For Missouri, their 23rd win over the past two years is a school record. Senior defensive end and captain Markus Golden, who finished the day with 10 tackles, including 4 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 QB hurries, and a forced fumble, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Minnesota came in as the team known for running the football, but it was Missouri who ran for 337 yards and 2 TDs. Senior Marcus Murphy rushed for 157 yards on 12 carries. He also had 2 receptions for 16 yards, as well as 34 return yards, to finish the day for the Honorable Mention All-American and SEC Special teams Player of the Year with 207 all-purpose yards.
Missouri twice trailed Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl, including 13-14 in the 3rd quarter. But, as they’ve done so often this season, the Tigers owned the 4th quarter.
“We just battled,” said Missouri head Coach Gary Pinkel. “That’s the way we’ve battled all year. In the fourth quarter, you know, we’re a very, very competitive group in the fourth quarter. And, we also had guys make plays…………………………………….. We did it on both sides of the football. I’m just real proud of our players and our staff, and I’m happy for our Mizzou fans.”
Missouri quarterback, Maty Mauk, got off to a rough start, throwing a pair of 1st quarter interceptions. Minnesota led 7-0 after the 1st quarter, but Mauk and the Tigers bounced back in the 2nd quarter to take a 10-7 halftime lead.
Junior safety Ian Simon recovered an on-side kick to open the 2nd half, and the Tigers cashed in with a 33-yard Andrew Baggett field goal to extend the Missouri lead to 13-7 early in the 3rd quarter.
But Minnesota answered when All-American TE Maxx Williams took a pass along the left sideline, and leapt over two would-be tacklers for an impressive 54-yard TD reception that put Minnesota ahead 14-13 with 11:48 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Missouri went 3-and-out, but Minnesota muffed the punt, and the Tigers recovered at the Minnesota 34-yard line. Four plays later, Mauk ran it in from 18 yards out to put Mizzou ahead 19-14.
Minnesota answered with a 38-yard field goal to cut the Missouri lead to 19-17 with 7:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Missouri moved the ball to mid-field, but the drive stalled. Christian Brinser pinned the Gophers back at their own 11-yard line. From there, Minnesota picked up a first down at their own 37-yard line. On the next play, Michael Scherer forced a Mitch Leidner fumble, and Braylon Webb recovered.
Missouri failed to move the football, and a fourth down fake field goal failed. But Minnesota went 3-and-out, and the Tigers took over at their own 10-yard line. Murphy had returned the punt the distance, but the play was negated on a block in the back, and the Tigers were backed up.
Five plays later, on second and 9 from the Missouri 22-yard line, Hansbrough burst up the middle and raced 78 yards to the end zone. Missouri led 26-17, with 9:22 remaining in the game.
On Missouri’s next possession, Murphy ran 69 yards for a first down to the Minnesota 11-yard line. Three plays later, Mauk found Sasser in the back right corner of the end zone for the final score. Sasser finished the Citrus Bowl with 7 receptions for 68 yards and 2 TDs, capping off his senior season with 1,003 receiving yards.
The Missouri defense held Minnesota’s great running back, David Cobb, to just 81 rushing yards on 21 carries (3.9 yards/carry). Leidner was uncharacteristically effective throwing the football, as he finished the Citrus Bowl 21-31-0 for 258 yards and 1 TD. But the Missouri defense recovered 3 Minnesota fumbles, as the Tigers won the turnover battle by a 3-2 margin.
“Getting to eleven wins is not easy,” said Coach Pinkel. “I’m just very, very proud of these guys.”