Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel needed to remind his players to be happy that they came away with a win, after the Tigers let a big lead nearly slip away in a 52-42 win over Illinois in St. Louis.
Much like last year’s game, Mizzou built a big lead, but watched Illinois fight their way back in it. The Illini looked like they were ready for the challenge when defensive lineman Derek Walker intercepted Chase Daniel and went in for a touchdown giving Illinois a 13-10 lead early in the second quarter.
This came after Daniel drove the team down 67 yards in 10 plays to start the game. Mizzou was ready to go up 14-0, but Tommy Saunders fumbled at the five yard line. Illinois got on the board when Juice Williams hit Will Judson for 30 yards in the corner of the endzone, over great coverage by Kevin Rutland. Jeff Wolfert hit a 51 yard field goal and Mizzou was up 10-6 when Daniel got picked off.
Then the Tigers woke up.
Mizzou went on a 17-0 run, highlighted by Jeremy Maclin’s 99 yard kickoff return, a 40 yard touchdown run from Derrick Washington and a touchdown pass from Daniel to Chase Coffman. At that point, it appeared half of the 66,000 plus fans wearing gold felt they were watching the beginning of a blowout, but Illinois would have a say come the second half.
Juice hit Chris Duvalt for a 20 yard touchdown pass, his second of the game, on a beautiful touch pass down the right sideline. Much like Missouri answered Illinois scores in the first half, Daniel brought the Tigers down again on a 67 yard drive capped by a Tommy Saunders four yard touchdown catch to keep an 18 point advantage.
On Illinois’ next possession, they went three and out and Maclin returned a punt 46 yards down to the Illinois 21, and Daniel hooked up with Saunders again and just like that Mizzou had built a 45-20 lead.
Then things started going sour. Williams hit Duvalt for another 26 yard score late in the 3rd quarter, and then Williams hit Will Judson for 65 yards on a play fake and the game was beginning to look a lot like last year with Illinois closing to 45-35.
Sean Weatherspoon came up with the first of two interceptions when he made a great read on Williams and jumped in front a receiver to give Mizzou the ball back at the 26, but on Mizzou’s next possession, Daniel was dropped for a sack when he had no options to throw to after receiver Jared Perry went down with a leg cramp and Maclin crumpled to the turf with an ankle injury (Maclin went in for x-rays and had his ankle iced after the game, but he said he would be fine)
After Mizzou held Illinois, the Tigers drove to the Illinois 30 and on a 4th and 2, Daniel tried to get the first down on a QB draw but was stopped with under four minutes to play.
Then Weatherspoon came up big again stripping the ball at the Illinois 26 on a Juice Williams pass and taking it in for the score to Mizzou back up by 17. Illinois would add a late touchdown with no time on the clock for Juice Williams’ fifth touchdown of the day.
Key stats :
Chase Daniel 26 of 43 for 323 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT
Derrick Washington 20 carries, 127 yards, 2 TD’s
Chase Coffman 9 catches 120 yards
Jeremy Maclin, 99 yard K.O. return, 46 yard punt return
Listen to Gary Pinkel and Chase Daniel on their postgame press conference.