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Missouri's 20 biggest wins, No. 12: Tigers 19, Air Force 17 (1969)

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.

After a few predictably awesome wins, one comes in out of left field.

Date Opponent Result Mizzou
Rk Opp.
Rk Percentile
12 9/20/69 Air Force W 19 17 0.955 4 0.896 18 1.851
13 11/18/39 Oklahoma W 7 6 0.913 15 0.936 9 1.849
14 11/28/14 Arkansas W 21 14 0.868 23 0.976 5 1.844
15 10/12/13 Georgia W 41 26 0.935 6 0.907 11 1.842
16 10/4/69 Michigan W 40 17 0.955 4 0.882 20 1.838
17 10/5/68 Army W 7 3 0.930 7 0.905 13 1.835
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

Following a No. 9 finish in 1968, Mizzou expected big things in 1969. And the Tigers would eventually accomplish exactly that. But the train nearly derailed from the start of the season, when an Air Force team far better than one might have expected visited Columbia and nearly left with a win.

Air Force went just 6-4 as an independent in 1969, but don't let that fool you. The Falcons had beaten SMU the week before the trip to Mizzou and would go on to beat Oregon and Colorado by a combined 88-20 and spend four weeks ranked in the AP poll. They finished the season with a competitive 47-34 loss at No. 13 Stanford and a VERY competitive 13-6 loss at No. 8 Notre Dame.

Early on, it looked like Mizzou might pretty easily avoid the upset bug in front of 55,000 at Faurot Field. Air Force began the scoring with a 14-yard pick six, but Mizzou responded with four second-quarter scores; unfortunately, three of them were Henry Brown field goals, so Mizzou led only 16-7 at halftime despite a yardage advantage of 289-84.

The lead was still 16-10 late in the game. An 82-yard Jon Staggers punt return score had been called back because of a clipping penalty, and Mizzou had failed to capitalize after recovering a fumble in Air Force territory -- they fumbled the ball right back a few plays later.

Then, with just 1:27 left, disaster struck. Brown had just missed a 33-yard field goal that would have put the game away, and down to its last gasp, Air Force found a miracle: On fourth-and-21 from the AFA 20, Gary Baxter rolled out and connected with Mike Bolen on a 59-yard bomb. Two plays later, he lobbed the ball to end Charley Longnecker, who overpowered Mizzou's Butch Davis to get into the end zone.

In control for most of the game, Mizzou suddenly trailed, 17-16, with just 32 seconds left.

Then came Miracle No. 2: Mizzou's Terry McMillan dropped back and found sophomore reserve John Henley on a 56-yard heave. Two short run plays set Brown up with a 33-yard attempt, and despite a solid crosswind, Brown nailed the kick. Mizzou picked off Air Force's final desperation heave and survived.

In 2010, the Moe Miracle against San Diego State helped Mizzou to avoid an early-season stumble and helped to prompt a run to 10 wins. Forty-one years early, a similar miracle pass -- which you can watch at the 30-second mark of this video-- moved Mizzou to 1-0; maybe the Tigers would have gone on to beat Michigan and win the Big Ten even with a loss -- Devine teams made a habit of starting slowly and picking up steam throughout a given season. Luckily, they didn't have to find out.