The eighth-ranked Missouri Tigers concluded one of the best seasons in program history with a 41-31 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2014 AT&T Cotton Bowl on Friday, Jan. 3, per USA Today Sports:
The thrilling back-and-forth matchup was highlighted by a fourth-quarter explosion that saw a combined 41 points scored between the two former Big 12 rivals.
|No. 8 Missouri 41, No. 13 Oklahoma State 31|
|Oklahoma State (10-3, 7-2 Big 12)||7||0||7||17||31|
|Missouri (12-2, 7-1 SEC)||7||10||0||24||41|
Surprisingly, both offenses started slow in the opening quarter, as a James Franklin interception on Mizzou's opening drive gave way to three consecutive punts, per Fox Sports columnist David Ubben.
Following a turnover on downs for the Tigers, Oklahoma State returned the favor with a Clint Chelf interception on the very next play, setting the tone for what would ultimately be a first-half defensive struggle.
Much to the delight of Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel, the Tigers would capitalize on the excellent field position created by E.J. Gaines' turnover, marching 50 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
The game's first scoring drive was capped off by a three-yard touchdown run by Henry Josey.
However, the Cowboys would answer immediately, covering 75 yards in just over 70 seconds to even things up. The big play on the crucial drive was Chelf's 40-yard touchdown pass to Josh Stewart, who ran uncovered down the middle of the field.
After more struggles from Franklin and a missed field-goal attempt by Oklahoma State's Ben Grogan, Pinkel would roll out Maty Mauk at quarterback to help spark the Tigers' offense. The bold move would pay off right away for Mizzou as the freshman reeled off a pair of big runs, per The Columbia Daily Tribune's David Morrison, and found Marcus Lucas for the go-ahead touchdown from 24 yards out in the second quarter.
Following a pair of stalled drives for the Cowboys, Mizzou would engineer a successful two-minute drill resulting in a successful Andrew Baggett field goal at the halftime horn.
Although the Tigers led 17-7 at the break, the halftime numbers for Mizzou's offense were head-scratching to say the least, per Morrison:
Both defenses would continue to steal the show in the third quarter until a poor exchange between Franklin and Josey resulted in a key turnover. The Cowboys, who began the third quarter with three straight punts and an interception, would take over at Mizzou's 33-yard line before finally showing signs of life on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chelf to Jhajuan Seales that would make it 17-14, Tigers.
In response to the pivotal error, Pinkel would send Mauk back out for the following drive. But a quick three-and-out saw Franklin back on the field to start the fourth quarter.
A few plays later, Franklin made another costly error, pitching the ball to a covered teammate on an option play that resulted in another fumble. The Cowboys would recover just 11 yards away from the go-ahead touchdown.
Mizzou's defense would deliver a massive stop, but Grogan's chip-shot field goal was enough to tie things up at 17 points apiece.
Both offenses decided to wake up at that point.
Sensing the game was starting to slip away, Franklin and the Tigers offense responded on their ensuing possession, driving 60 yards in six plays to take the lead on an explosive 25-yard touchdown run from Josey, per Morrison:
But Chelf and company would go 75 yards in less than two minutes to tie the game for a third time. The senior quarterback showed off his jets on the game-tying 23-yard touchdown run.
Tragedy struck just moments later for Oklahoma State, though, as a controversial defensive pass interference penalty would negate a pick-six for the Cowboys, per Stillwater NewsPress' Jason Elmquist:
As a result of the blown call, Mizzou's drive continued before Baggett put the Tigers ahead 27-24 with a career-long 46-yard field goal.
After the two teams traded touchdowns yet again, a Shane Ray 73-yard fumble return touchdown would seal the deal for the Tigers, who closed the game on a 14-0 run. Michael Sam made the play on Chelf and Ray had the presence of mind to scoop up the ball and run it all the way back.
While the Cowboys end the season having lost two in a row, the win is Missouri's 12th on the season and ties 2013 for the Tigers' best season in program history. Pinkel led them to a 12-2 mark back in 2007 in a season that also concluded with a win in the Cotton Bowl.
Pinkel celebrated the win with his team in excellent fashion:
Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides these quotes from Pinkel:
Key Player Grades
James Franklin, QB, Missouri: C-
Although Franklin didn't get a ton of help from his receivers on Friday, his struggles (15 of 40 for 174 yards and an interception) were awfully surprising given his impressive play in recent matchups with Auburn and Texas A&M.
Whether it was Oklahoma State's defensive pressure, jitters playing in his final game close to home or a combination of both, Franklin was a shell of himself on Friday night. Fortunately, he still closed out his college career with a win in the Cotton Bowl.
Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State: B
Cowboys signal-caller Clint Chelf certainly made his fair share of mistakes on Friday, but he did account for three of Oklahoma State's touchdowns and managed to outshine Franklin throughout the night. Not to mention he played fearless down the stretch, taking shots and putting his body on the line.
Unfortunately, his late fumble in game-tying field-goal range is the play he'll remember most.
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri: A
Henry Josey will likely be wondering why he didn't get more than 13 touches on Friday. Nonetheless, the dynamic rusher made the most of his limited opportunities against the Cowboys, racking up 102 total yards and scoring three touchdowns on a night when the Tigers' aerial attack was almost nonexistent.
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