Cotton Bowl 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Oklahoma State vs. Missouri
It wasn't a BCS bowl game, but you couldn't tell that from the massive crowd and the on-field intensity seen during Friday night's Cotton Bowl between Missouri and Oklahoma State.
After nearly three quarters of defense controlling the tempo, the offense exploded for both sides, with Missouri coming out on top, 41-31. More than 72,000 people attended the game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as the old Big 12 rivals made up for lost time with a classic battle.
So much happened in this game we could write about it forever (please don't make us do that!), but here's what we think are the 10 most important things we learned from the 2014 Cotton Bowl.
No BCS? No Problem
Missouri and Oklahoma State both entered their final games of the 2013 season with a chance to make a BCS bowl game, but both came up short. Mizzou lost to Auburn in the SEC title game, while OK State fell at home to rival Oklahoma.
But even without being part of the soon-to-be-gone five-game Bowl Championship Series, the Cotton Bowl's participants didn't play like teams that were ticked off they missed out on the big time.
To that end, both sides made the efforts you'd expect for teams in their final games, leaving everything on the field and fighting for each and every yard. It wasn't always pretty, but it was never lackadaisical.
Clint Chelf Is a Gamer
It wasn't until midway through his senior season that Clint Chelf finally took sole position of the starting quarterback for Oklahoma State. And once he got his chance, he made the most of it.
Chelf was a big part of why OK State was in line to win the Big 12 before falling to Oklahoma at the end of the season. He threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns in the Cowboys' most significant win, the blowout victory over Baylor.
Against Missouri, though, Chelf struggled at times, throwing a pair of interceptions. The first one was turned into a Tigers score not long after, while OK State got the ball right back after his second pick. Chelf was also stripped on the Cowboys' final full drive, with Shane Ray returning that fumble for the game-clinching score.
Yet whether things were going well or not, you couldn't see any fear or trepidation on Chelf's face. He kept fighting through it all, ending his career by completing 33 of 57 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns.
Gary Pinkel Wasn't Ready to Give Up on James Franklin
James Franklin missed several games with a shoulder injury this season, and though he had some flashes of his old self after the return, it just wasn't the same.
That was very evident in the Cotton Bowl, as Franklin was off on many of this throws. It didn't help that his receivers dropped some catchable passes, but mostly it was the senior's fault that he was 15-of-40 for 174 yards and an interception.
Even Franklin's rushing performance was subpar. His 36 yards were the third least of the 10 games he played in this year.
But even after freshman Maty Mauk came in and quickly led Mizzou downfield for a score on a second-quarter drive, Tigers coach Gary Pinkel was not going to give up on Franklin. He went right back to him, giving Mauk only one more series in the third quarter.
Missouri's Pro Day Will Be Heavy on the Defense-First Scouts
Missouri sported the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year in senior defensive end Michael Sam, a major achievement in a league that includes Alabama, Florida and South Carolina's vicious defenses.
But just as impressive this year was Sam's end-mate, junior Kony Ealy, who had two sacks of Chelf in the Cotton Bowl and was a nuisance all night.
Ealy and Sam, who forced the Chelf fumble that Ray returned for a late score, are both projected as high draft picks in the 2014 NFL draft. This was their last game, but odds are they'll be just as impressive whenever Missouri hosts scouts for its pro day some time in the spring.
Desmond Roland Was Underused
Junior running back Desmond Roland led Oklahoma State with 66 rushing yards on 16 carries, giving the Cowboys their one and only lead when the 6'2", 210-pound junior muscled his way into the end zone from two yards out despite being grappled by three Missouri defenders.
Roland showed his drive and determination once he started getting the ball more in the second half of the season, but in the Cotton Bowl, it didn't look like he got it enough.
OK State was facing a Missouri team that had been torched for 545 rushing yards by Auburn in the SEC title game, yet it ran 39 times (including sacks) compared to 57 passes.
Carries that could have gone to Roland instead went to Jeremy Smith or Rennie Childs, and though they averaged 5.5 yards per attempt, it wasn't with the same force that Roland runs.
Maty Mauk Should Be Good, But Will He Be Good Enough?
Mauk filled in well for Franklin when Franklin injured his shoulder, with the freshman going 3-1. But he was more of a game manager than a game controller or dictator, as Franklin had been beforehand, though some of that could have been by design rather than based on his skills.
Mauk since has gotten a chance to play in each game, albeit for only a little while. He had two series in the Cotton Bowl, leading the Tigers to a touchdown on his first drive thanks to a pair of long scramble runs and a TD pass that he threw over double coverage to Marcus Lucas.
With Franklin gone, the starting quarterback job will be Mauk's to lose. But something has to be said about the fact that, even with Franklin struggling mightily against Oklahoma State, Pinkel stuck with him instead of getting the Mauk era started a little earlier.
A 1st-Quarter Injury Led to a 4th-Quarter Takeaway
Oklahoma State lost junior offensive lineman Brandon Garrett early in the Cotton Bowl, going down with a leg injury that was later reported as a broken leg. The injury was so severe that no replays were shown on television, and Garrett was carted off the field and taken to a hospital.
Garrett's injury forced the Cowboys to shift around their offensive line, pushing players around to fit into their secondary positions. It meant junior Chris Grisbhy moved to right tackle, and while he fared well most of the game, his one big mistake came at the worst possible moment.
It was Grisbhy would was beat on the edge by Missouri end Michael Sam en route to strip-sacking Chelf, a fumble that was scooped up for a score that turned a 34-31 deficit into a 10-point margin with under a minute left.
Gary Pinkel Has Quietly Become Missouri's Winningest Coach
It's hard to believe Pinkel has been at Missouri for 13 seasons, mostly because such a tenure isn't common in modern college football. There's no coach in his current league, the SEC, that's been at the same school that long, and his former conference (the Big 12) just saw Mack Brown get gently shoved out the door after 16 years.
Pinkel was nothing more than an average coach for his first six seasons in Columbia, finishing below .500 three times and making bowl games the other three years. But since 2007, he's averaged nine wins and had only one hiccup, last year's 5-7 mark as the Tigers transitioned from the Big 12 to the SEC.
He's won 10 games four times, just wrapped up his second 12-win season and, with the victory over Oklahoma State, became Missouri's winningest coach. He has 102 wins, one more than Don Faurot, for whom the Tigers' football stadium is named.
Big Ten Referees Don't Understand the College One-Foot Rule
That's the only explanation that can be given for why, on three different sideline passes thrown by Missouri, the onfield officials ruled that the catches were incomplete, only to have reviews clearly show each was a completion.
In each case, the receiver had one foot down, which is all that's necessary in the college game (as opposed to in the NFL, where you need both feet down), yet the calls were all incomplete.
The game was officiated by a Big Ten Conference crew, one that presumably had to have had a good enough year during the regular season to earn the right to ref this game.
Every Football Game Should Be Played in Texas
They sure love their football in Texas.
The announced attendance for the 2014 Cotton Bowl was more than 72,000, a great crowd for a game that wasn't part of the BCS and didn't involve any conference champions. It did feature a pair of schools with strong fanbases, though, and they turned out in droves.
But the crowd wasn't just people from Oklahoma and Missouri, not when roughly 70 OK State players and 35 or so Missouri players hail from the Lone Star State.
This is the state that had more than 50,000 people attend a high school football state championship in the same AT&T Stadium. Just play all the games there, and people will come.