In a battle of erratic quarterbacks, Missouri quarterback James Franklin and the eighth-ranked Tigers’ defense seized control of the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic late in the fourth quarter Friday to secure a 41-31 victory over No. 13 Oklahoma State in front of an announced crowd of 72,690 at AT&T Stadium.
Franklin led the Tigers on a 69-yard, fourth-quarter scoring drive to trump a go-ahead, 75-yard scoring drive by Oklahoma State with 5:04 remaining. The Tigers took the lead on a 16-yard run by Henry Josey and led 34-31 with 3:08 remaining in the contest.
The Tigers’ march trumped Desmond Roland’s score that put the Cowboys in front 31-27 for the first time in the contest.
Missouri (12-2) capped the victory when all-America defensive end Michael Sam forced a fumble by OSU quarterback Clint Chelf in the final minute that was returned 73 yards by Shane Ray for the clinching touchdown with 55 seconds to play. Oklahoma State finished 10-3. Chelf finished with three turnovers (two interceptions, one lost fumble). Franklin completed just 15-of-40 passes, with an interception and two lost fumbles.
But the Tigers’ defense did enough to help the team survive the error-prone evening and record a victory on a night when OSU outgained Mizzou, 548-462, in total yards.
With the win, Missouri matched its school record for most victories in a season (12), set by the 2007 team that also capped a 12-2 season with a Cotton Bowl triumph. Tigers coach Gary Pinkel also became the winningest coach in school history, securing victory No. 102 in 13 seasons at Mizzou, eclipsing the mark he shared with Don Faurot, namesake of the school’s stadium.
Pinkel said: “It came down to the fourth quarter and we just got that fumble and he ran down there. It was more about survival there toward the end but now I’ve got that trophy. I’m going to have it forever.”
For Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who saw an apparent OSU interception return for a touchdown overturned in the fourth quarter by a pass interference penalty, the loss was gut-wrenching.
“That’s a tough way to lose a game,” Gundy said. “That’s a very, very disappointed locker room in there. They said our guy interfered with him, so we’ll have to go with that. A loss like this will hurt forever.”
Franklin capped a turnover-marred performance with a timely, fourth-quarter scoring drive to help the Tigers break a 24-24 tie. Kicker Andrew Baggett booted a season-long, 46-yard field goal with 6:29 remaining to put the Tigers up 27-24. Mizzou’s go-ahead drive covered 47 yards and eight plays.
But OSU responded on its ensuing possession to take its first lead of the game 31-27 on Roland’s 2-yard touchdown run. The TD, set up by a pair of timely runs from Chelf, capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive.
After watching a 10-point halftime lead disappear, Missouri responded with a 60-yard touchdown play on its first possession of the fourth quarter. Franklin, whose second-half fumbles were instrumental in costing Mizzou its 17-7 halftime lead, had an 18-yard completion and a 12-yard run on consecutive snaps to get the march started.
Josey, the Tigers’ leading rusher, bolted 25 yards for the go-ahead touchdown before OSU answered on its ensuing possession. The Cowboys marched 75 yards in eight plays, with Chelf’s 23-yard touchdown run tying matters at 24-24 with 9:51 to play.
Eventually, the Tigers’ defensive rode to the rescue by collecting three turnovers.
“That had all the drama that you don’t want as a coach in the fourth quarter,” Pinkel said. “But when you get that Gatorade poured on your head, that’s great. Because it means your team did a lot of significant things.”
In the first half, Missouri backup quarterback Maty Mauk helped turn the momentum of a 7-7 game by leading an 80-yard touchdown drive in relief of ineffective starter Franklin in the second quarter. Mauk replaced Franklin after the senior completed just 4-of-16 passes, with one interception, in the first quarter.
Mauk, a redshirt freshman, scrambled for 35 and 34 yards on consecutive snaps before finding Marcus Lucas for a 24-yard touchdown strike to help the Tigers overcome a holding penalty and take a 14-7 lead. Because of penalties, Mauk actually accounted for 105 yards in the drive: 73 yards on three carries, plus 32 passing yards (2-for-2, including the TD).
But Franklin returned for the next possession and Mauk did not return until the final drive of the third quarter. With Franklin at the controls, the Tigers’ attack sputtered for one three-and-out possession before moving 62 yards in 11 plays to set up Baggett’s 35-yard field goal as time expired to give Mizzou a 17-7 halftime edge.
Before the Tigers’ second-quarter surge, the teams exchanged a pair of first-quarter touchdowns. Missouri moved 50 yards after an interception by cornerback E. J. Gaines and OSU answered with a five-play, 75-yard march capped by Chelf’s 40-yard scoring strike to Josh Stewart.
Oklahoma State responded after halftime with a 10-0 spurt. Both scores were set up by Franklin fumbles, with Chelf finding Jhajuan Seales on a 21-yard scoring strike to cap a 33-yard march. OSU kicker Ben Grogan, a freshman from Arlington Martin, connected on a 25-yard field goal with 13:33 remaining to tie matters after Franklin’s fourth-quarter fumble.
After the contest, Gundy fielded a question from a writer who identified himself as being from Sports Illustrated. The magazine did an investigation of the OSU program earlier this fall that drew objections from OSU officials who complained of reporting errors in the piece. After the writer identified himself as being from SI, Gudy said: “Sweet. Make sure you document this for your research.”