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September 9, 1972: Mizzou 24, Oregon 22

September 9: Oregon (0-0) at Mizzou (0-0)

Mizzou started the 1972 campaign with a visit from a dangerous opponent--the Oregon Ducks, with new head coach Dick Enright and star quarterback Dan Fouts. In the first (and only) meeting between the two schools, Mizzou entered the game as 2-point favorites, but both sides had so many new faces that it was hard to tell what to expect. Plus, it was hard to favor Mizzou for anything, considering they were riding the tail of 1971's 8-game losing streak.

Looking to avoid a school-record ninth straight loss, the Tigers took the field in front of 41,236...and fumbled the opening kickoff. Just a few plays into the season, Oregon was up 7-0 on a 2-yard Maurice Anderson run. Mizzou responded well, with John Cherry handing often to fullback Don Johnson, but on fourth down from the UO 14, Cherry was stuffed, and Mizzou turned the ball over on downs. Mizzou got one more scoring chance in Q1 after an Oregon fumble, but a 50-yard field goal attempt from kicker Greg Hill fell short.

In the second quarter, Fouts and the Duck offense got rolling. Greg Specht caught a touchdown pass, and twenty minutes into the contest it was 13-0 Oregon. Once again, Mizzou tried to respond. Cherry excelled on the option, and the Tigers marched to the UO 5, where they faced another fourth down. Onofrio gambled again, and this time it paid off--Cherry found Johnson for a 5-yard touchdown, and the deficit was cut to 13-7. After an Oregon punt, it was time for Tommy Reamon to introduce himself to Mizzou fans. A couple nice runs set up another Mizzou touchdown--this one from Cherry to Jim Sharp. Mizzou led 14-13 late in the half, but Fouts was able to string together a few quick completions, and Oregon hit a field goal as time expired, taking a 16-14 lead into the locker room.

With everybody wondering if the Mizzou offense could keep up with Oregon's passing attack, Mizzou's defense struck gold early in the second half. Hickman grad John Moseley, one of the nation's best punt returners, jumped a Fouts pass and took it to the house. Mizzou led 21-16, but Fouts responded. Specht burned Moseley for a quick 51-yard touchdown, and even though the two-point conversion pass was incomplete, just like that Oregon had the lead again, at 22-21. In under five minutes, Moseley had become the rare hero-goat.

In the fourth quarter, the defenses took over. Oregon punted four times, and Mizzou dodged a huge bullet when a 72-yard Fouts-to-Anderson screen pass was called back because of an ineligible man downfield. Of course, the Ducks got away with some breaks too. With 5:30 left in the game and Mizzou driving, Reamon fumbled and Oregon recovered. Mizzou immediately forced a punt and drove again, but fullback Ray Bybee fumbled at the Duck 15 with just 3:30 left. In all, Mizzou fumbled six times and lost three (welcome to the wishbone!), one of the major reasons their 259 rushing yards did not produce more points.

After Bybee's fumble, hope waned, and why not? Time was quickly expiring. Oregon milked the clock but elected to punt on fourth-and-one. Mizzou got the ball back with just 29 seconds left and quickly maneuvered down the field. Cherry found Jack Bastable for 20 yards, then Don Johnson plunged forward for a nice gain, and suddenly Mizzou was to the Oregon 14 with just enough time left for a field goal attempt. Hill, who had missed a potential game-winner against Air Force the year before, nailed this one. The field goal split the uprights as time expired, and Mizzou had pulled off a 24-22 win.

Every team wants to win every game it plays--clearly that's the optimal situation. But food tastes better when you're starving, and winning feels that much better when you haven't done it in a while. Sure, Oregon would go on to only finish 4-7, and sure, it was only the first game of the season. But as Al Onofrio clutched the game ball after the game, only his second opportunity to do so in his first 12 games as Mizzou coach, this win probably felt as good to him as just about any he would experience at Mizzou--and he would experience some pretty good ones. Mizzou had overcome adversity, both self-inflicted and not, and found a way to win, and they had the 1-0 record to prove it.

Mizzou 24, Oregon 22