On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers (5-5, 2-5) prevailed 51-48 in a hard-fought 4 OT SEC East Division battle over the Tennessee Volunteers (4-6, 0-6).
In the 4th OT period, red-shirt freshman safety Ian Simon broke up a short pass attempt on fourth and three from the 12-yard line, and then moments later red-shirt freshman kicker Andrew Baggett nailed a 35-yard FG to provide the final margin of victory.
Missouri trailed 21-7 coming out of the halftime locker room, but bounced back in the second half to tie the game in the final minute and send it to extras. The Tigers finished the 4 OT marathon with 454 yards of total offense. James Franklin finished 19-33-1 for 226 yards and 4 TDs passing. And, Kendial Lawrence ran for 153 yards and 2 TDs.
"It was a great team victory," explained James Franklin, following his team's comeback win.
For the game, Tennessee put up 585 yards of total offense.
Except for a Jimmie Hunt 87-yard kickoff return for a TD, the first half was dominated by Tennessee. The Volunteers took a 21-7 lead to the halftime locker room, after Tyler Bray and the Tennessee offense racked up 383 yards of total offense in the first half. Bray finished the first half 21-26-0 for 257 yards and 1 TD passing.
Tennessee TE Mychal Rivera had a career game with 8 receptions for 100 yards and 1 TD in the first half against Missouri, who didn't have an answer for passes over the middle to the big tight end. Rivera finished the game with 10 catches for 129 yards.
Justin Hunter also had a big hand in Tennessee's dominant first half, with 6 first-half receptions for 116 yards. On the game, Hunter had 9 receptions for 141 yards and 1 TD.
While Tennessee was having a big first half, the Missouri offense was inept, and could muster just 64 total yards on 24 first-half plays. Once again, Missouri QB James Franklin was ineffective in the passing game, finishing the first half 2-9-1 for just 18 first-half passing yards.
And, had it not been for Hunt's TD return, and a Tennessee fumble that the Tigers recovered at their own 7-yard line, the first half would have been even worse for Missouri. By the end of the first half, Tennessee's 18:34 first-half time of possession was beginning to take a toll on the Missouri defense.
But at halftime, the Tigers regrouped and made effective adjustments.
On Missouri's first play of the second half, Kendial Lawrence took a hand-off 77 yards for a TD to cut the lead to 14-21, and more than double the Tigers' offensive output for the day.
On Missouri's next possession, the Tigers marched 45 yard on 9 plays to the Tennessee 37-yard line, where a bad snap threw off the timing of a run play, and Lawrence fumbled the football as he was late getting into a big hole up front. Tennessee scooped up the fumble and returned it to the Missouri 30-yard line.
Three plays later, Bray hit Alton Howard in the back of the end zone to put Tennessee up 28-14.
But, Missouri came right back, with a 9-play, 65-yard drive capped off by a Lawrence 1-yard TD run, to pull the Tigers to within 21-28.
The two teams went back and forth, but no one could dent the scoreboard, until on fourth down from the Tennessee 25-yard line, with 00:47 remaining in the game, James Franklin scrambled to his left and found Dorial Green-Beckham along the left side of the end zone, to tie the game at 28-28.
In the first overtime, Franklin found Jimmie Hunt on a 24-yard slant and run, to put Missouri ahead 35-28. Then, Bray got it to Rajion Neal for 8 yards on a screen pass to even the score at 35-35 and send the game into a second overtime period.
In the 2nd OT period, the Missouri defense held, and forced Tennessee into a fourth and goal from the 5-yard line. Tennessee lined up to kick the field goal, but on a fake, holder Tyler Drummer ran it in for the TD to put Tennessee back on top 42-35.
Missouri answered, as on third and three from the 18-yard line, Franklin found Marcus Lucas on a back shoulder throw in the right front corner of the end zone to send it into a 3rd OT period, tied at 42-42.
On 3rd and goal from the 10-yard line in the 3rd OT, Franklin found Green-Beckham near the left side of the end zone to take the lead, but the 2-point conversion failed as L'Damian Washington was ruled out of the back of the end zone. Washington made the catch and got his toe down in bounds, but his heel came down out of bounds.
Tennessee tied the score at 48-48, as Bray found Hunter on a drag route on 3rd and 11 from the 13-yard line. Hunter stretched the ball across the goal line, but the Vols failed on the 2-point conversion, as Andrew Wilson broke up a pass near the goal line to send the game into the decisive 4th OT, and set up the heroics for a pair of red-shirt freshmen.
"It was scary and exciting all at once," said Baggett, speaking of how he felt as he lined up to kick the game-winning field goal. "It just feels good to win it!"
While this early November contest between two 4-5 football teams didn't draw a lot of national attention, it was attended by bowl representatives, including representatives from the Liberty Bowl. With just two games remaining on the schedule for each team, Missouri at Tennessee could well have been labeled the Bowl Eligibility Bowl. For Tennessee Head Coach Derek Dooley, who has been on the proverbial hot seat for months, the outcome may have sealed his fate.