In an effort to look back fondly at the successes of Tiger football, the Rock M Nation football staff compiled and ranked the greatest games of the past 20 years. There’s no science or math involved here: we simply listed what we thought were the 20 best games of the past 20 years and counted the votes. We’ll start with the games getting the fewest votes and work our way up to #1.
2007: Missouri 40, Illinois 34
You probably remember the 2007 season for the Chase Daniel highlights and the win against kU at Arrowhead which propelled the Tigers into the Big 12 title game and the no. 1 overall ranking in the country.
But let’s not forget the way the season opened up.
Mizzou, fresh off of Chase Daniel’s first year as a starter came into the season with legitimate hopes & expectations of a potential breakthrough season. That season almost started off on the wrong foot.
The Tigers opened up the ‘07 campaign with the Braggin’ Rights game in St. Louis. It was the first time Mizzou and Illinois had met on the football field since 2003. Illinois was coming off a 2-10 season, but came into the game with the top rushing threat in the Big 10 from the previous year.
Both teams knew they had a shot at something special. It set up for one heck of an opening weekend for both teams.
A rather uneventful opening 15 minutes finished with the Tigers taking a 7-6 lead into the second quarter. That’s when the action went up a notch. Illinois quarterback Juice Williams left the game with a concussion. Special teams were an absolute disaster for the Tigers, and a 0-yard punt (no, seriously) set up Illinois inside the Tigers’ 25-yard line.
Mizzou’s defense comes up with its first big play of the season. Sean Weatherspoon knocked the ball out of Jacob Willis’ hands after Willis caught a slant and nearly scored. Pig Brown scooped up the ball up, and ran 100 yards for a touchdown.
The Tigers go for two, up 13-6, in the middle of the second quarter. Why? Nobody knows. Nobody will ever know. But they did it. And they failed.
The turnovers didn’t stop there.
Ziggy Hood forced another fumble on the Illini’s next drive, and - guess who - Pig Brown recovers for the Tigers. The offense took advantage, scoring a touchdown with just 20 seconds to play in the half.
Andrew Gachkar came up clutch on the ensuing kickoff, forcing a fumble to set up Chase Daniel and the offense inside the Illini 15-yard line. The big play on special teams led to a field goal as they went into the half. 23-6 Tigers at the half. This game might be over.
Both teams traded blows to open up the second half.
Then the comeback began. Eddie McGee, Illinois’ backup quarterback, suddenly looked like a star. First came a 16-yard McGee rushing touchdown. Then it was a 40-yard passing touchdown.
An Illinois sack-strip on Chase Daniel led to yet another scoring opportunity for the Illini early in the fourth quarter. One play later, Rashard Mendenhall was rushing through the middle for a 4-yard touchdown.
Suddenly a comfortable 23-6 lead for the Tigers turned into a very uncomfortable 37-34 Tigers advantage.
Both teams struggled to get things going down the stretch.
Punt by Mizzou. Punt by Illinois.
We’re heading toward a photo finish. And, midway through the fourth quarter, Illinois got the break it needed. A 42-yard pass down the sideline to Mendenhall. The Illini were set up at the Tigers’ 40-yard line. This was their chance. A touchdown could give them the lead.
Not so fast, my friend.
William Moore stepped up with a massive interception to put an end to the Illini scoring threat and to give the ball back to the offense. A score puts an end to this one.
You know it couldn’t be that easy. A rough special teams game continued. Jeff Wolfert missed a 49-yard field goal that could have put the game away.
Illinois ball. 2:51 to play. Tigers lead 40-34. A touchdown and an extra point wins it for the Illini. Mizzou needs a stop.
The Tigers get three quick stops. 4th & 10.
25-yard completion to Arrelious Benn. First down.
Another completion, this one for eight yards to get inside the Tigers’ 25-yard line. The clock is ticking. The game is on the line.
Pass interference on Mizzou. Automatic first down.
Timeout Illinois. Less than a minute to play. Illini at the Mizzou 22-yard line. Is this game about to be Mizzou’d?
Nope. Not this time. Pig Brown is here to save the day. Again. The same player who had a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown and recovered another fumble comes down with an interception at the 1-yard line with just one minute to play.
The Tigers seal the game. No Mizzou’ing this one.
This game had it all. A 350-yard, three touchdown passing performance for Chase Daniel. A touchdown through the air and in the return game for redshirt freshman Jeremy Maclin in his debut donning the black and gold. A Willy Mo interception. Two fumble recoveries and a fumble return for a touchdown by Pig Brown. Eight total turnovers between the two teams.
Mizzou’s 2007 season will forever be remembered for its high-powered offense and its opportunistic defense. All of it was on full display in the Tigers’ season-opening nail-biting win against the Illini.