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.
Almost three months after beating Georgia ... five weeks after beating Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel to clinch their first SEC East title ... four weeks after leading Auburn well into the third quarter before succumbing in the SEC title game (a national semifinal), Missouri played in one of its most important bowl games ever. And with basically every 2013 difference-maker making a key play, the Tigers won it.
History + Stats
This was a sloppy, anxious game between two former conference rivals (Missouri's stay in the Big 12 had ended barely two years earlier), one in which nothing whatsoever came easily. In the first quarter, Mizzou quarterback James Franklin completed just four of 16 passes for 33 yards and an interception. But a Mizzou interception by E.J. Gaines near midfield, along with a fourth-and-6 pass from Franklin to Jimmie Hunt, helped to set up a three-yard touchdown run by Henry Josey.
Oklahoma State responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive to tie the score at 7-7 heading into the second quarter. But Maty Mauk's insertion into the game livened the Tigers up. He ripped off runs of 35 and 34 yards, and he dropped in a 24-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Lucas to give Mizzou the lead once more.
Yeah, we've written about this one before
The Greatest, #70: 2014 Cotton Bowl
"This game was at times more tense than well-played, but the fourth quarter featured two old friends and heavyweights trading knockouts like a Rocky fight. And the ending made it Great."
Yeah, we've written about this one before
After a pair of OSU punts, Franklin briefly found a rhythm in the two-minute drill. He hit Bud Sasser for gains of 13 and eight, and he rushed 16 yards into field goal range. As the buzzer sounded on a tough first half, Andrew Baggett made a 35-yard field goal to make Mizzou's lead 17-7.
After halftime, the teams traded six punts, then traded turnovers. Mizzou's Braylon Webb intercepted Clint Chelf near midfield, then OSU's James Castleman recovered a fumble at the Mizzou 33.
OSU was in business, and a messy, frustrating third quarter gave way to a manic fourth. Chelf and Jhajuan Seales connected for a 21-yard touchdown, and after another Mizzou fumble early in the period, OSU's Ben Grogan made a 25-yard field goal to tie the game. And now the track meet was on.
- Franklin connected with L'Damian Washington for 18 yards, then rushed for 12 more to set up a gorgeous, 25-yard Henry Josey touchdown. 24-17 Mizzou.
- Chelf hit Tracy Moore for 22 and Brandon Sheperd for 11, then scored on a 23-yard scramble of his own. 24-24.
- After a penalty negated a Tyler Patmon interception, Franklin found Sasser for 14 and Lucas for 10, setting up a 46-yard Baggett bomb, one of the more underrated kicks of his career. 27-24.
- Chelf and Moore connected for 41 yards, then Chelf rushed for 16 to set up a rugged two-yard touchdown run by Desmond Roland. With 5:04 left, OSU had its first lead, 31-27.
Then came what might have been the drive of the season. After a 31-yard kick return by Marcus Murphy, Franklin found Lucas for 12 yards, then handed to Hansbrough for 13. On third-and-9 with 3:29 left, he found Dorial Green-Beckham for 27 yards. DGB otherwise had just three catches for 16 yards against OSU's nasty secondary, but this one was huge. On the next play, it was Josey again from 16 yards. Mizzou 34, OSU 31.
All period, it was looking like whoever had the ball last was going to win. And with only three minutes left, it looked like OSU would be that team. Mizzou immediately forced a fourth-and-7 from the OSU 28, but Chelf found Marcell Ateman for what felt like a devastating 23-yard gain. After two incompletions, Chelf then ran for 23 yards and another first down. After a three-yard run by Roland and an incomplete pass, OSU faced third-and-7 from the Mizzou 23. At this point, Mizzou fans were begging for a field goal and overtime.
Michael Sam had other ideas. The SEC defensive player of the year, working through a mostly quiet day, waited until just the right moment to make the biggest sack of his career.
OSU drove into Mizzou territory one last time in the dying seconds, but Sam's strip and Shane Ray's touchdown gave the Tigers the cushion they needed. Three forgettable quarters were erased by one of the most incredible quarters in Missouri history, and Mizzou wrapped up a 12-2 regular season and Gary Pinkel's second top-five finish with a 41-31 win.
Highlights above. Full game here.