As a result, Missouri captures the SEC East Division title for the second straight season, and the Tigers will play in Atlanta next Saturday, December 6th, for the SEC Championship.
“This team is very special,” said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, speaking of his 2014 squad. “They’re remarkably competitive. And when things get tough, they get tougher……………………………………. I can’t tell you how proud I am of those guys.”
Arkansas had outplayed Missouri in the 1st half.
“First of all, we played a really good football team,” said Coach Pinkel, speaking of Arkansas. Bret (Bielema)’s doing a great job of building that program. You know, we’ll be playing for a long time against those guys.”
Entering the 4th quarter, the Razorbacks led the Tigers by the score of 14-6.
On the first play of the 4th quarter, facing third-and-7 at the Missouri 19-yard line, Maty Mauk found Jimmie Hunt deep down the right side for a 44-yard completion, and a first down at the Arkansas 37-yard line. Hunt, who had dropped a couple of balls earlier in the game, bobbled the football twice before he hauled it in. Four plays later, facing second-and-16 from the Arkansas 32-yard line, Mauk dropped one in to Bud Sasser along the left sideline for a 28-yard gain, and a first down at the Arkansas 4-yard line. On second down, Mauk stepped up and changed the play at the line of scrimmage, then hit Jimmie Hunt on a fade in the back right corner of the end zone. Hunt fought off the defender and came down with the football. That capped off a 10-play 98-yard drive, in which Mauk was 5-of-7 for 92 yards and the TD.
Missouri trailed by 2, and the Tigers lined up for a two-point conversion. Again, Mauk stepped forward as if to change the play, and as he moved to the right, Evan Boehm snapped the ball directly to Marcus Murphy, who started running left out of what looked like a wildcat formation. But he then pitched the ball to Bud Sasser, who was running back to the right. Sasser then threw the ball to a wide-open Darius White in the back right corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion, and the Tigers and Hogs were tied at 14-14, with 12:41 remaining in the game.
Arkansas took over at their own 25-yard line, and picked up one first down before the Missouri defense held, and forced the Razorbacks to punt.
Missouri took over at their own 15-yard line in a tie game with 10:42 remaining on the clock. Missouri ran the football on 11 out of the 12 plays on this six-minute drive, and when Murphy burst 12 yards up the middle into the end zone, breaking tackles along the way, the Tigers had rushed for 90 yards on the scoring drive. Missouri led 21-14, with 4:38 remaining in the game.
But Arkansas was not done. The Hogs and their game QB, Brandon Allen, marched down the field to the Missouri 37-yard line. On second-and-10, Alex Collins ran over the right side for a couple of yards. Kentrell Brothers came up to make the tackle, and he put his helmet right on the football, knocking it loose. Markus Golden was there to help make the tackle and he wrested the loose football away from Collins as it lay on the ground. Initially, it was not ruled a fumble, but replay clearly showed that the ball had come out.
Missouri had the football, a little over two minutes away from the division title.
On the day, Missouri out-gained Arkansas 423 yards to 288 yards of total offense. The Tigers out-gained the Razorbacks on the ground by a 158-155 margin. Each team had a pair of takeaways. Maty Mauk finished 25-42-1 for 265 yards and 1 TD through the air. The Tigers converted 9-of-19 on third down, and 2-of-2 on fourth down. Missouri actually held the football for more than 5 minutes more than did Arkansas. Sasser had 9 receptions for 127 yards, and Hunt had 5 receptions for 61 yards and 1 TD. And, Andrew Baggett kicked a pair of very long field goals.
“He came out and made two great plays. Huge plays,” said Coach Pinkel, speaking of his kicker. “He had a tough week last week. And, to see him bounce back, and the players reach down and pick him up, you know, and help him.”
Missouri had taken the game’s opening kick-off and had gone three-and-out. All three pass plays. Mauk scrambled on two of them, but he had come up short of the first down marker.
Then, Arkansas got the ball and drove 70 yards on 11 plays. On first-and-10 from the Missouri 23-yard line, Arkansas QB Brandon Allen found Jonathan Williams all alone out along the left side. Kentrell Brothers lost track of Williams, who had faked staying in for pass protection before leaking out on the delay. No Missouri player was anywhere near Williams, and he waltzed into the left front corner of the end zone.
Missouri got the ball back, and kept it for the remainder of the 1st quarter. The Tiger drove 41 yards in total on 17 plays. On the first play of the 2nd quarter, Mauk was sacked by Trey Flowers, and Baggett came on to make a 52-yard field goal.
Arkansas picked up a first down, but then the Razorbacks went backwards.
Missouri averted a near-disaster when Murphy muffed the punt deep in his own end. But, he recovered it, and the Tigers had the football at their own 15-yard line, with 12:29 left in the 2nd quarter. The Tigers managed just 1 first down before they had to punt it back to the Razorbacks. Christian Brinser got off a low line drive that Jared Cornelius returned to the Missouri 31-yard line.
Seven plays later, on third-and-5 from the Missouri 12-yard line, Brandon Allen hit Keon Hatcher on a slant at the goal line, and Arkansas led 14-3 with 7:15 remaining in the half.
Missouri failed to move the football, and Michael Scherer was flagged for a late hit on Collins along the sideline. Arkansas was on the move at the Missouri 42-yard line. But Josh Augusta got in the backfield and stripped the ball away from Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams. Donavin Newsom recovered, and the Tigers were in business at their own 46-yard line. But on the next play, Mauk’s pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, and Arkansas’ D.J. Dean came up with the interception.
Arkansas went nowhere, and Murphy fair caught the punt at the Missouri 7-yard line. Missouri started moving the football, but the drive stalled at the Arkansas 33-yard line. Baggett made a 50-yarder on the final play of the half.
Arkansas held a 14-6 halftime lead.
In the 1st half, Missouri had rushed for 22 yards on 17 carries. Mauk was 13-22-1 for 99 yards. Arkansas had out-gained Missouri 166-121 in the 1st half, including 89 rushing yards on 16 carries.
And on the Missouri side, Jimmie Hunt had a pair of drops that would have made a big difference in the 1st half.
Arkansas took the opening 2nd-half kick-off, and picked up a first down at midfield. But the Razorbacks could move no farther, and they punted the football to Missouri. Murphy made the fair catch at the Missouri 9-yard line. The Tigers moved the football, 73 yards on 16 plays. But, Dan Skipper blocked Baggett’s 35-yard field goal attempt, and the scored remained Arkansas 14, Missouri 6, midway through the 3rd quarter.
In the 4th quarter, Missouri was able to utilize the pass to set up the run.
“We started making some big pass plays,” explained Coach Pinkel, speaking of his team’s 4th-quarter offensive execution. “Once you start doing that, you know, the secondary is going to loosen up a little bit more. They’re not going to come screaming down…………………………………………… Once we got going, and they’re worried about both (the run and the pass), that’s when it’s an advantage for us.”
Looking forward to next week’s SEC Championship Game, Coach Pinkel said that they know they’re going to be playing somebody great.
“Whoever we play next week, it’s going to be a huge game,” said Coach Pinkel. “Second time down there in a row, I’m just telling you this: It’s hard to do……………………………………….. We’re not sure who’s going to be there, but we do know we’re going to be playing somebody great.”