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20 for 20: #4 - Mizzou outlasts Oklahoma State to cap magical 2013 season

After nearly fighting its way to a National Championship berth, Mizzou traded haymakers with Okie State in the 2014 Cotton Bowl.

AT&T Cotton Bowl - Oklahoma State v Missouri Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If Mizzou’s 2013 season came just a few years later, a full decade after the 2007 campaign, anyone could’ve written the headlines.

“One decade later, Mizzou recaptures the magic”

“Ten years after a breakthrough, Tigers find themselves on the cusp of greatness”

“After nearly winning the Big 12 in 2007, Pinkel only needs a decade to ascend in the SEC”

The similarities, after all, were baked into the 2007 and 2013 teams: a program struggling to find its footing in a conference of powerhouses; an explosive offense with a wealth of playmakers; a rugged, dynamic defense with several future professionals.

The similarities extended all the way to the SEC Championship game, where Mizzou was 60 minutes away from ascending the hill to college football’s mountaintop. However, a healthy dose of Tre Mason assured the Tigers would find themselves back where they were just six years earlier — the Cotton Bowl.

Unlike the 2007 Cotton Bowl — which grabbed the No. 13 spot in this series just a few weeks ago — the Tigers didn’t quite roll over the Oklahoma State Cowboys like they did Arkansas. Instead, the Pokes provided a rigorous test for the Tigers, matching them blow-for-blow in a game that took three full quarters to really kick into high gear.

Nursing a 17-14 lead going into the final quarter, Mizzou would find itself in a knock-down-drag-out fight with Okie Lite. The two sides scored a combined 41 points in the final 15 minutes, the longest distance between scores being 3 minutes and 22 seconds. Henry Josey found himself at the center of most of the action, rushing for 2 scores in his final stretch as a Tiger. But it wasn’t enough to distance the Tigers from the Cowboys, and Clint Chelf had the Pokes driving for the lead in the final minute of the game.

That’s when Michael Sam, one of the biggest stories in recent college football history, and Shane Ray, a future first-round pick, decided enough was enough. Sam edged his blocker and hit a moving Chelf to force a fumble, which Ray scooped up and ran back 70+ yards to secure Mizzou’s second Cotton Bowl title in six years.

Football - Michael Sam Announces he is Gay Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Like 2007, Missouri might have deserved more than what it ended up with. Yes, they were ranked inside the Top 5 of every major poll. Yes, they won their first of two consecutive SEC East titles. And yes, they got to take home that mega-dope Cotton Bowl trophy. Did it all make up for the sting of being essentially a quarter away from a BCS Championship match up with Famous Jameis and Florida State? That’s impossible to say.

But for the second time in a decade, Missouri proved it belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest spotlight. And while Twitter-happy SEC fans may still scream about Mizzou not belonging in the SEC, the Tigers, in their second year as conference members, ascended to a place many programs haven’t touched since.