Missouri mutes Purdue in mayhem-filled fourth quarter, 40-37

Tucker McCann knocked in a 25-yard field goal as time expired to boost Missouri after the Tigers lost multiple double-digit leads.
Purdue wide receiver Jared Sparks sits atop the Purdue bench after his late, lead-taking touchdown catch was overturned, leaving the Boilermakers and Tigers tied at 37 late in the final quarter of play on Sept. 15, 2016. The Tigers won the game, 40-37, with a walk off field goal. Jared Fisch

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Momentum shifted more times than one should reasonably be able to count at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium Saturday night.

The final moments of Missouri’s first half against Purdue alone were enough to foreshadow: a lead of 17 comfortable points trimmed swiftly to three. So when it happened again in the second half, that recently rebuilt advantage of 10 points dashed by an unthinkable catch and a blocked field goal, there wasn’t much reason to believe the final 3:28 of regulation would pass without more drama.

And the Tigers made true on that back-and-forth theme one more time, with a drive that ate up the rest of the clock and resulted in a Tucker McCann walk-off, chip-shot field goal from 25 yards to give Missouri (3-0) a 40-37 win over Purdue (0-3).

In contrast with last season’s 35-3 loss to the Boilermakers, this often felt like a display in absolute chaos. It blossomed into both a win and a wake-up call for the Tigers.

“Hey, 3-and-0,” defensive coordinator Ryan Walters simplified after the game.

Purdue, down 37-27 in the final quarter after already erasing a 27-10 hole earlier, caught some magic in the form of a deflected heave off Missouri safety Cam Hilton’s helmet and into the hands of unintended receiver Brycen Hopkins. It went for 74 yards. The next play went for a touchdown.

Suddenly leading just 37-34 and with Purdue’s fans roaring, Missouri faced a fourth-and-5 from the Purdue 35, but elected to punt despite having succeeded on multiple fourth downs on the evening. But on the punt, an offsides penalty gave Missouri a fresh set of downs and new life. Then in another cruel twist, Drew Lock’s first interception of the year came on a mistake at the Purdue 10-yard line.

Heads kept spinning all the way down the field until a Purdue field goal tied the game at 37. The Boilermaker offense had seemed unstoppable but was stymied on an overturned touchdown call on third-and-goal. The pass was ruled incomplete after a long review, to the chagrin of Purdue faithful.

Senior quarterback Drew Lock had the game in his hands with a tie game and the ball, and his clutch factor seemed to set in after a first-and-10 pass which was swatted at the line. After his pocket broke down on the next play, Lock scrambled to his right only to throw to his left, finding freshman Tyler Badie for a 20-yard completion.

“You normally see like young guys eyes light up in situations like that,” Lock said of Badie after the game. “His eyes stay the same. Really just narrow, level-headed the whole time and for the situation we were in, I think a young me might have been a little bright eyed, but he was stone cold killer that whole time.”

A couple more short gains and a 25-yard pass to Emmanuel Hall landed the ball deep in Purdue territory.

Hall, normally a main fixture in the Tiger passing attack, was out for a majority of the game, but he was itching come crunch time.

“It was tough man, Hall said of watching the game from the sideline, “it was really tough. And at the end of the day, I’ve gone through three years of losing and I was like, ‘Dude, there's’ no way we’re losing this game.’

Before the drive, Hall had only one thing to say to the coaching staff.

“‘I’m going in,’” Hall said. “‘It’s not even a question.’”

The Tigers milked the clock inside the 10 to set up Tucker McCann for the dagger, a 25-yard field goal as time expired.

While McCann faced the pinnacle of any kicker’s career, he was certain of himself.

“It’s a big weight lifted off your shoulders, but I knew if I had the opportunity to kick it I was going to make it,” McCann said.

In fact, McCann was far from shocked or surprised it came down to him.

“The whole game I kind of figured it was going to be a fourth quarter game,” McCann said. “That’s what they were telling us all week.”

While the final drive was the deciding factor of Saturday’s game, there were several key factors for Missouri outside of that, even beyond the team’s usual suspects.

Sophomore running back Larry Rountree III provided a long-awaited spark for the Missouri offense’s ground game. He finished with 168 yards and averaged 7.3 yards per carry, as opposed to 3.8 yard per carry through his first two weeks.

“I don’t think it’s been any change, we just went out there and played,” Rountree said of his performance.

When asked about where the rushing attack began to break free, Rountree was critical of himself more than anything, but admitted the ground game got a fairly early start with his 18-yard rush on the fourth play of the game.

“Well, I got caught, so I shouldn't have got caught, but honestly I do think that opens it up,” Rountree said.

Then there was a defense that ultimately played a bend-don’t-break second half.

The secondary, which allowed 572 yards through the air seemed to be the achilles heel of Missouri’s defense, but the unit pulled together as a whole, allowing just one touchdown all of the second half.

Defensive back Adam Sparks, who finished the game with a team-leading 11 tackles, noted that this year’s defense is better-suited for adverse situations.

“We see that when adversity comes,” Sparks said, “we see how to react now and [that] we need to rely on each other … instead of trying to do everyone else’s job, make sure we have each other’s backs. That’s the main thing.”

While the team pulled out the win, 572 yards through the air and 614 yards in total are concerning, especially for a team playing defending-conference champion Georgia in one week.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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