The Missouri Tigers open their 2007 college football season with an nail biting 40-34 win over the Big Ten’s Illinois Fighting Illini before a crowd of 62,252 under the Dome in St. Louis.
Illinois got on the board first on blocked punt the Illini turned into a touchdown. Vontae Davis blocked an Adam Crossett punt, picked up the loose ball at the 2 yard line, then hopped into the end zone to put Illinois up 6-0. Jason Reda’s extra point attempt was blocked by Cornelius "Pig" Brown to keep the score at 6-0.
The Tigers then marched 80 yards in 9 plays for their first score of the 2007 season. A drive that included a 29-yard Jeremy Maclin run was capped with a 4th and goal, 1 yard pass from Chase Daniel to Chase Coffman for the major. Jeff Wolfert’s convert put Mizzou up 7-6. That’s how the 1st quarter ended.
In the 2nd quarter, Cornelius Brown, who came up big with a PAT block following the Illini touchdown, made the play of the game. And, he did it as Illinois was was driving for a TD from inside the 5 yard line. Eddie McGee, who had taken over at quarterback for the injured Juice Williams, fumbled while trying to get into the end zone. Brown scooped up the ball in the Missouri end zone and ran it back 100 yards for a touchdown. Coach Gary Pinkel opted to try for the 2-point conversion, which failed, leaving Missouri on top 13-6.
Brown came up big once again before the 1st half ended, recovering his second Eddie McGee fumble of the game, this one on the Missouri 29 yard line, to stop an Illini drive. And, the Tigers took advantage of this turnover, moving the ball 69 yards down the field in 12 plays, capped by a 2 yard touchdown pass from Chase Daniel to Will Franklin for 6, with Jeff Wolfert adding the PAT to put Missouri up 20-6.
That did not end the scoring. Mizzou put 3 more points on the board as the half ended. Connell Davis recovered a fumble on the Tiger’s kickoff, allowing Jeff Wolfert to boot a 27-yard field goal as time ran out to give the Tigers a 23-6 lead at the half.
The start of the 3rd quarter saw Illinois show there was still some fight left in the Illini. They took the opening kick off of the second half, going 79-yards on 9 plays, hitting pay dirt on a Rashard Mendenhall 25-yard TD run, with Jason Reda converting to bring Illinois to within 10 at 23-13.
Mizzou wasted little getting back that major, going down the field for a touchdown on the very next series of downs. A 25-yard TD pass from Chase Daniel to Jeremy Maclin put the finishing touches on a 7-play, 80-yard drive.
Maclin scored another 3rd quarter touchdown, this time on a 66-yard punt return, with Wolfert adding the extra point, giving Missouri a 37-13 lead.
Illinois closed the gap with just over 4 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, as quarterback Eddie McGee ran the ball in from 16 yards out to complete a 7-play, 72-yard touchdown drive, with Reda kicking the extra point. Missouri 37, Illinois 20.
The Fighting Illini then closed the gap to 10 points. Danario Alexander fumbled, with Illinois recovering on the Mizzou 41-yard line. On the next play, McGee fired a 41-yard strike to Kyle Hudson, with Reda converting. The 3rd quarter ended with Mizzou leading 37-27.
Ilinois began the 4th quarter with a fumble recovery giving the Illini the ball at the Missouri 4-yard line, and it didn’t take long to take advantage of the Tiger miscue. Mendenhall ran it in from the 4 and Reda converted to bring the Illini to within a field goal at 37-34.
Missouri scored its first and final points of the 4th quarter on a Wolfert 32-yard field goal, bringing to a close a 9-play, 46-yard scoring drive.
The remaining 8:32 of the contest was enough to give Mizzou fans the jitters. It was "edge of the seat" time for Tiger fans as the Illini got the ball on their own 30 yard line with 6:01 to play and drove down the field to the Missouri 22. On first and ten, McGee fired a pass toward the Missouri end zone and it was picked off by Cornelius Brown, an interception that allowed Mizzou fans to breathe a collective sigh of relief. With 51 ticks left on the clock, Mizzou kept the ball on the ground to end the game. Final score: Missouri 40, Illinois 34.
In the passing department, Chase Daniel completed 37 of 54 passes for 359 yards. Martin Rucker caught 10 passes for 86 yards while Danario Alexander caught 9 passes for 82 yards. On defense, Cornelius Brown and William Moore each had an interception in the game.
Missouri’s next game is next Saturday, in Oxford, Mississippi, against the Rebels of Ole Miss.