MEMPHIS, Tenn. - It might have been a rainy day in Memphis, but the offenses for both the Cowboys and the Tigers were fired up and ready to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
The Cowboys kicked things off when OSU quarterback Taylor Cornelius completed a 30-yard pass to wide receiver Dillon Stoner, whose field presence led to a key block from a referee for a walk-in touchdown to put the Pokes up 7-0.
On the Tigers' next possession, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock threw a 58-yard pass to wide receiver Emmanuel Hall, who was tackled at the 6 yard line. The Cowboy defense held, leading to a Missouri field goal to put them on the board 7-3.
In the second quarter, the Tigers went with running back Larry Roundtree III, who ran for 30 yards to get Mizzou down the field. Lock completed a 5 yard pass to wide receiver Dominic Gicinto for the Tigers first touchdown of the game, taking the lead with a 10-7 score.
During the next Cowboy drive, the pocket collapsed around Cornelius, who ran for the first down marker and was given a key block by wide receiver Tylan Wallace. On the next play, Cornelius completed a 7 yard touchdown pass to Tyron Johnson to regain the lead 14-10.
On the next Missouri possession, Lock completed a 16 yard touchdown pass to tight end Kendall Blanton. Missouri missed the extra point, going into halftime with a score of 16-14.
In the third, Cornelius completed a 9 yard throw to Wallace in the end zone for another touchdown, retaking the lead 21-16.
On the first play of the half for Missouri, Lock completed a pass to Jalen Knox, but a hit by OSU’s Kenneth Edison-McGruder caused a fumble, which was recovered by OSU linebacker Justin Phillips.
The Cowboys handed the ball off to Chuba Hubbard who trotted into the end zone for another touchdown. OSU’s lead grew 28-16.
After a drive plagued by penalties for Missouri, the Tigers settled for a field goal, bringing the score to 28-19.
On the next possession by the Cowboys, Cornelius threw a 46 yard touchdown pass to Tyron Johnson, extending the lead to 35-19.
In the fourth quarter, Cornelius threw an interception to Missouri safety Cam Hilton. On the next play, Lock threw an 86 yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Johnson, bringing the score to 35-26.
After another Cornelius interception, Missouri's Roundtree ran for a 55 yard touchdown to bring the score to 35-33. After OSU went three-and-out and a failed fake punt, Missouri attempted a field goal but it was blocked by OSU's Mike Scott.
The next series, the Pokes settled for a field goal of their own. It looked like the Tigers would be able to score one more time before the clock ran out, but the OSU defense stopped them on fourth and one to make the final score 38-33.
"We knew that we had to play really physical football to compete and give ourselves a chance to win. So I couldn't be any more proud. It's been a terrific week for us, and these guys were willing to pay the price for a month and come together as a group," said OSU head coach Mike Gundy. "It ended up being somewhat of a shootout; defense made a play at the end. There were turnovers that were big plays, but in the end, we found a way to get a stop on fourth and one."
At two separate points during the game, OSU was hit with targeting penalties which led to the disqualifications of cornerback Rodarius Williams and cornerback Kemah Siverand.
"With the targeting and when Rodriguez got hurt, we were down several guys in the secondary. In fact, if one more went down, I'm not sure who would be in at that time. But proud of those guys for competing and making plays and finding a way to win in the end," Gundy said.
In a news conference after the game, Gundy said that the blame for the targeting calls rests with them.
"I think the correct calls were made based on the rule. We know it, we know what the rule is. Our guys were really wired up to play physical football, we knew we had to play physical football. We have to do a better job of coaching them to stay below the chest. I think the rule needs to stay intact because ultimately we want the game to become safer. It's a violent game as it is, it's a tough man's game so if we can stay from the chest down, it'll make it better. I hate to see players go out but I think that's the only way we're ever going to control it. We have to do a better job of coaching them and drilling them," said Gundy.
After the game, Tyron Johnson said that the team was absolutely fired up to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, especially after a speech that Gundy gave in the locker room before the game.
"I asked them to take the challenge of playing in the SEC and being more physical than them, in a different way, in a different language," Gundy said.