Missouri clung tenuously to a 34-31 lead as Oklahoma State drove deep into Missouri territory when All-American defensive end and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam sacked Oklahoma State QB Clint Chelf, and stripped the football. Missouri sophomore defensive end Shane Ray scooped up the fumble and raced 73 yards for a TD to put the Tigers ahead by the final margin with just 55 seconds remaining in the game.
Ray described the play that put the game away.
“Mike Sam made a great play, stripping the quarterback,” explained Ray. “And the ball bounced into my hands, and I said nobody’s going to catch me.”
The 12 wins matches the school record established in 2007, and makes Gary Pinkel, at 102 wins in 13 seasons, the winningest coach in Missouri history.
Afterwards, drenched in Gatorade, Coach Pinkel smiled.
After Missouri led 17-7 at the half, defense dominated most of the 3rd quarter. Late in the 3rd quarter, Oklahoma State converted a pair of Missouri fumbles into a TD and a FG to tie the score at 17-17, with 13:32 remaining in the game. That set off an offensive explosion, as the two teams answered score with score and combined for 41 points in the 4th quarter.
Missouri took the lead for good with 3:08 remaining when Henry Josey ran it in from 16 yards out, his third rushing TD of the game. He finished the Cotton Bowl with 12 carries for 92 of Missouri’s 256 rushing yards.
The Cotton Bowl was something of a microcosm of James Franklin’s Missouri career, as he overcame adversity again and again to lead his team to a character win. After his best receiver allowed Franklin’s first pass attempt to bounce off of his hands for an interception, several of Missouri’s receivers went on to drop pass after pass. In the 3rd quarter, Franklin developed a case of the drops himself, as he twice laid the football on the ground. On the night, Franklin finished a dismal 15-40-1 for 174 yards passing. Yet, in the 4th quarter, with the game in the balance, Franklin came through with three successive scoring drives to put Missouri ahead again and again.
Missouri and Oklahoma State each forced 3 turnovers in the game, and it was the final one that sealed the win for the Tigers.
Junior safety Braylon Webb, who along with senior corner E.J. Gaines, each intercepted Chelf, described his team’s Cotton Bowl victory thusly, “We just came out here and grinded it out for 60 (minutes), and we got the win!”