Mizzou Wins, but Not Without A Hefty Cost
The Tigers emerged from a somewhat sluggish performance with a 42-28 victory over Iowa State, but in the process suffered a painful loss when safety Pig Brown suffered a torn Achilles Tendon that effectively ends the playmaker's senior season.
"I'm sorry for him. Everybody's praying for him. That means other guys have to step up," freshman receiver Jeremy Maclin said of Brown shortly after the game, before anyone knew the extent of his injury.
Losing Brown, the heart and soul of Mizzou's defense, could prove to be a major blow. Still, the Tigers (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) did what they needed to do against Iowa State, taking an early 14-0 lead and holding off a game effort by downtrodden Iowa State(1-8, 0-5). Missouri stalled after building the quick advantage and led by only six points at halftime, but re-built the lead with its second defensive touchdown in two weeks and never was seriously challenged thereafter.
It wasn't nearly the feel-good win that last week's thumping of Texas Tech was, but ultimately it was another notch in the ‘W' column for Missouri, which now enters a vital stretch run.
"Winning is not going to be easy no matter who you are playing, so you have to go out there and play as hard as you can, as tough as you can, and hopefully come out on top," said Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, who completed 28 of 37 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown.
Daniel marched Mizzou down the field with ease on the team's first two possessions, completing all 11 of his pass attempts for 103 yards and a 14-0 lead. The rout, it seemed was on. But then something unfamiliar happened – Martin Rucker didn't catch the ball.
A high pass from Daniel to Rucker in MU territory caromed off of the sure-handed tight end's fingertips and bounded directly to Iowa State defensive back Devin McDowell, who raced 25 yards up the left side and dived into the endzone to cut MU's lead in half. The Tigers added a field goal to push the lead back up to 17-7, but Iowa State put together a 12-play, 68-yard drive capped by quarterback Bret Meyer's one-yard touchdown plunge with 24 seconds left in the first half, which again sapped the lead to three, 17-14.
Mizzou then took advantage of a surprising decision by the Cyclones, who with six seconds left and Mizzou holding the ball at the 40, elected to pull their entire defensive backfield back 15 yards off of the line of scrimmage. That allowed Daniel to hit Jeremy Maclin for an 11-yard gain. Maclin stepped out of bounds with one second left, and MU kicker Jeff Wolfert boomed a 48-yard field goal through the upright with several yards to spare for a 20-14 halftime lead.
But Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel, whose team was favored by 29 points, wasn't understandably unhappy with the narrow lead. Iowa State, which has had the worst offense in the Big 12 during conference play, had held the ball twice as long as Missouri in the first half and used Rucker's rare miscue to give itself a chance.
The locker room, suffice it to say, wasn't jovial. But no one on Mizzou's side was surprised not to have a huge cushion, or a cakewalk in general.
"You want to win all these games 40-6, and eat hot dogs in the fourth quarter, but that's not football," head coach Gary Pinkel said. "We understand that there are going to be battles out there, and I felt that we had a battle here in the fourth quarter, to keep the lead in this game, and that's ok. We won the game and we can grow from that also."
It didn't take long for his players to respond. Less than a minute into the half, Stryker Sulak stripped the ball from Meyer and it bounced into the endzone, where Mizzou senior defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams pounced on it for the first touchdown of his career. Sulak has been emerging as a potential star on MU's defense. Last week he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, and he was in the backfield with regularity this week.
"In terms of the game, I think the offense fed off of it. It felt good to do it. I was really happy for [Williams] that he got it and got us the touchdown," Sulak said.
Iowa State continued to play like it belonged on the same field as the No. 13 team in college football, though, moving 89 yards in 12 plays. After the Cyclones failed on two attempts to run the ball in from inside the two-yard line, Meyer lofted the ball into the corner of the endzone for 6-foot-3 sophomore Marquis Hamilton, who out-jumped Darnell Terrell and snared the touchdown. Mizzou 28, Iowa State 21.
Missouri answered quickly. Barely three minutes later, Daniel connected with Rucker for a 10-yard touchdown pass that seesawed the lead back to 14 points. Maclin added a 17-yard scoring run before Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson added a cosmetic 37-yard touchdown.
The Tigers now focus their attention to Colorado, where they head this weekend and where they have struggled mightily over the years.
"I don't think we executed as well as we should have today," Pinkel said. "We are going to have to look up the reasons why and look forward to Colorado."
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