The Extra Point: Missouri Claims East, Beats Texas A&M 28-21
COLUMBIA - It was a magical scene Saturday night on Faurot Field. The regular season culminated with a game that meant many different things for the Missouri Tigers football team and their fans.
Missouri stumbled to a 5-7 record in 2012, their first season in the SEC. They were a laughingstock in their new conference, dropping an embarrassing season finale to fellow conference newcomers Texas A&M by the score of 59-29. Injuries and tough breaks contributed to their misfortune, but that didn't matter.
In the eyes of the SEC and the nation, they were a joke.
But Saturday night made it official. They Tigers had turned the tables. They told the country, joke's on you.
No. 5 Missouri beat a familiar No. 21 Texas A&M team in an emotional game of revenge. The Tigers came into the game figuring to put up a lot of points, as Texas A&M's defensive statistics had been among the worst in the conference. The sledding was a bit tougher than anticipated.
The A&M defense hung tough in the first quarter, holding Mizzou scoreless, and keeping the talented Tiger running game in check. The Aggies scored on a 29-yard touchdown run to give them a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.
Missouri's offensive attack heated up a bit as James Franklin connected with Dorial Green-Beckham for a 38-yard touchdown pass late in the first half. With the score even at 7-7, it seemed like the Tigers were ready to take over the game.
That momentum was short-lived as Texas A&M marched for a touchdown a mere minute later. Mizzou had an opportunity to tie it back up before halftime, but as the Tigers neared the red-zone, they stalled and settled for a field goal try. Andrew Baggett did not convert, and the Tigers limped into the half down 14-7.
They turned things around after the intermission and poured on a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter. Marcus Murphy capped the first drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, and L'Damian Washington made a circus catch that was initially ruled incomplete, but was reviewed and reversed to give the Tigers a 21-14 lead after three quarters.
Johnny Manziel scrambled around like a madman all night, and wasn't about to lie down and concede the game to the Tigers. He orchestrated a touchdown drive to tie the game at 21-21 early in the fourth.
Missouri quickly stalled, and it looked like Manziel was about to add to his Heisman resume. Instead the teams traded punts a few times, as the Tigers defense gave Manziel fits, and refused to allow him to move the ball downfield on them again.
With the ball back in their hands, the Tigers elected to live or die with the running game. They pounded it on the ground twice to bring up third down and short. That's when Henry Josey took over, and busted through the line of scrimmage and won a footrace to the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown, and a lead the Tigers would never surrender.
The scenarios have been floating around for weeks. But now, one game stands between the Missouri Tigers and a BCS bowl. America's darlings, the Auburn Tigers, are fresh off their improbable stunning victory over previously No. 1 Alabama, and are the remaining obstacle for Missouri.
Mizzou's national championship aspirations are still within reach. A win over Auburn in the SEC Championship, and an Ohio State loss to Michigan State, and you can lock the Tigers in as the representative of the SEC in the National Championship game. The Tigers have come a long way.
The fans stormed the field to celebrate with the team Saturday night. The emotions were built up after a year of hearing how they didn't belong. But they solidified it under the lights on Faurot Field: they do. The ascent to notoriety in the SEC was complete.
But the Tigers don't want it to end here. Atlanta beckons, and Missouri has plenty left to play for.