ARLINGTON, Texas — With a minute to play, the Missouri contingent at AT&T Stadium erupted in joy as sophomore defensive end Shane Ray picked up the ball after senior defensive end Michael Sam stripped it from Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf.
The only person not elated: Tigers’ coach Gary Pinkel.
“I started screaming, I didn’t want him to pick it up and bobble it and they get the ball back,” Pinkel said. “So I was mad for about two yards after he picked it up and started running with it. I reevaluated myself, I thought it was a good idea what he did.”
Ray returned the fumble 73-yards for a touchdown, swinging an ominous late Cowboy drive into a 10-point lead with 55 seconds to play, giving Missouri a 41-31 win in the 78th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.
Sam, the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year and Missouri’s second consensus All-American in program history, stayed quiet for the first 59 minutes, recording just two tackles. But with 55 seconds to play, he blasted his way into the action with the subtlety of a sonic boom.
“First team All-American, makes an All-American play,” Pinkel said.
The sack gave Sam 12.5 on the season, tying the school record set by 49er Aldon Smith. The team tied a record of its own, going 12-2 to match the 2007 squad for the highest win total in team history.
The sack capped an eventful fourth quarter; with featured two ties and two lead changes. The 41-point period set a record for most points scored in a single quarter in Cotton Bowl history.
Junior running back Henry Josey provided most of the the scoring for Missouri, punching in three touchdowns, two in the fourth, to go along with his 92 yards on 12 attempts.
Josey thanked his team and his support system for helping him succeed. Playing in his home state of Texas meant more of the supporters could see his big game.
“I couldn’t be happier right now,” Josey said.
The teams also set a Cotton Bowl record with 101 passing attempts, but quantity did not guarantee quality.
Senior quarterback James Franklin started out slow, going 4 of 16 for 33 yards and an interception through four offensive series. With the score tied at seven, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk strung together consecutive runs of 35 and 34 yards.
He capped off the drive by dropping the ball just over the outstretched fingertips of Cowboy cornerback Ashton Lampkin for a 24-yard touchdown to senior receiver Marcus Lucas to make it 14-7 Missouri.
Franklin reentered the game on the next Tiger drive, finishing with a final line of 15-40 for 174 yards. The Corinth, Texas, native was starting the final game of his three-year tenure as starting quarterback, and it’s been reported that he has quite a few friends and family at the game.
Mauk played one series in the second half, going three-and-out with two incompletions. Pinkel said the decision to play Mauk those two series was made in meetings Wednesday night.
Sophomore placekicker Andrew Baggett made both of his field goal attempts, from 35 and 46 yards, respectively. A delay-of-game penalty on a 30-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter by Oklahoma State backed the Cowboys up five yards. Freshman placekicker Ben Grogan hit the top of the right upright, keeping the score tied.
“For the most part, it came down to the kicking game,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “We missed a fairly easy field goal, and at that time (late in the game), the game would’ve been tied either way you look at it. So turnovers were somewhat equal and then they won the kicking game by hitting their field goals.”
Chelf finished with 381 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 48 yards and a score.
But 156 of those passing yards came in the fourth quarter. Just like Missouri, the Cowboys struggled passing the ball early on.
“We just couldn’t get in a rhythm,” Chelf said. “It seemed like we’d get a good gain and then we’d kind of stall out, we never really got our rhythm going. Once we kind of found it, obviously we got rolling.”
After giving up a 500 rushing yards to Auburn in its last trip out, the Missouri defense held Oklahoma State to a respectable 167 yards on the ground.
Senior linebacker Andrew Wilson won defensive player of the game, recording 15 tackles. With those, he passed his father, an ’83 Missouri grad, on the all-time tackles list, finishing his career in 10th place.
The defense also kept its streak alive of games in which it has forced a turnover, extending it to 44 when senior cornerback E.J. Gaines intercepted Chelf’s pass in the first quarter.