Brian Graham KC SportsNation
Tears were shed before, during and after the game as an emotional day turned into an emotional 31-27 win for Missouri Saturday afternoon over visiting Texas Tech at Faurot Field.
Players and coaches alike cried as the Tigers played for the first time in 11 years without head coach Gary Pinkel on the sideline as he served his one-game suspension for a DUI arrest. It was emotional for the 26 seniors who were honored for Senior Day without Pinkel there. It was emotional for a game-ending interception at the goalline. It was emotional for playing for Pinkel. And, it was emotional for Texas Tech, who has lost the last three games by an average score of 53-11 and been outscored 45-3 in the first quarter, led for 57 minutes, 38 seconds and lost, sending them to their fourth straight loss as a once 4-0, ranked team who also won at Oklahoma is now 5-6 (2-6 Big 12).
Defensive Michael Sam cried as he walked off the field after his game-ending interception after fellow defensive lineman, senior nose Dominque Hamilton, just as he did to end the overtime win at Texas A&M, deflected Tech quarterback Seth Doege’s pass with 32 seconds left from the seven yard line.
Receiver TJ Moe balled his eyes out as he awaited the opening kickoff. Offensive coordinator David Yost cried on the field after the game with the players.
Why did the Tigers win? Well, mainly because of sophomore quarterback James Franklin and fourth quarter defense.
Franklin had a Colin Klein-esque gutsy, put his team on his shoulders type of effort. Frank the Tank rushed for a career-high 152 yards and two scores, and completed 13-of-20 passes for 173 yards and two more scores and was a man on a mission in the second half.
So much for his “I don’t care attitude” or his “just stand there, flat footed throwing motion.” Dude is a gamer. He never gets rattled and has ice in his veins. He has great pocket presence and calmness and never quits. EVER. The Tigers (6-5, 4-4 Big 12) have entered a fourth quarter down 10 or more points SEVEN times this year, and Franklin shined in all of them.
The game-winning 89-yard drive was all Franklin as he accounted for 74 of the 89 yards. Most of it came from the legs of Franklin, who scored from nine yards out with 2:22 left in the game. Franklin hit 6-foot-5 big play sophomore Marcus Lucas for gains of 13 and 22 yards on his only pass attempts of the drive and took care of the rest on the ground, one run carrying six defenders 10 yards for a 20-yard run.
His first rushing touchdown (4 yards) gave Missouri its first score of the game in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to 14-7. His two touchdown passer were things of beauty – a five-yard jump ball back corner fade to 6-foot-5 tight end Michael Egnew to make it 20-17 and a third and goal 7-yarder to a diving Lucas through three defenders to make it 27-24 with 12:13 remaining.
The Pinkel hangover appeared to effect the team early on, coming out of the gates flat, coming up empty on the offensive end five straight possessions to open the game, and trailing 14-0. That’s the longest streak Texas Tech’s put together all season.
“That’s on me,” Pinkel said about the slow start. “And what I put the, through. I just have to live with the burden.”
That’s when the offense woke up and did its part, scoring on five of its final six drives, but it was the defense that did it in the fourth quarter. The defense, who could not get off the field thru three quarters (Tech quarterback Seth Doege threw more passes in the first half than Missouri ran total plays – and it was dead even after three quarters), recorded two straight three and outs in the fourth quarter to give the Mizzou offense a chance, and then picked off Tech’s shot at victory with 34 seconds left in the game.
Tech and Doege looked sharp early in taking the 14-0 lead with throwing the ball all over the field and was the first quarterback to score into the wind, leading Tech on a Donnie Carona 48-yard field goal into the wind with just 30 seconds remaining in the half, but Franklin led Missouri into field goal range in just two plays leading to a Trey Barrow 39-yard field goal. Going into the locker room down seven (17-10) as opposed to down 10.
The third quarter was much of the same – Doege playing pitch and catch with his receivers, setting up third and short situation and taking advantage of poor Missouri tackling. The Tigers missed 13 tackles in the first three quarters and Tech led 27-17 entering the fourth after Doege hit Darrin Moore from 24 yards out on the last play of the third quarter. But the defense buckled down in the fourth quarter.
Missouri missed out on a chance late in the first quarter when Kendial Lawrence was stripped from behind at the two-yard line, fumbling into the endzone for a touchback. But, minus that snafu, Lawrence, coming off his first career 100-yard game , ran for 94 yards on 15 carries and combined with last-year’s leading rusher De’Vion Moore to rush for 169 yards on 22 carries as Missouri ran for 318 yards. Moore’s 54-yard run down the Missouri sideline to the 4-yard line to set up Missouri’s first score, the senior back surpassed his total yards for the entire season (39). Franklin’s TD plunge on the next play capped off MU’s longest drive of the year (90 yards).
Offense – B+: Missouri ran for 318 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Thats gonna win you a lot of games. The only reason this is not an A is because MU’s five straight drives to open the game went scoreless.
