Missouri’s 31-27 win over Texas Tech was merely the latest nail-biting finish in the Tigers’ roller-coaster 2011 football season.
Missouri escaped a 27-17 fourth-quarter deficit, scoring two unanswered touchdowns to take a 31-27 lead with 2:22 remaining in the game. Texas Tech got the ball at its own 24-yard line, and steadily moved the ball all the way to the Tigers’ seven-yard line. Missouri defensive tackle Dominique Hamilton swatted Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege’s pass at the line of scrimmage, and defensive end Michael Sam intercepted it with 32 seconds left in the game.
The Tigers’ dramatic win was exciting but certainly not surprising. Wild games full of fourth-quarter action have become the norm for Missouri.
Facing intense pressure to rebound from a 45-24 shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma State the previous week, the Tigers headed into College Station, Texas, Oct. 29 with their reputation and season on the line. Under intense media scrutiny because of their uncertain conference future, the 3-4 Tigers needed a win to turn their year around.
What took place on Kyle Field was nothing short of season-saving. The two teams exchanged three-and-out series on offense, and on the Aggies’ second drive, the Tigers’ defense, which had struggled mightily throughout the season to tackle ball carriers after the catch, faced 3rd-and-3 on A&M’s 28-yard line.
Mizzou’s defense held in place on the play, limiting the offense to a two-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to running back Cyrus Gray and forcing the Aggies to punt. With the football back in their possession, the Tigers took the lead and set the tone for the game by marching downfield on a drive capped by a stunning 20-yard touchdown run by quarterback James Franklin.
A&M responded on the following drive with a touchdown of its own, but Mizzou was undeterred, answering A&M’s touchdown with a second Tiger touchdown, a 42-yard pass from Franklin to sophomore tight end Eric Waters with 0:02 remaining in the first quarter.
The game started getting out of hand in the second quarter, with A&M scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the second half before Mizzou slowed the bleeding by kicking a field goal to enter halftime on the losing side of a 28-17 deficit.
The third quarter was scoreless as the teams exchanged fumbles and field position, and Mizzou faced an uphill climb heading into the last quarter down by 11 points. The Tigers tackled the task terrifically, tacking on two touchdowns to traverse to the top of the tussle. Texas A&M tried to turn the tide, tying the game on a 35-yard field goal with just over four minutes to go.
Mizzou receiver Jerrell Jackson returned the following kickoff 46 yards, putting the Tigers’ offense in prime position to march down the field, and put the dagger in the Aggies’ throats. The Tigers moved the ball nine yards on three attempts, and handed the ball off to running back Henry Josey, who gained five yards and gained a first down. Mizzou’s drive stalled when a holding penalty erased the play, forcing Mizzou to punt to A&M.
The Aggies marched up the field, and appeared to gain momentum as they marched downfield, but the Tigers’ defense forced a fumble on the Mizzou 45-yard line, giving the Tigers a chance to win the game in regulation. Punter Trey Barrow, filling in for injured kicker Grant Ressel, missed a 46-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
One Franklin touchdown pass later, the Tigers led 38-31, and Mizzou’s defense closed out the game by forcing a Tannehill incompletion on a fourth-down stand.
The victory over Texas A&M was not the first down-to-the-wire finish of Mizzou’s football season. The Tigers crawled back from a 30-16 fourth-quarter deficit to Arizona State Sep. 9, but fell short in overtime, losing 37-30. Similarly, a lifeless Mizzou squad woke up in the face of a 24-3 fourth-quarter deficit against Kansas State, and scored two unanswered touchdowns to make the game close again.
The Tigers were in prime position to make a defensive stand and give their offense a chance to tie the game as their defense took the field against Kansas State, down by only one touchdown with 5:02 remaining in the game. The Wildcats ran the football four straight times, picking up a first down along the way. Facing 3rd and 3 on the Tigers’ 49-yard line, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein hit sophomore tight end Andre McDonald for an 18-yard completion, earning a first down and putting the Wildcats in field goal range.
The Tigers could not afford to allow Kansas State to get any more first downs, because Mizzou’s hopes of winning hung from a narrow thread, contingent on blocking a field goal with enough time left for their offense to score. Every snap after McDonald’s catch became crucial as a result, and the Tigers allowed a one-yard rush by Kansas State running back John Hubert on first down before stopping him for a two-yard loss on second down. A costly third-down personal foul on the Tigers’ defense gave the Wildcats yet another first down, allowing them to run out the clock by taking a knee.
Against Texas A&M, one of the Tigers’ furious fourth-quarter scoring rallies finally came to fruition, and even more nail-biting finishes were in store for Mizzou fans. Missouri exploded for 25 points in the fourth quarter the following week, losing to Baylor 42-39. Missouri capped off the series of exciting fourth quarters with its victory over Texas Tech Saturday and will face Kansas Nov. 28 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
If Missouri’s previous 2011 games are any indication, the final iteration of the Border War will be one to remember.
Topics: Baylor, Dominique Hamilton, James Franklin, Kansas State, Michael Sam, Missouri Tigers, Mizzou, Mizzou Comeback, Mizzou Football, Mizzou Football 2011, Mizzou Fourth Quarter, Texas A&M, Texas Tech