Missouri won their 10th game of the season for the 4th time in the last 7 years, and Gary Pinkel won his 100th game as the Missouri Head Coach, which is 1 victory shy of Missouri’s all-time career leader, Don Faurot, as the Tigers moved one step closer to an East Division title and a trip to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship on December 7th.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” said Coach Pinkel, speaking of his team following the historic win. “They battle. And they just battle. They battle the adversity that happens in games. It happens all the time. But they’re a mentally tough group of kids. They’ve really wanted it bad! You can go on both sides of the football, and you saw some great plays at critical times that were made so that we could win the game.”
Senior QB and co-captain James Franklin returned from a shoulder injury that had kept him out of the last 4 games, and guided the Missouri offense with precision, as he finished 12-19-1 for 142 yards passing, and 42 yards rushing on 8 carries.
Missouri won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football, as the Tigers finished with 260 yards and 3 TDs rushing on 51 carries. On the other side of the football, Missouri held Ole Miss to 126 yards and 1 TD on 29 carries.
Franklin and the Tigers took the opening kick-off and drove 72 yards on 8 plays, with Josey taking in it over the left side from 4 yards out.
Then, with 10:01 remaining in the 1st quarter, Randy Ponder intercepted a pass from Mississippi QB Bo Wallace. But the ensuing Missouri drive stalled, and Mississippi took over deep in their own end midway through the 1st quarter.
Ole Miss put together an 18-play, 85-yard drive, in which the Rebels had a first and goal from the Missouri 1-yard line, but the Missouri defense turned them away, and then Josh Augusta blocked the Ole Miss field-goal attempt.
After the two teams traded punts, Maty Mauk came in to play QB for Missouri, a move Coach Pinkel described as a “planned substitution”. Mauk connected with Bud Sasser for a 60-yard catch and run, but after a series of miscues, Missouri had to settle for a 33-yard Andrew Baggett field goal.
Ole Miss answered with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that netted a 30-yard field goal for the Rebels that cut Missouri’s lead to 10-3, with 4:06 remaining in the 1st half.
But, Franklin and the Tigers answered with a 7-play, 68-yard drive that Murphy capped off with a 3-yard run to put Missouri ahead 17-3 with 1:37 remaining in the half.
Ole Miss captured the momentum when they took the 2nd half opening kick-off and four plays later, I’Tavius Mathers broke free over the left side for a 45-yard TD run to cut Missouri’s lead to 17-10 just 1:33 into the 3rd quarter. Ole Miss rushed for 78 of their 126 rushing yards on this drive.
Less than 2 minutes later, after Harold Brantley had converted a fake punt with a 26-yard run from the Missouri 20-yard line, Ole Miss gathered even more momentum with an interception of Franklin that gave the Rebels the football near midfield with over 11 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter.
But the Missouri defense rose to the occasion, and Ole Miss was unable to move the football. Missouri took over on their own 15-yard line. Franklin drove the Tigers 85 yards on 8 plays, with Josey taking it in over the right side from 11 yards out with 6:56 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Missouri led 24-10.
Ole Miss threatened yet again, but Missouri took over on downs with 8:08 remaining in the game when Kony Ealy burst through up the middle and forced Wallace to get rid of the ball in a hurry on a fourth and goal from the Missouri 13-yard line. From there, Missouri ran the football 15 straight times, forced Ole Miss to use all three of their time outs, and never surrendered the football, twice taking a knee from their victory formation to run out the clock.
“I love finishing a game like that,” explained Coach Pinkel. “It’s great to keep our defense off the field……………………………….. They know you’re going to run the football. And, can you get first downs when they know you’re going to run? We got that clock run out, and I was just really, really happy for our players………………………………………. This team is really special!”