Iowa’s Micah Hyde picked off an ill-advised pass by Blaine Gabbert and returned it 72 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with just over five minutes to play to give Iowa a 27-24 lead that they would hold onto for a win over the Missouri Tigers in front of an Insight Bowl record crowd of 53,453 in Tempe, Arizona.
That is the play that will stick out, but this was one of those games that no matter who lost, they would be looking at missed opportunities and mistakes that cost the game. After a slow start for the Tigers, it looked like Iowa would be the team scratching their heads.
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi who threw just four interceptions all season, got picked off twice in the second half. The first by Kevin Rutland, came after Mizzou closed to 20-17 in the third quarter. After Rutland’s interception, the Tigers marched back down the field and scored to take a 24-20 lead. The second interception came with 8:25 to go in the game, when Jarell Harrison made a diving catch at MU’s 31 giving the Tigers the ball back and all the momentum on their side.
Gabbert, who threw for a season high 434 yards on 41 of 57 passes, went right back to work completing five passes in a row to get the ball down to Iowa’s 29 yard line. On the first down play, Gabbert was flushed to his left and decided to flick a pass towards tight end Michael Egnew. Hyde stepped in front of Egnew and then took off back toward the middle of the field. He ran the width of the field, then turned up the far sideline and went in untouched to put Iowa on top.
Mizzou’s chances basically ended on the next drive when Gabbert’s 4th and 6 pass to T.J. Moe was ruled incomplete. It was an incredible effort by Moe, who appeared to have made a diving catch, but replays showed he lost control at the end of dive, giving Iowa the ball back.
Moe set an Insight Bowl record with 15 receptions. He finished with 152 yards.
Before the two interceptions by the Missouri defense, they were ineffective against Iowa’s offensive line. The Tigers had 35 sacks during the season, but Iowa only allowed 20 and their o-line protected Stanzi all night and opened plenty of holes for their running game. Freshmen running back Marcus Coker set an Iowa bowl game record with 219 rushing yards on 33 carries. Coker also scored two touchdowns in just his seventh collegiate game.
Coker scored on a one yard run on Iowa’s opening drive of the game as he ran seven of the Hawkeye’s first eight plays. The big play in the drive came when Stanzi found St. Louis native Marvin McNutt for a 49 yard completion beating Carl Gettis.
Missouri answered with a nice drive and answered with a 23 yard field goal from Grant Ressel after Gabbert started by hitting eight of his first nine passes to make the score 7-3 in favor of Iowa.
Early in the second quarter, Coker broke free for a 62 yard touchdown run and a 34 yard field goal from Mike Meyer gave Iowa a 17-3 lead with 7:28 to play in the first half. The Tigers settled down defensively and Mizzou put together another scoring drive, a nine play drive ending with Henry Josey’s 10 yard touchdown run. Gabbert put up 284 yards passing in the first half. After another defensive stop, the Tigers were driving again and on 3rd and 10 from just outside Iowa’s 10, Gabbert fired a pass to Jerrell Jackson, but the ball tipped off his fingers and into the air where it was grabbed by Iowa’s Brett Greenwood denying the Tigers any points.
Down 17-10, Missouri went three and out to start the second half and Iowa drove from their own three for a 21 yard field goal. Again, it was Coker leading the way, busting off a 35 yard run as he carried the ball six times for 65 yards on that drive, giving the Hawkeyes a 10 point advantage.
However, Gabbert carried the Tigers on his shoulders putting on an impressive display of precision passes into tight areas. If Gabbert was auditioning for the NFL, he certainly drew interest. Iowa didn’t blitz much, dropping seven, sometimes eight into coverage, but Gabbert delivered strikes most of the night. His arm and decision making helped lead Mizzou to two touchdowns in that third quarter to give the Tigers the lead against a defense that was starting to wilt.
Unfortunately, Gabbert will be remembered for the poor decision in the fourth quarter when the Tigers could have iced the game.
The Tigers outgained Iowa 512-425. The stats were pretty equal. Each team turned the ball over twice, time of possession favored Missouri by just 26 seconds and while Missouri dominated in the air, Iowa controlled the ground game. It was the type of game you expected from both teams. I think the big difference was that Missouri could never pressure Stanzi.
Stanzi was 11 of 21 for 200 yards and while he had the two interceptions, he continued to do what he does well and that’s work the play action fake. He showed that at the end of the game. On a third and three from the Mizzou 40, he faked the handoff to Coker, rolled slowly to his right and hit his tight end Allen Reisner who went 39 yards to ice the game for Iowa.