Missouri tops Arkansas 48-45 in Battle Line Rivalry for sixth straight victory

Quarterback Drew Lock led the Tigers with five scores through the air to break the SEC single-season passing touchdowns record.

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock walks onto the field for the Tigers game against Tennessee in Knoxville in 2016. Maneater File Photo

It’s hard to win a road football game in the Southeastern Conference. At the end of the day, all that matters is leaving the stadium with a “W.” Missouri’s 48-45 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Friday was a testament to that.

"[The game] was ugly in most of every part of it,” head coach Barry Odom told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In another classic installment of the Battle Line Rivalry on Saturday, Missouri football edged out a gritty road win at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, capped off by a game-winning 19-yard field goal from Tucker McCann with five seconds remaining.

Junior quarterback Drew Lock shined brighter than ever, recording 448 yards passing to go with five touchdown passes.

When Lock tossed his second touchdown of the day to junior wideout Emanuel Hall for a 56-yard score, the play immortalized Lock in Missouri football history.

With his 40th passing touchdown of the season, Lock passed former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel for the Missouri single-season passing touchdown record, surpassing Daniel’s 39 touchdowns in 2008.

Lock’s next second-quarter touchdown connection with freshman Albert Okwuegbunam broke the SEC single-season passing touchdown record, eclipsing Kentucky’s Andre Woodson, who threw for 40 in 2007.

Despite the fact that Arkansas led early, the game stayed close throughout. Missouri’s big-play potential, paired with key defensive stops, helped the Tigers bounce back from a 14-point second-quarter deficit with 17 unanswered points to take a 31-28 halftime lead.

Odom was impressed with his team’s resiliency in the first half.

"Very happy for our football team and the resolve that they showed to find a way to win a really hard game," Odom told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Down the stretch, we made some plays.”

In the second half, Missouri returned to more of what worked. Lock went on to throw two more touchdown passes, while senior Ish Witter paced the offense with 16 carries for 61 yards. Witter finished the game with an impressive 39 carries for 172 yards and a touchdown.

Arkansas took a 42-38 lead with 10:42 remaining, but poor clock management from the Razorbacks and Missouri’s consistent offensive play in the fourth quarter put the Tigers in a position to carry out a methodical drive and set up McCann’s game-winning field goal.

Missouri’s defensive struggles from the beginning of the season returned as the Tigers gave up big plays and struggled to complete tackles early on. Arkansas exploded for 65- and 57-yard passing touchdowns, respectively, in the first quarter.

Even while giving up 45 points on the afternoon, the Missouri defense did a few things very well. The defensive line brought pressure, led by senior Marcell Frazier, who recorded eight tackles, a sack and three pass deflections. The secondary play improved as well, highlighted by freshman Adam Sparks’ second interception of the season.

Away from the box score, this year’s installment of the Battle Line Rivalry established the series as a legitimate rivalry. The two teams racked up a whopping 18 total penalties, with each side playing a chippy game, pushing and shoving between the whistles.

Perhaps the most tense moment of the game occurred when Arkansas freshman linebacker Derrick Munson was called for a targeting penalty in the opening kickoff of the second half. The play was reviewed and ultimately upheld, and Munson was ejected from the game.

Missouri’s impressive season turnaround continues. After its 1-5 start, the team’s sixth straight win improves the Tigers’ overall record to 7-5 and 4-4 in the SEC. Missouri is the first SEC team to finish 4-4 in conference play after starting 0-4.

Arkansas made national headlines when it fired head coach Bret Bielema immediately after the game. Initial reports stated that Bielema was fired as he walked off the field, but the university clarified that he was fired in his coaching office.

The game marked the end of Bielema’s fifth season as the head coach of the Razorbacks. He leaves the program with 29-34 record overall and four bowl game appearances.

The Tigers now await their bowl assignment, which will be announced on Dec. 3. Likely landing spots based on Missouri’s record and conference tie-ins include the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee, the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee or the Texas Bowl in Houston.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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