.
A wet day in late-November led to a bruising, sloppy game that would be determined almost entirely by special teams. Whereas NYU had talked a big game the week before about stopping Paul Christman, the Sooners didn't talk about it -- they just went out and did it. In front of a hostile, standing-room-only, Homecoming crowd, the Sooners hit Christman often, and on a slick field with a slick ball, Pitchin' Paul just didn't have much to work with. He would end the day going only 7-for-15 for 39 yards. He did manage to rush for 49 yards -- overall, Mizzou outrushed OU, 157-148 -- and nail a couple nice punts, but finding any room to maneuver offensively was tough for Mizzou on this day.
Special Teams Event #1: In the third quarter of a scoreless game, an outstanding 54-yard coffin-corner punt by Ron King pinned OU at the 6.
Special Teams Event #2: On the resulting series, OU went three-and-out and lined up to punt. Charley Moser came off the line untouched and got a hand on the punt, which went straight up into the air. From Broeg:
The blocked punt went straight up. Players of both sides converged under it in a tableau caught by a cameraman whose enlarged photograph, floor to ceiling, animated Don Faurot's den for years.
There, you could see it, the strained look of the players crouched to leap. When the ball came down, it was the athlete with the talent and timing of a basketball rebounder, Bob Orf, who leaped at the right moment to grab the ball and go down under a pile-up of muddied gold and dirty red jerseys.
Special Teams Event #3: Ron King made the PAT, never a given in 1939. 7-0 Mizzou.
Special Teams Event #4: In the fourth quarter, OU's offense finally got rolling. They drove 76 yards for a score, capped by a 15-yard pass from Jack Jacobs to J.S. Munsey. Dick Favor, however, missed the PAT. 7-6 Mizzou.
Special Teams Event #5: A poor QB-center exchange -- remember, it was a really wet day -- led to a late Mizzou fumble near midfield. OU drove inside the Mizzou 20 and lined up for a field goal, but once again the slippery snap was mishandled. OU fumbled, and Mizzou recovered. OU was able to mount one more try, driving inside Mizzou's 40. But four Jacobs passes were batted down, one by the margin of Paul Christman's fingernails, and Mizzou held on for the win.
In all, the stats did not favor Mizzou. First downs: OU 12, MU 7. Total yards: OU 225, MU 196. Christman and the Mizzou offense did next to nothing, but in dicey playing conditions, Mizzou made the plays that mattered. A special teams unit that hadn't proven itself amazingly well thus far in the season, came through when it counted, and Mizzou was 4-0 in conference, all but clinching its very first Big Six title.