From the Sun Bowl Vault: 1973 Game Recap

MUTIGERS.COM The El Paso Times provided this retrospective of the 1973 Sun Bowl win over Auburn.
The El Paso Times provided this retrospective of the 1973 Sun Bowl win over Auburn.

Dec. 14, 2006

From the Sun Bowl Vault: Missouri Sacks Auburn 34-17 On Game-Breaking Runback

By Tom Lindley / El Paso Times Sports Editor

John Moseley

John Moseley

EL PASO, Texas (Dec. 29, 1973) -- John Moseley, who’s no more than knee-high to a powder keg but goes off just like one, rocked the Sun Bowl only once Saturday. The one time he did, however, the Auburn Tigers came right out of their stripes, never to find their way back to the game again.

Generating all kinds of electricity with an 84-yard kickoff return in the fading seconds of the first half, Moseley dealt Auburn the fatal blow with his scoring run and Missouri University went through the formality of the second half to clinch a 34-17 victory in the 39th annual Sun Bowl Football game before 30,127 locals and a national TV audience.


The pulsating gallop by the 160-pound Moseley carried him across the goal line with no time left showing on the clock. It came on the heels of Auburn’s happiest moment and completely turned the tide of the first-ever meeting between two longtime bowl travelers.

Auburn had beaten the clock and Missouri out of a touchdown seconds before when freshman quarterback Phil Gargis rifled a fourth-down 17-yard scoring pass to Thomas Gossom making it a 21-10 game in Mizzou’s favor.

Gossom’s catch came with just eight seconds remaining in the first half and from the looks of the Auburn bench at the time it appeared there would be no stopping them in the second half.


But the War Eagles got caught up in their own momentum as they failed to play out the clock. Auburn assumed there was no way Missouri could retaliate in only eight seconds.

But they underestimated this little guy named Moseley by a mile—or 84 yards. Fielding the Auburn kickoff at his 16, Moseley—the man Gossom beat on his TD catch—saw a wedge of blockers form before him, cut to their left and in no time he saw he was sailing up the left sideline. He crossed midfield at full throttle and then the countdown to a touchdown began: 40. 30. 20. 10. There was no catching him. Missouri’s big play man had produced again.

“It was definitely the key play of the game,” said a victorious coach Al Onfrio. “When they scored with eight seconds and then we came back to score, it kind of knocked them out of it and really gave us the edge.”


The tell-tale touchdown of Moseley’s climaxed a most unexpected second quarter which found 38 points tallied by both teams. It sent the defensive game which was forecast down the drain.

Mistakes in the form of interceptions and fumbles had a great deal to do with the sudden rash of scoring, particularly on the part of Missouri. Auburn lost four fumbles and had one pass intercepted on a windy day in the Sun Bowl to contribute to its demise. Missouri’s first two touchdowns were set up by fumble recoveries.

Tommy Reamon

While Moseley made the day’s glamour play, the Tigers were not their ole conservative selves by any means. Sure, fullback Ray Bybee plunged up the middle time and again and tailback Tommy Reamon followed him nearly carry for carry—the game plan Missouri has executed all season.


But it was a halfback pass, a most daring maneuver that set Missouri in motion in the second quarter. Slotback Chuck Link took a pitchout from quarterback Ray Smith to initiate the play. Instead of heading upfield, however, Link pulled up and pitched a 35-yard scoring-strike to tight end John Kelsey, who was footloose and fancy free around the five-yard line and scored with ease.

That touchdown overcame a 3-0 Auburn lead which was earned on a 35-yard field goal by Roger Pruett. It was just the start of things to come as Missouri added a second touchdown less than a minute later on an abbreviated 24-yard drive following an Auburn fumble. Missouri scored its third TD of the first half on a 47-yard drive with 3.08 to go.


Missouri’s offense wasn’t lacking in anything. The fact that this was the most points the Tigers had scored this year bears that out. Smith, starting only his second game of his college career at Missouri, hit seven of 12 passes for 60 yards and two touchdowns while Bybee, the game’s most valuable back; ran for 127 yards to 110 yards for Reamon.

Meanwhile, Auburn coughed and sputtered all day on offense. Quarterback Wade Whatley was unable to move the War Eagles early in the contest and Gargis was called on to salvage what he could. The freshman signal caller did conspire with his split end, Gossom, to produce two exquisite scoring plays.

