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November 18, 1939: Mizzou 7, Oklahoma 6

November 18: #5 Oklahoma (6-0-1) at #12 Missouri (6-1)

After the huge home win over NU, Mizzou had to refocus and head to The Bronx. They were welcomed home after the NYU win at the Wabash train station by a large crowd and a brass band. And now they had to refocus again because OU was coming to town. According to Bob Broeg, "Missouri's business manager of athletics, Virgil Spurling, estimated he could have sold 50,000 tickets for a game that drew an overflowing 26,500, then the largest number to see a football game in the state."

Ever since a respectable season-opening tie against SMU, Oklahoma had plowed through the rest of their schedule. They whooped Texas in Dallas (24-12), destroyed Kansas (27-7), OSU (41-0) and Iowa State (38-6), and crept by a game Kansas State team (13-10) in Manhattan the week before. With the relatively weak schedule, OU had actually dropped from #3 to #5 over the last month--I guess it was hard for a Big Six team to earn respect in those days, as OU had actually gone 10-0 in the 1938 regular season and finished #4--but they would have every chance in the world to impress voters by finishing up with road trips to Columbia and Lincoln. They were not going to roll over for Mizzou in what was potentially the biggest game in Mizzou history at that point.

A wet day in late-November led to a bruising, sloppy game that would be determined almost entirely by special teams. Whereas NYU had talked a big game the week before about stopping Paul Christman, OU didn't talk--they just did it. In front of a hostile, standing-room-only, Homecoming crowd, the Sooners hit Christman often, and on a slick field with a slick ball, Pitchin' Paul just didn't have much to work with. He would end the day going only 7-for-15 for 39 yards. He did manage to rush for 49 yards--overall, Mizzou outrushed OU, 157-148--and nail a couple nice punts, but finding any room to maneuver offensively was tough for Mizzou on this day.

Special Teams Event #1: In the third quarter of a scoreless game, an oustanding 54-yard coffin-corner punt by Ron King pinned OU at the 6.

Special Teams Event #2: On the resulting series, OU went three-and-out, and lined up to punt. Charley Moser came off the line untouched and got a hand on the punt, which went straight up into the air. From Broeg:

The blocked punt went straight up. Players of both sides converged under it in a tableau caught by a cameraman whose enlarged photograph, floor to ceiling, animated Don Faurot's den for years.

There, you could see it, the strained look of the players crouched to leap. When the ball came down, it was the athlete with the talent and timing of a basketball rebounder, Bob Orf, who leaped at the right moment to grab the ball and go down under a pile-up of muddied gold and dirty red jerseys.

Special Teams Event #3: Ron King made the PAT, never a given in 1939. 7-0 Mizzou.

Special Teams Event #4: In the fourth quarter, OU's offense finally got rolling. They drove 76 yards for a score, capped by a 15-yard pass from Jack Jacobs to J.S. Munsey. Dick Favor, however, missed the PAT. 7-6 Mizzou.

Special Teams Event #5: A poor QB-center exchange--remember, it was a really wet day--led to a late Mizzou fumble near midfield. OU drove inside the Mizzou 20 and lined up for a field goal, but once again the slippery snap was mishandled. OU fumbled, and Mizzou recovered. OU was able to mount one more try, driving inside Mizzou's 40. But four Jacobs passes were batted down, one by the margin of Paul Christman's fingernails, and Mizzou held on for the win.

In all, the stats did not favor Mizzou. First downs: OU 12, MU 7. Total yards: OU 225, MU 196. Christman and the Mizzou offense did next to nothing, but in dicey playing conditions, Mizzou made the plays that mattered. A special teams unit that hadn't proven itself amazingly well thus far in the season, came through when it counted, and Mizzou was 4-0 in conference, all but clinching their very first Big Six title.

Missouri 7, Oklahoma 6