It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters most. Mizzou found out the hard way as it let a late 14 point lead slip away against Oregon State in the Sun Bowl.
With 6:02 left in the game, Mizzou had the ball on its own 20 and immediately tried to run out the clock. Oregon State still had all three of its timeouts, but only used one of them as it put the weight of the game on the shoulders of its defense. Mizzou was unable to drain out the clock and was forced to punt with 1:41 left in regulation.
Sammie Stroughter (8 rec, 88 yds, 1 td) picked up some excellent blocking and was able to return the punt 40 yards to the Beavers 46. Oregon State picked up a first down on its first play from scrimmage, a dump off pass from Matt Moore (31-of-54, 357 yds, 4 td, 1 int) to Yvenson Bernard (23 car, 96 yds,) that picked up 13 yards. Dedrick Harrington had a chance to ice the game for the Tigers but dropped an interception that hit him right between the numbers. OSU made him pay. The Beavers were forced into a crucial fourth-and-three, but was able to convert as Moore found Stroughter for a first down pick up and the Beavers had new life. Just a couple plays later, Moore found tight end Joe Newton in the end zone from 14-yards out and pulling the Beavers within one point. Beavers head coach Mike Riley must’ve been ready to go home because he opted to attempt the 2-point conversion. Bernard got the call out of the backfield and converted right up the middle giving OSU a 39-38 victory.
Mizzou tried to reenact “The Play” from Cal vs. Stanford in 1982, but an illegal forward pass call ended the Tigers hopes.
The Tigers stormed out of the gates early scoring on its opening possession. Tony Temple (20 car, 195 yds, 2 td) gave Mizzou a 7-0 lead racing right, then cutting back to his left and scampering into the end zone from seven yards out. Temple’s run capped an 80-yard drive that took 10 plays and 3:30.
Oregon State showed some resolve on its ensuing possession. As Missouri expected, the Beavers showed a steady dose of Bernard. The Pac-10’s second leading rusher carried the ball four times for 20 yards constantly putting the Beavers in manageable third down situations. Moore had two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, but was able to complete 4-of-7 for 44 yards. OSU drove 80 yards on their first possession as well, tying the game 7-7 on a 13-yard scoring strike from Moore to Stroughter for his fifth touchdown reception of the year.
The Tigers were unable to get anything going on their next drive. Martin Rucker had a chance to make a big play, but came up short. Chase Daniel (16-of-29, 342 yds, 2 td) spotted Rucker deep down the right sideline but Rucker was unable to haul in the catch as he had a step on the defender. Temple took a handoff up the middle for a short gain on second down. A high snap on the next play was fumbled and recovered by Daniel, and the Tigers were forced to punt.
Stroughter returned the punt to the Mizzou 40. Bernard gained a yard on the first play. He was able to find a little more daylight picking up the first down on the next play with a gain of nine. On first-and-10, Moore escaped some light pressure to hit Ruben Jackson for another first down. After two short runs by Bernard, OSU was faced with third-and-seven. Coming out of a timeout, Moore scrambled to his right before hitting Stroughter a yard short of the first down. OSU coach Mike Riley opted to go for it on fourth down handing it off the Bernard who picked up the first down before being tackled on the one-yard line. Moore sneaked the ball past the goal line for the Beavers second touchdown of the quarter and giving them a 14-7 lead.
Jeff Wolfert brought Mizzou within 14-10 on a 30-yard field goal. It didn’t take Mizzou much time to score again. The Tigers faced a third-and-6 when Daniel spotted a wide open Danario Alexander sprinting down the right side of the field. Daniel launched a pass Alexander’s way and connected for a 74-yard catch-and-run touchdown strike giving Mizzou the lead 17-14. The score remained 17-14 going into halftime.
The second half started with an apparent bang. Mizzou caught the Beavers off guard with an onside kick and recovered. But the officials gathered together and ruled that the kick did not travel the necessary 10 yards.
Oregon State started the possession with a 28-yard run from Bernard. A few plays later the Beavers had the ball third-and-eight on the Tigers 11. Like clockwork, Moore threw his second touchdown pass of the game. This time it was to Newton (7 rec, 86 yds, 2 td), who used his body to shield David Overstreet from the ball. Just like that, OSU took the lead 21-17.
The Tigers returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 28. The drive started well with Coffman catching a 16-yard pass from Daniel for a first down. The completion put Daniel over the 200-yard mark for the game. A penalty on Rucker forced the Tigers into a second-and-21. Daniel rushed for a yard on the next play, and was able to find Ekwerekwu on the next play for a 37-yard completion and first down. The Tigers returned to the trickery it’d been employing all game, although unsuccessfully. Daniel dropped back out of the shotgun and hit Coffman on a bubble screen, Coffman then looked downfield and hit Saunders for a 29-yard touchdown pass.
Mizzou’s offense seemed to be stuck in neutral. That was until Temple took a delayed handoff and raced 65 yards pass the Beavers defense for a score and extending its lead to 31-21.
Alexis Cerna added a 29-yard field goal for OSU closing the gap to 31-24. But Mizzou didn’t waste any time answering the score. Daniel connected with Coffman for an 18-yard scoring strike and a 38-24 lead.
Oregon State cut into the Mizzou lead with a short touchdown pass from Moore to Bernard that made it 38-31.
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