Gargis moved Auburn 80 yards in three minutes late in the first half, passing to Gossom for the touchdown on a fourth-down and 17 play. Gossom emerged between two Missouri defenders in the corner of the end zone with the football for Auburn’s first score.


Trailing 34-10 in the third quarter, Auburn used the Gargis-Gossom one-two punch to strike back on a 32-yard scoring play with Gossom coming over the top of cornerback Moseley to make the reception in the end zone.

Kelsey, the big Missouri tight end, and named most valuable lineman in the game, equaled Gossom in TD receptions, catching touchdowns of 35 and 2 yards. The two players tied a Sun Bowl record for most TD receptions with their efforts.

With the wind affecting the mood of the game considerably, neither team made a move to score in the first quarter although Missouri did get as far as the Auburn 12 before a War Eagle defensive stand rose to stop a fourth and inches try by Bybee.


Auburn did get cranked up late in the quarter, driving from its own 49 to the Missouri 18-yard line. The War Eagles were helped along by a pass interference penalty which rubbed out a Missouri interception. Finally, when fourth down came around, Roger Pruett kicked a 35-yard field goal on the third play of the second quarter.

It wasn’t until linebacker Lynn Evans recovered a Rick Neel fumble on the Auburn 35 that Missouri hopes soared. Then, on first down from there, Link crossed up Auburn with his perfect throw to Kelsey.

Two plays after the score, Missouri was breathing down Auburn’s neck again. This time a heavy rush put on Auburn’s Whatley forced a fumble which was recovered by Bob McRoberts at the War Eagle 24.

Ray Bybee

Ray Bybee

Smith hit Jim Sharp for 11 yards on first down and Reamon motored around left end for 11 yards and another first down before Bybee found paydirt from two yards out on the third play of the drive. Greg Hill’s point-after-touchdown kick made it 14-3 with 9:16 to go in the second quarter.

The wind worked against Auburn and to Missouri’s advantage later in the quarter as a wind-slowed 30-yard punt set up Mizzou on Auburn’s 47-yard line. It took 10 plays for the Tigers to punch it over and the touchdown call was a stroke of genius.

A yard short of a first down at the Auburn two, Missouri lined up as if to run. Smith faked a handoff to Reamon, who seemed to have all Auburn eyes locked on him, stepped back and hit Kelsey alone in the flat for the TD. Hill’s PAT kick made it 21-3 with 3:08 showing.

Auburn stormed back with Gargis passing to tight end Rob Spivey for 24 and 11 yards as part of his four completions along the way. Only 15 seconds remained when Gargis passed to Gossom on fourth down from the 17. The play before, Gossom grabbed a pass in the end zone but couldn’t bring a foot down inbounds.

Moseley spoiled the War Eagle hooping it up with his runback and a fumble early in the third quarter, which Missouri capitalized on for another TD, and sent Auburn under for the last time.


Missouri vs. Auburn




















Scoring Summary

2nd Quarter


Auburn --


Pruett 35-yard field goal

2nd Quarter


Missouri --


Kelsey 35-yard pass from Link (Hill kick)

2nd Quarter


Missouri --


Bybee 2-yard run (Hill kick)

2nd Quarter


Missouri --


Kelsey 2-yard pass from Smith (Hill kick)

2nd Quarter


 Auburn --


Gossom 17-yard pass from Gargis (Pruett kick)

2nd Quarter


Missouri --


Moseley 84-yard kickoff return (Hill kick)

3rd Quarter


Missouri --


Sharp 15-yard pass from Smith (kick failed)

3rd Quarter


Auburn --


Gossom 32-yard pass from Gargis (Pruett kick)


 Team Statistics



First Downs






Net Passing Yards



Passing (C-A-I)



Total Offense












Punt Returns-Yards




RUSHING -- Missouri: Bybee 27-127, Reamon 23-110, Moss 6-23. Auburn: McIntyre 10-46, Neel 7-26, Fuller 5-11.

PASSING -- Missouri: Smith 7-12-0, 60 yards; Link 1-2-1, 35 yards. Auburn: Gargis 7-15-1, 120 yards.

RECEIVING -- Missouri: Kelsey 2-37, Sharp 2-26, Reamon 2-22. Auburn: Stivey 3-56, Gossom 2-39, Arnold 1-10.



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