Missouri survives scare from San Diego State on T.J. Moe’s last-minute TD catch
By MIKE DeARMONDThe Kansas City Star
COLUMBIA | Missouri was beaten. Blaine Gabbert had just thrown back to back interceptions. And San Diego State led by four points with the clocking running toward the final minute of what surely was going to be Missouris first loss of the season.
Then Gabbert zipped a routine pass toward the east sideline of Memorial Stadium. And every Missouri football fans now-favorite Tiger sophomore slot receiver T.J. Moe juked a defender, picked up a block from teammate Jerrell Jackson, and streaked 68-yards to a game-winning, and game-saving touchdown with only 51 seconds remaining on the Memorial Stadium clock.
Missouri 27, San Diego State 24.
as hard as it was to believe.
Rembember Hank Baskett, the New Mexico tight end who almost single-handedly beat Missouri when the Tigers last lost a game to a non-conference foe in the regular season? back in 2005?
well Ronnie Hillman had turned into that sort of bad memory. Running 75 yards to a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the first half, and then running out of an army of would-be Missouri tacklers, streaking 93 yards to a fourth-quarter touchdown that boosted the Aztecs to a 21-20 lead.
all sorts of things happened in a frantic final quarter. MUs DeVion Moore lost a fumble at the Tigers seven. Kevin Rutland intercepted San Diego States Ryan Lindley at the goal line.
the Aztecs made it impossible for Missouri to win on a Grant Ressel field goal when Abel Perez booted a 25-yard field goal to boost San Diego States lead to 24-20.
And then there were the two passes Gabbert completed to Aztec defenders.
so how did Missouri win and advance to 3-0? Improbably, impossibly, unbelievably. Thats how. on Moes seventh pass reception, that accounted for all but 51 of his 119 yards receiving.
But then, this victory will be a hard one to explain on many fronts.
The hounds that nipped at the heels of first-year offensive coordinator David Yost most of last season had reason to bay as Missouri took merely a 17-14 first-half lead on San Diego State.
the Tigers ran seven times in the first quarter, and ran it effectively. DeVion Moore who scored Missouris touchdown on a 17-yard dash up the middle of the Aztecs defense gained nine yards the only other time he touched the football in the first quarter.
Henry Josey netted 22 yards in three first-quarter carries, including 19 on one run.
And Kendial Lawrence, another tailback, ran for 17 yards on his only first-period rush.
thereafter? Missouri ran the football only four more times (counting the final play of the half when Gabbert took a knee with the last snap) while Gabbert was hitting just 13 of 27 passes in the first half for 145 yards.
Yosts critics, of course, will note that Missouri scored its second touchdown, with 2 minutes and one second left until the break, when Gabbert swept left end and ran up the west sideline 11 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-7.
Those same critics may point out that San Diego State made it 17-14 on – of all things – a rushing play. it was a huge one, the Aztecs Ronnie Hillman breaking into the secondary and racing 75 yards for the score with only 19 seconds left in the half.
That quieted the tidy crowd assembled at Memorial Stadium for what was, as the realistic anticipated, a competitive first half.
If might not have been had Missouri not gone away from its running game quite so often. Even counting the knee-down end to the half, Missouri averaged 6.6 yards a rush in the first half. Not counting that final play as a true rush, the Tigers averaged 7.2 yards a run.
After two games when his receivers caught just about every pass he threw their way, Gabbert might have expected perfection.
what Gabbert got was three drops, two by his most trusted receiver, T.J. Moe. a third by Jerrell Jackson came on a potential touchdown pass that hit Jackson in the hands as it came down over his shoulder near the end of the first quarter.
That possession ended with Missouri taking a 10-7 lead, thanks to Grant Ressel kicking a 34-yard field goal, his sixth in seven attempts this season.
Missouri opened the game as if San Diego State – off to a 2-0 start was merely a clone of a McNeese State team the Tigers ate up 50-6 in the MU home opener the previous Saturday night.
Missouri drove 80 yards in nine plays in 3 minutes, 16 seconds on its first possession after the game-opening kickoff went deep into and out of the end zone for a touchback.
Moore scored on a 17-yard run right up the middle of the San Diego State defense, one of those jet sweep plays in. which the running back comes swooping in from the flank and charges off left tackle. Another big play on the drive was a 26-yard pass reception by tight end Michael Egnew, stretching out on the east sideline for a circus grab.
at 11:44 of the first quarter, Missouri 7-0.
Unlike McNeese State, beaten when Missouri scored its first touchdown, San Diego State answered Mizzous scoring drive in kind.
on its first offensive possession, San Diego State drove 80 yards in 10 plays, taking 4 minutes, 10 seconds. the Aztecs scored on a bit of non-trickery. Missouri thought the Aztecs were running a double reverse and bit hard on covering the cutback.
it never came as running back Kazee swept the left side and ran 11 yards untouched into the end zone, tying it 7-7.
To reach Mike DeArmond, call 816-234-4353 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
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