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Missouri's 20 biggest wins, No. 19: Nebraska 1973

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Biggest ... best ... whatever we want to call it, here's part 2 of a look at the most significant games Missouri has won. Or something like that.

I still can't figure out what to call this, but I guess we'll keep going simply with Biggest Wins. A reminder: 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. Basically, it's an excuse to look at great wins, whatever we want to call it.

Win
Rank
Date Opponent Result Mizzou
Score
Opp.
Score
Mizzou
Percentile
Rk Opp.
Percentile
Rk Percentile
Sum
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

I've written about this one before, actually. Allow me to paraphrase/plagiarize myself.

When Mizzou lost 66-0 to Kansas State in 1999, did they come back and beat KSU in 2000? No. What about when the Tigers lost 77-0 to Oklahoma in 1986? No (though in both instances, to their credit, they came close). But in 1973, after losing to NU 62-0 the year before, they indeed came back to turn the tables the next season. And they did it in dramatic fashion.

With the previous year's loss still in memory, Mizzou came out fired up, but against the No. 2 Huskers, simply being emotional wasn't enough to get a lead. Nebraska kicked two first-quarter field goals to build a 6-0 advantage, but Mizzou struck back. Led in part by John Moseley's great kickoff returns, Mizzou won the field position battle in the second quarter, and despite the complete lack of a passing game -- for the game, Mizzou would complete two of 10 passes for 7 yards and an INT -- managed two field goals of its own. The always clutch Greg Hill booted three points through the uprights with 29 seconds left in the first half, and the 68,170 in attendance saw a 6-6 tie at halftime.

Whatever offense Missouri had managed in the first half, it came to a screeching halt in the second. Mizzou would manage just one first down in the final 30 minutes. But NU's offense was also spotty until late in the third quarter, when the Huskers drove 60 yards inside the Mizzou 5. On fourth-and-goal from the 2, the Husker's lined up for a chip-shot, go-ahead field goal, but Mizzou's Herris Butler shot through the line and blocked it. Still 6-6.

It was an intense afternoon, but as the clock began to run out in the fourth quarter, there was only a low-scoring tie to show for it. Meanwhile, the Mizzou offense simply had nothing. The Tigers' biggest weapon was their special teams play. It continued that way.

With under three minutes to play, Jim Goble lined up to punt to Nebraska. As he had all game, Goble uncorked a beautiful 50-yarder. Nebraska's Randy Borg retreated to field the punt, but the ball still surprised him a bit. He had to take another half-jump back to catch the ball, and with his timing off, he muffed it. All-American lineman Scott Anderson recovered for Mizzou at the NU 4, and with just 2:35 left, Mizzou was handed a golden opportunity.

All it took was two handoffs to backup fullback Tom Mulkey. Mulkey scored from a yard out, and with 2:03 left, Mizzou was suddenly up 13-6.

Nebraska responded, however. Sparked by the desperation of the moment, the Huskers needed just four plays to move 72 yards. With just under a minute left, Dave Humm found Ritch Bahe in traffic, and with two Mizzou defenders running into each other, Bahe lunged into the end zone for a 23-yard score.

Tom Osborne didn't hesitate. A tie would hurt NU almost as much as a loss would, so he was going for the win.

On the two-point conversion, the suddenly hot Humm took a step to his left and threw toward halfback Tony Davis, but Bob McRoberts and Tony Gillick were both in the vicinity, and Gillick pulled in the game-clinching INT. Mizzou had executed a 63-point turnaround from the previous meeting with Nebraska, and pulled off one of the biggest miracle wins in team history.

The win catapulted Mizzou to 5-0 and 7th in the country. But as was usually the case with Al Onofrio's teams, the Tigers misfired down the stretch, losing four of five to end the regular season and having to settle for a Sun Bowl bid with Auburn after entertaining Orange Bowl thoughts.

Still, there was a lot for a computer formula to like about this team. The Tigers not only beat Nebraska but beat No. 19 SMU by 10 on the road and beat Ole Miss, Virginia, North Carolina, and Auburn by an average score of 27-10.

Nebraska, meanwhile, had already whooped ranked UCLA and NC State teams and would thump Texas, 19-3, in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the season. The Huskers' only other loss was to an incredible Oklahoma squad, and they would finish seventh in the polls and fourth in Est. S&P+.

Next up: a win over Jimmy Johnson.