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Missouri wasn’t looking for a moral victory in Norman in 2007 but found one

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The Tigers led after three quarters but couldn’t overcome some Sooner Magic in the fourth.

Missouri Tigers v  Oklahoma Sooners Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

During the “Mizzou That’s Who” documentary — a celebration of Missouri’s 2007 season — that recently aired on the SEC Network, the Tigers’ mid-October loss to Oklahoma was given, shall we say, scant attention. It was basically “We lost, but it showed we could compete, anyway, moving on.”

But that was basically the impression, wasn’t it? In retrospect, the loss cost Mizzou nothing; the Tigers still won the Big 12 North and still reached No. 1 in the BCS standings. I guess you could note that, had there been a College Football Playoff in 2007, a 12-1 Missouri that split two games with Oklahoma might have been a good candidate for a bid. But the CFP didn’t exist. This game was a blip.

It was fun as hell, though, at least for 45 minutes.

I basically felt like a spy watching this game. My best friend from high school had a brother who walked on at OU; he had family section tickets, and my wife and I got to attend the game with those tickets. The catch was, I couldn’t really look like a Mizzou fan. So I donned an OU shirt atop my Mizzou shirt and tried as hard as I could not to cheer when bad things happened to the home team.

As conflicted as I felt about this, the seats gave me a vantage point to something I hadn’t witnessed before: fear from OU fans. Of course, at Owen Field, that fear was put to good use.

I will always attest that the crowd caused the fumble that changed the game. Oklahoma had just taken a 29-24 lead early in the fourth quarter, and Mizzou took the ball at its 20. On second-and-10, Jeremy Maclin went in motion to take a jet sweep; he had already scored twice on similar plays that day, and it had been one of Mizzou’s most effective weapons over the first half of the season.

The problem was that he thought it was a fake and didn’t actually take the ball. Chase Daniel put the ball in his gut ... and it dropped to the ground. Curtis Lofton, who would also make the game-turning interception in the Big 12 title game, picked it up and rumbled into the end zone, carrying Daniel and Maclin over the last few yards.

There was an obvious miscommunication on the play, and I will forever assume that the crowd — so intensely loud that it was messing with my balance — caused it.

That was basically the ball game. OU’s Nic Harris would pick Daniel off a few minutes later, setting up another Sooner score, and Mizzou would respond with one last touchdown with five seconds left. But the outcome was uncertain until the fumble.

For 45 minutes, though, Mizzou was the superior team, if just barely. And the crowd knew it. It wasn’t a common occurrence in Norman.

Missouri v Oklahoma Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Mizzou’s first early break had come like so many others thus far in 2007: via Pig Brown. He forced a Juaquin Iglesias fumble after a short pass, and Darnell Terrell recovered it at the OU 38. Just five minutes into the game, a Maclin sweep produced six points from five yards out. The Sooners responded with an Iglesias touchdown, then D.J. Wolfe picked off Daniel and returned it to the Mizzou 16. The Sooners settled for a field goal but led 10-7 after one quarter.

With Mizzou’s offense struggling — an injury to Tony Temple meant that the Tigers were barely even trying to run the ball (backups Jimmy Jackson and Earl Goldsmith would combine for nine carries and 19 yards), and one-dimensional play backfired. When Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham combined for a 30-yard touchdown, it was 17-7 OU and a blowout appears to be in the cards.

Mizzou slowly got its offensive bearings, though. The Tigers drove into OU territory before punting, and after a Sooner punt, Daniel completed passes to Maclin, Danario Alexander, Maclin again and Will Franklin, and Jeff Wolfert nailed a 19-yard field goal as the half expired. It was 17-10 at halftime.

As had been the case the week before against Nebraska, the third quarter was once again just about perfect for Mizzou. Well, after a rough start anyway. Mizzou forced a three-and-out, but Reggie Smith picked off a trick-play pass from Maclin to stave off a scoring chance. OU drove 56 yards for a touchdown, but Garrett Hartley missed the PAT and gave the Tigers an opening.

Mizzou then took brief control. The Tigers drove 68 yards thanks to a series of short passes to Maclin (two), Chase Coffman (two), and Martin Rucker (one), and Maclin again bolted to the front pile-on for a 10-yard score. Then, Justin Garrett forced a fumble at the end of a nice Iglesias punt return, and passes to Rucker and Coffman and a rush by Tommy Saunders set up a first-and-goal. From there, Jimmy Jackson plunged in from four yards. Mizzou 24, OU 23.

Missouri Tigers v  Oklahoma Sooners
Handshakes!
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Then the rest of the game happened. Brown dropped a sure interception, OU scored, Lofton rumbled, etc. Mizzou outgained the Sooners by 34 yards (without Temple), generated more first downs (24-21), maintained possession a bit longer, and put itself in position to win the game. But three interceptions and The Fumble allowed OU to survive.

This was a statement in that Missouri proved it was good enough to go toe-to-toe with the most talented teams in the country. But there was just a little bit too much Sooner magic to overcome.

  • Total yards: Mizzou 418 (5.3 per play), OU 384 (5.7)
  • Daniel: 37-for-47, 361 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, three sacks; 10 carries, 24 yards
  • Maclin: five catches for 53 yards, four carries for 32 and two scores, 1-for-2 passing for zero yards and a pick, and a 56-yard kick return.
  • Coffman and Rucker: 16 catches, 137 yards, one touchdown
  • Franklin and Alexander: 12 catches, 124 yards