As the final minutes wound down in Missouri’s game with San Diego State last Saturday, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert threw an interception for the second straight drive, a mixture of panic and resignation to defeat filled Faurot Field.
After that second pick, the Aztecs had the ball up 24-20 with 1:47 remaining. Thousands and thousands of Tiger fans headed for the exits, no doubt angry that Missouri had looked past the Aztecs. Fortunately, Missouri had two timeouts left, kept the Aztecs out of the end zone, and San Digeo State punted and Missouri took over at its own 12-yard line with 1:22 to play.
Then receiver T.J. Moe provided the Tigers with one of the biggest bailouts in Missouri football history. Moe caught a pass in the left flat, used a sensational juke move to avoid a defender, and then benefited from a great downfield block by receiver Jerrell Jackson to get free. Moe raced down the field for a 68-yard touchdown with 52 seconds remaining.
The Missouri sideline was a mass of uniforms jumping up and down. Thousands and thousands of fans’ arms raised in triumph. The cannon in the north end zone boomed. Missouri stopped the Aztecs desperate final drive, and the Tigers were 3-0.
It wasn’t quite as last-second as Anthony Carter’s long touchdown catch-and-run in 1979 as time expired to avoid a tie with Indiana. And it didn’t have the implications of Georgia’s Lindsay Scott pulling off a last-minute 92-yard touchdown reception in 1980 to keep the Bulldogs’ national title hopes alive, during which legendary Georgia announcer Larry Munson’s call was famously, “Run Lindsay! …Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!”
But it was Missouri’s first final-minute, game-winning touchdown since the classic 1976 win at Ohio State and the first such play at home since the 1958 win over Idaho. It was one of the more thrilling finishes in the 440 games Missouri has played at Faurot.
It was also a lesson in not giving up on one’s team. I get it when the team is down 30 with three minutes left, but when the Tigers of old Mizzou are down by four and have a couple of timeouts, don’t leave the stadium or turn off the radio or TV. In six of Missouri’s last eight wins against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, the Tigers have trailed in the second half.
Moe’s touchdown sparked two different, fair reactions. The glass-half-full perspective says Missouri (No. 24 in the Coaches Poll) is still unbeaten and was able to overcome a difficult situation to pull out the win. Lessons can be learned. The glass-half-empty view says this team struggled mightily and maybe should have lost to a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 1998.
Next week, Missouri finishes up its nonconference schedule against Miami (Ohio). Miami (Ohio) was ranked near the bottom of all FBS teams in preseason publications, so the game gives Missouri another chance to show it won't look past overmatched opponents. Expect a big Missouri win.