Quarterback – A: James Franklin is no Brad Smith, but get used to seeing a Brad Smith-type offense. Franklin does not have Brad Smith’s NFL speed, or anything close to it, but he is becoming more and more of a runner and less and less a passer. Franklin ran for a career-high 152 yards and two touchdowns and added two more through the air – a great pass to tight end Michael Egnew on a fade into the corner of the endzone to make it 20-17 in the third quarter and a third and 7 TD pass to cut it to three points again, 27-24 early in the fourth quarter – in bringing back Missouri from deficits of 14 and 10 twice. Franklin now has two more passing TD than Gabbert did his entire first year as a starter – in 150 less attempts. Franklin carried it 20 times and threw it 20 times. Get used to it. The only downside is Franklin is a rhythm passer and the running game does hamper his throwing at times. Franklin has been outstanding his last four games: 70% completion%, almost 1300 total yards (881 rushing, 396 rushing), 11 total touchdowns and 0 turnovers. Kid’s gonna be special.
Running Backs – A-: No one is going to replace Henry Josey, but Franklin did his best with the 152 yards on the ground and the running back duo of Lawrence (15-94) and Moore (7-79) were more than effective as Missouri ran for 318 yards – as they should against the nation’s 117th ranked rush defense.
Receivers – B: Missouri’s top two in catches and yards (TJ Moe, Michael Egnew) combined to catch just three passes, but Egnew’s went for a TD. It is becoming more difficult to grade the receiving core with Missouri’s devotion to the run. The question now becomes how productive are they when given a chance? Sophomore big play receivers Marcus Lucas (4-68) and L’Damian Washington (1-36) continue to get less playing time than they should despite big play after big play.
Offensive Line – A: Anytime you run for 318 yards and average 6.5 yards per carry, you deserve high marks. Franklin was pressured a few times at the beginning of the game, but they handled their business the rest of the way.
Defense – C+: Doege threw for 315 yards and Tech gained 457 total yards, but Missouri had three stops in the fourth quarter to complete their comeback. They defense also had three stops early on to keep it a 14-0 game when Missouri’s offense sputtered. Linebacker Luke Lambert was all over the field in his last home game of his career.
“It was one of those things where I didn’t want to walk off the field because I knew it would be the last time,” Lambert said.
Corner EJ Gaines broke up two passes and is now the single-season school-record holder (17). He has played a lot like an All-Conference player in a league that doesn’t have many at that position.
Oh, and who can not forget Sam’s deflected interception?
After the INT, Michael Sam said he heard Dave Steckel’s voice: “I heard it in the back of my head: ‘Get your ass down, Michael Sam!'”
He also registered a sack.
Coaching – B: Steckel wins his first game as a head coach in thrilling fashion. He and Offensive Coordinator Dave Yost committed to the run – despite trailing for entirety of the game and it paid off.
Steckel said he and Yost were “co-coaches” and they could not have done it without the foundation Pinkel had laid. But without Pinkel the duo made some interesting decisions, some decision that paid off that Pinkel might not have made…On Missouri’s first scoring drive in the second quarter, facing a fourth and 1 at their own 30, Steckel and Yost elected to go for it and got it. Missouri went on and scored on Franklin’s 4-yard run. Also, at the end of the first half down 1707, Gahn McGaffie returned the kick to the 43-yard line with a half minute left in the half. Pinkel most likely elects to kneel it and go into the locker room down 10, instead Missouri get into field goal range in two plays and went in down 17-10.
I’m sure Steckel enjoyed the end of the game “Gatorade Shower.” Gotta love a coach who says, “kickin’ ass” in a halftime interview.
UPDATE: Pinkel, who watched the game from his condo at the Ozarks and called it “gut-wrenching,” later thanked the coaches and players for winning the game saying,”If they didn’t win that game, I dont think I could have lived with myself.”
Final Thoughts: Do you think Gary Pinkel was seating this one out in his living room? If he was, he wasn’t alone. This was a game MU deserved and the players wanted badly. Tears were shed before, during and after the game. The emotions were visible. TJ Moe was sobbing before the opening kickoff. Sam was crying as he ran off the field after his game-winning interception.
And it was Sam who had the quote of the day…”Kansas. It’s a big game not just for us but for our whole state. And we’re just gonna go out there and beat their Jayhawks’ ass.”
Missouri and Kansas square off at Arrowhead 2:30 Saturday in the “annual” Border War game in Kansas City.
Oh, and this one is pretty good, too.
“My brother went to Kansas,” Steckel said. “I love my brother. I don’t talk to him this week.”
MUtigers.com: Franklin Leads Tigers to Victory Over Red Raiders, 31-27
MUtigers.com: Mizzou/Texas Tech Post-Game Notes
MUtigers.com: Mizzou/Texas Tech Post-Game Quotes
The Trib: MU bounces back from rough week, another deficit to top Tech
The Trib: Win emotional one for contrite Tigers
The Missourian: Missouri football grabs emotional victory over Texas Tech 31-27
The Missourian: Missouri football seniors slow down to select rock after exhausting win, week
The Missourian: PHOTO GALLERY: Missouri fans enjoy last home game
The Missourian: PHOTO GALLERY: Missouri won against Texas Tech 31-27
Post-Dispatch: Tigers rally to beat Texas Tech
Post-Dispatch: Gamble pays off for Mizzou
Post-Dispatch (Bryan Burwell): Mizzou’s Franklin shows his stuff against Texas Tech
KC Star: After tough week, Missouri celebrates 31-27 win over Texas Tech
PowerMizzou: An emotional win
PowerMizzou: Sunday Grade Card
PowerMizzou: The Sideline View
Fox Sports MW: Missouri rallies to beat Texas Tech 31-27
Dallas Morning News: Tommy Tuberville on Missouri loss: “This is a screwed up night”
We Are Mizzou: 2011 Senior Day