It was clearly Missouri's best complete effort of the 2002 season, with the offense, special teams, and suddenly...the defense all stepping up their games at the same time.
While the media outlets will focus on Brad Smith and Zach Abron, the real story in this game was Missouri's defense. The much maligned Missouri defenders suddenly rediscovered a passion for the game that had been missing since the opening season win against Illinois.
Sean Doyle was a man possessed for much of the game, stifling Texas A&M's primative offense time and time again. Keith Wright and Antwain Bynum also played exceptionally well, as did Michael Harden who had the best game of his career.
The winning play
Despite giving up a game tying touchdown with 15 seconds to play, on a series that Mizzou did everything but completely implode, the Tigers perserved and found a way to win in double overtime.
Zach Abron ran like a man possessed
While Brad Smith provided the last winning plunge, it was Zach Abron and the offensive line that took charge in the second OT period and blasted the highly regarded Aggie defense off the line of scrimmage, driving the ball down to the A&M one yard line.
The mercurial Brad Smith quietly rushed for 94 yards and helped account for three touchdowns
The Special Teams were truly "special" vs. A&M, as Mike Matheny continued his excellent field goal kicking, the returners including Shirdonya Mitchell and Marcus James were sure-handed and effective, and the surprise star was junior college transfer punter Todd Gohsler who pinned the Aggies deep in their territory several times. Gohsler was thrust into the fore when starter Brock Harvey was injured during practice last week. The cover teams were also strong led by redshirt freshman Brandon Smith, who was seemingly in on every coverage tackle.
The complete team victory boiled down to Mizzou's dominance on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The offensive line played a very good game, and neutralized a defensive front that took top-ranked Oklahoma apart last week. Along with Wright and Bynum, Ellison, Bell and Mosley also had notable efforts in this game.
The Tigers return to take on a very good K-State team, which took Nebraska apart Saturday. While the Wildcats will pose a very formidible challenge for Mizzou, clearly the Tigers have more to play for than do the Wildcats. Yes...potential BCS pairings loom for K-State, but the Tigers are clawing for respectability and bowl eligibility.
Expect a packed house at Faurot next Saturday for the regular season finale.