Missouri’s 51-48 quadruple overtime victory at Tennessee was emotionally draining and exhilarating as any in recent memory. For me, the Tigers came into this game off of an encouraging showing the week before at Florida, and Tennessee’s first-half dominance was disappointing and discouraging.
Then, in the third quarter, the Tigers began to play the way that I had expected them to play, and they began to chip away on the comeback trail.
Coach Pinkel used a couple of words to describe his team and the game. As Missouri pulled to within a single score at 21-28, late in the third quarter, and finally tied the game to send it to overtime on a fourth-down completion from James Franklin to Dorial Green-Beckham along the left side of the end zone, the game had become, in Coach Pinkel’s words, “intense”.
He used the word “resilient” to describe his team. Yes. These resilient Tigers prevailed in this intense game.
Along the way, there were plays and performances aplenty. During the first half, Franklin and the Missouri offense were abysmal. But after intermission, Franklin was magnificent! In the game’s final minute and in the four overtimes, he tossed a career high 4 TD passes. On that final drive in regulation, facing fourth-and-nine from the Tennessee 40-yard line, Franklin withstood pressure in the pocket to deliver a 17-yard completion to Marcus Lucas. Then, facing fourth-and-twelve from Tennessee’s 25-yard line, Franklin scrambled to his left extending the play and found Green-Beckham for the first of a career-high 2 TD receptions. Fourth and twelve! Intense! Resilient!
During the third quarter, a brave Missouri fan had called out to him, “Hey James, you’re horrible!” Later, as Missouri players lined up along the stands to celebrate their first SEC road win with the fans, the same fan was there to celebrate.
"After the game, that same guy was saying I was great," laughed Franklin.
After intermission at Tennessee, I saw the James Franklin that I’ve been expecting to see.
Jimmie Hunt had a career-high 2 TDs at Tennessee, and Kendial Lawrence rushed for a career-high 153 yards on 21 carries. Andrew Baggett’s 35-yard FG in the fourth overtime was his first game-winning kick at any level.
Andrew Wilson came up big in the third overtime, as he broke up a Tyler Bray pass attempt on Tennessee’s two-point conversion attempt, and sent the game into a fourth overtime period.
In that fourth overtime period, Randy Ponder broke up a Bray pass attempt in the end zone on second-and-three. Then, Kony Ealy knocked the third down pass attempt down at the line of scrimmage. Red-shirt freshman Ian Simon was in the game because E.J. Gaines had gone to the sideline with a sprained ankle. On fourth-and-three, Simon got just a piece of Bray’s short pass attempt, and the ball fell to the ground, setting it up for Mizzou and Baggett.
There were plays and heroes all around in this intensely contested battle. Both teams landed haymakers, and both teams fought back again and again. In the end, Missouri prevailed, and Coach Pinkel called his team “resilient’. As Coach Pinkel later said, “There’s just such a fine line between winning and losing”.