The 2007 Missouri football team didn’t have too many setbacks to respond to, but every time they were faced with one, the Tigers responded with aplomb.
- Following their 41-31 loss to Oklahoma, one that featured a fourth-quarter collapse after a third-quarter surge, the Tigers responded with a 41-10 blowout of a good Texas Tech team.
- Following Pig Brown’s devastating Achilles injury late in the win over Iowa State, Mizzou’s defense responded by allowing 196 total yards and 10 points in a blowout of Colorado.
- And following a humbling 38-17 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, just a few days after moving to No. 1 in the country for the first time in 47 years, Missouri humiliated eventual SEC rival Arkansas in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.
Motivation was a big question mark heading into the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers’ loss to OU was followed by one of the more impressive bowl screw-jobs in recent memory — two of their conquests (Kansas and Illinois) were selected for BCS bowls, and Mizzou fell to the Cotton.
On the opposite sideline, Arkansas was playing for interim coach Reggie Herring after the tumultuous departure of tumult-friendly head coach Houston Nutt.
One team showed up. The other showed up until it got punched in the mouth.
Arkansas started out in good shape. The Razorbacks won the toss and, perhaps as a bit of a psychological maneuver, elected to receive the ball. (Missouri always elected to receive that year.) After a solid Felix Jones kick return, they quickly moved into Mizzou territory, eventually working their way down to the Tigers’ 15. But on third-and-3, a draw play to star back Darren McFadden got eaten up by linebacker Brock Christopher, and kicker Alex Tejada missed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide right.
The teams traded punts, then Mizzou struck first. The Tigers needed just six plays to drive 73 yards; Chase Daniel completed passes of 22 and 12 yards to senior Will Franklin, then Tony Temple, on his way to one of Mizzou’s greatest ever performances, went off left guard for 22 yards and a touchdown.
Arkansas responded with another nice Jones kick return — a 46-yarder out to the Mizzou 41 — but on fourth-and-4 from the Tigers’ 34, Arkansas out-thought itself: right before executing a fake punt for a first down, someone called timeout. Then the Hogs basically tried a counter of the same fake punt. It didn’t work. Stryker Sulak swallowed up Farod Jackson for a loss, and the first quarter ended at 7-0.
In windy conditions, both teams struggled to get a consistent passing game going. The teams traded four punts in the second quarter before Mizzou, realizing it could probably run all day because of how focused Arkansas was on the passing game, decided to run all day. The Tigers drove 82 yards in six plays — all rushes — and took a 14-0 lead on a four-yard Temple run. Consider that a harbinger of things to come.
Tejada missed another field goal before halftime, and Mizzou went into the break up 14.
Arkansas began the second half by taking another special teams risk. It worked out as poorly as the last one. A surprise onside kick failed, and Mizzou needed only six plays to drive 48 yards and all but put the game away. A 19-yard Temple run set up a four-yard Temple score. 21-0.
Then William Moore got involved. Arkansas executed a perfect third-and-15 screen pass to Jones, who rumbled 41 yards down the left sideline. But Moore stripped Jones on the tackle, and tackle Lorenzo Williams, hustling to keep up with the play, fell on the ball. And on Arkansas’ next possession, Moore picked off a sideline pass and took it 26 yards for a Tiger touchdown and a 28-0 lead.
Arkansas scored near the end of the third quarter, but there was basically only one question left heading into the fourth quarter: could Temple break the Cotton Bowl rushing record? He had 13 carries for 159 yards in the first half, then added nine more for 73 yards in the third quarter. That put him 33 yards behind the record set by Rice’s Dicky Moegle in 1954 against Alabama. With a wonky hamstring acting up, however, he probably wouldn’t get more than a couple of carries.
On the second play of the quarter, Temple rushed over right end for nine yards, then limped off the field. On the next play, Daniel was intercepted by Adrian Davis, who was then stripped after a 12-yard return by Daniel himself. Colin Brown recovered for Mizzou, but five plays later, Derrick Washington, in the game for Temple, lost a fumble of his own.
A muffed punt gave Mizzou a field goal and a 31-7 lead with 10:25 left, but after a punt and a penalty gave the Tigers the ball at the Arkansas 40, Temple went onto the field for his final carry as a Missouri Tiger.
That’s a hell of a way to set a record. Struggling to walk off under his own power, Temple was instead carried off by tackle Tyler Luellen and Daniel (but mostly Luellen).
From there, it was a celebration. The Arkansas half of the stands was almost completely empty, while the Mizzou half was completely full. Mizzou went on to win 38-7 and finish fourth in the country, its best ever finish.
- Yards: Mizzou 459, Arkansas 361. The Hogs did a solid job of controlling the ball (83 snaps to Mizzou’s 72, plus 36:12 of possession) but didn’t do much with it, averaging 4.3 yards per play to the Tigers’ 6.4.
- Third downs: Mizzou 6-for-13, Arkansas 4-for-18
- Daniel: 12-for-29, 136 yards, 1 INT. It was his worst passing day of the year — Arkansas did a lovely job of corralling Jeremy Maclin and barely had to worry about still-gimpy tight end Chase Coffman — and it didn’t matter in the least.
- Temple: 24 carries, 281 yards, 4 TDs.
- Maclin: 3 catches for 32 yards; 5 carries for 26
- Franklin: 5 catches for 77 yards (nearly half of Mizzou’s catches and over half the yards).
- Rucker and Coffman: 4 catches, 27 yards
- Moore: 10.5 tackles, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 PBU
- Ziggy Hood and Williams: 7.0 tackles, 2 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 FR