NEBRASKA 45, MU 38 (OT)
Faurot Field - Columbia, MO
This isn't the kind of game people forget. It is the kind of game you stand around and discuss at the water cooler in the office. The conversation always starts, "If only" But one could never sum up a game like this in a minute's worth of highlights on TV. And you can't explain it in a conversation. And you can't describe it in a newspaper column. Heck, you can't describe it in an entire newspaper.
When ABC chose to televise the Missouri-Nebraska contest not many people expected much of a game. And no one - at least no one outside of the Missouri locker room, expected this.
Nebraska was ranked No. 1, as the Cornhuskers have been for much of the decade. Missouri was ecstatic to have gotten votes in the last poll with a record of 6-3, not yet having cracked the rankings.
Nebraska had beaten Missouri 18 straight times. The Cornhuskers had given up seven total points in their last three games. Their opponents had run 16 plays in Nebraska territory in those three contests. Missouri had beaten Texas and Colorado in somewhat off years. The Tigers had fought tooth and nail and survived in double overtime at Oklahoma State. Nebraska was favored by 29.
And yet, for 59 minutes and 59 seconds, Missouri played toe-to-toe with Nebraska. A Corby Jones-to-Eddie Brooks pass had put Mizzou up 38-31 in front of Faurot Field's largest crowd in 13 years. The defense, which had been flat out abused in the first quarter, had stiffened and given up just ten second half points. The Husker defense, meanwhile, had surrendered more points since it had given up 45 on New Year's Day in 1991, to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, that season's co-national champions.
Mizzou had a chance to shock the world and beat a No. 1 team for the first time in school history. Nebraska took over on its 33-yard line with 62 seconds left. Scott Frost, who went in to the game in competition with Jones for all-Big 12 quarterback honors and had run for 141 yards, had been an ineffective passer most of the day, being picked off twice and not throwing a single scoring pass while Jones hit on three.
But he got the Huskers started when he hit Kenny Cheatham for 27 yards down the sideline. Then he threw an incomplete pass. And then another - this one about two inches from being an Al Sterling interception that would have sent Columbia into a frenzy. But on third and 10 Frost hit for 13 yards.
What it came down to was this. Third- and-ten from the Missouri 12 with seven seconds remaining. Frost threw a bullet over the middle. It ricocheted off the chest of intended receiver Shevin Wiggins as Julian Jones wrestled him to the ground. The ball fluttered toward the ground, just inches from the grasp of safety Harold Piersey who had one interception already.
Wiggins' left leg flew skyward. With a bicycle kick that would have made Pele proud, Wiggins kicked the ball backwards over his head. Matt Davison, a little known reserve wideout dove for it. With his hands scraping the Faurot Field turf, he scooped it up. Up went the referee's arms. Touchdown. No time left.
Tiger fans stormed the field, either not seeing, or not believing. After they returned to their seats, Kris Brown nailed the extra point to tie the game.
It was without a doubt the college football play-of-the-year in the college football game-of-the-year, and it sent the contest to overtime. "One stinking play" is how a somber MU Coach Larry Smith put it.
The game wasn't over. Not technically. That didn't happen until Frost ran for his fourth touchdown of the day and Jones was sacked on fourth-and-seven by native Missourians Michael Rucker and Grant Wistrom, giving the Huskers a 45-38 win.
And yet after the game, Missouri players found themselves able to talk about moral victories, and how they should have won that game, and how doggone it if Nebraska was No. 1, they were by God No. 2.
This was the day Tiger football turned the proverbial corner. They had won their sixth game a week earlier to clinch a winning season. They showed they were good all year. They showed they were great on this Saturday on which they not only scared, but they terrified the best team in the land. They knocked Nebraska from that top-ranked pedestal and rose in the rankings themselves, despite a loss. They did it on national television in front of a sell-out crowd. They served notice: Missouri football was back from the dead.
|NEBRASKA ||14 ||7 ||7 ||10 ||7 ||- ||45|
|MISSOURI ||7 ||17 ||7 ||7 ||0 ||- ||38|
|M - Olivo 1 run (Knickman kick)|
|N - Frost 16 run (Brown kick)|
|N - Frost 1 run (Brown kick)|
|M - Coleman 18 pass from Jones (Knickman kick)|
|N - Green 7 run (Brown kick)|
|M - FG Knickman 39|
|M - Olivo 34 pass from Jones (Knickman kick)|
|N - Frost 1 run (Brown kick)|
|M - Jones 6 run (Knickman kick)|
|N - FG Brown 44|
|M - Brooks 15 pass from Jones (Knickman kick)|
|N - Davison 12 pass from Frost (Brown kick)|
|N - Frost 12 run (Brown kick)|
|ATT - 66,846|
| ||NE ||MU|
|First downs ||30 ||20|
|Rushes-Yards ||61-353 ||46-153|
|Passing ||11-24-2 ||12-20-1|
|Passing Yards ||175 ||233|
|Total Offense ||528 ||386|
|Return Yards ||17 ||48|
|Punts-Avg ||4-27.0 ||2-35.0|
|Fumbles-Lost ||2-1 ||0-0|
|Penalties-Yards ||5-45 ||2-10|
|Third Down Conversions ||12-16 ||8-16|
|Time of Possession ||30:57 ||29:03|
RUSHING - NE: Green 30-189, Frost 23-141, Makovicka 7-24, Buckhalter 1-(-1). MU: Jones 12-60, Olivo 11-42, Blackwell 9-30, West 3-13, Janes 2-8.
PASSING - NE: Frost 11-24-2-175-1. MU: Jones 12-20-1-233-3.
RECEIVING - NE: Cheatham 5-54, Green 2-48, Davison 2-25, Newcombe 1-33, Jackson 1-15. MU: Brooks 3-64, Ross 2-51, Olivo 2-45, Layman 2-19, Murchison 1-28, Coleman 1-18, Blackwell 1-8.