The ending to the Missouri (6-4, 2-4 SEC) and Vanderbilt (4-6, 1-5 SEC) matchup Saturday mirrored the ending to the Tigers’ loss to Kentucky:
A late drive downfield. Wide open receivers leading to multiple first downs. One last shot at the end zone for their opponent.
In the words of the great Yogi Berra, it was almost “like déjà vu all over again.”
Commodores senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur spiked the ball with five seconds left on the clock at Missouri’s 25 with the Tigers holding a 33-28 lead. He had led Vanderbilt all the way downfield from its own 13, and it looked like another heartbreak was on the way for Missouri.
After the Tigers called a timeout, Shurmur set up for one last attempt to take the win. He dropped back and lofted one to the right side of the end zone, but this time around, safety Cam Hilton broke up the pass and sealed the win. With the victory, Missouri is now bowl eligible for the second season in a row.
“I talked to (receiver) Barrett (Bannister), I’m like, ‘Barrett, we’re going to win this game. We’ve been through way too many upsetting things to happen, it’s time for one to go our way,’” said quarterback Drew Lock, who finished with 280 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on his 22nd birthday.
When giving his thoughts on the Commodores and Shurmur during the week leading up to the game, Odom couldn’t overstate how much experience Shurmur had.
“(Shurmur has) been around so long I think I played against him,” coach Barry Odom told reporters Tuesday.
Throughout the first half of Saturday’s game, Shurmur showcased that experience as he picked apart the Tigers’ secondary.
He was an impressive 14-for-17 passing for 142 yards and two touchdowns, outplaying his senior counterpart in Lock, who was just 11-for-20 in the half with 96 yards and an interception.
The Tigers’ defense also did him a lot of favors.
Whether it was a receiver left wide open over the middle (see: Shurmur’s completion to Kalija Lipscomb for 14 yards on 3rd and long in the second quarter) or completely blown coverage on a swing pass (see: Shurmur’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jared Pinkney later that drive), Shurmur got almost anything he wanted in the air.
Combined with the legs of running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn — 87 yards and a touchdown — Missouri couldn’t contain Vanderbilt’s attack and went to halftime trailing 21-13.
Lost in all of this was the play of running back Damarea Crockett, who continued his resurgence on the ground.
Crockett had 68 yards in the half and the touchdown that opened Missouri’s scoring in the first quarter. As the second half got underway, Crockett reaffirmed his importance in the rushing attack.
Larry Rountree III took the field to begin the half, but with the drive beginning to stall, Crockett came back on. This opened up spots in the air, as Lock immediately found receiver Dominic Gicinto open twice. Three plays later, Crockett caught a screen pass from 11-yards out and scrambled to the end zone.
“At that point, I just knew that ‘Alright, now we’re rolling, so now we’ve got to keep going in order to get back in the game,’” Crockett said.
A *controversial* two-point try wasn’t converted, though, and the Tigers remained behind 21-19.
Crockett’s first three quarters were effective, but in a similar way to Lock, he was outplayed by his counterpart. Vaughn ran all over the Tigers’ rush defense — which had looked like the superior unit coming into the game — for 176 yards on 12 carries through three.
After Lock hit converted tight end Daniel Parker Jr. with a 20-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 28-26, it looked like Vaughn would once again lead an assault through Missouri’s side of the field.
Vaughn ran for 20 and 44-yard rushes early in the possession, taking the Commodores to the Tigers’ 4-yard line. Three plays later, the decision was made to go for it on fourth and one and hand the ball to Vaughn on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Missouri’s defense had been suspect all day in keeping Vanderbilt out of the end zone, but a Vaughn leap over the line was stopped just short of the goal line for the Tigers’ biggest stop of the day.
“I didn’t realize how good (Vaughn) was. I’d seen him on film and he was pretty fast, but he’s the best back we played this year,” linebacker Terez Hall said. “But it’s just a mindset behind it. I can’t really speak on it like that, because I feel like our front seven believe we’re better than everybody.”
From there, Missouri took control.
A 3-yard touchdown run from Lock capped off a 99-yard, lead-changing drive, and three more defensive stops over the last nine minutes gave Missouri the come-from-behind victory.