ATHENS, Ga. — The play is called Colt 45, but that has less to do with malt liquor than former Missouri tight end Chase Coffman’s old uniform number — 45.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Apparently, the play was conceived with Coffman in mind, and that was what stuck in the Tigers’ playbook as the name for the double pass, which Maty Mauk lateraled to Bud Sasser along the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown lob to L’Damian Washington.
It proved to be the back-breaking score Saturday during Missouri’s 41-26 victory against No. 7 Georgia in front of 92,746 at Sanford Stadium.
“I’ve seen that a couple times in practice, so I knew it was in the playbook,” junior defensive end Lucas Vincent said. “As soon as I saw him slow up, I thought, ‘Oh man, Bud’s about to throw it.’ Then I was like, ‘Wow, he can throw.’”
Tigers fans had seen it before.
Missouri ran the same play in the 2011 Independence Bowl against North Carolina when T.J. Moe hooked up with Wes Kemp for — oddly enough — a 40-yard touchdown that spurred a 41-24 win.
Of course, on that occasion, Kemp was wide open behind the Tar Heels’ defense, while Washington made a spectacularly leaping grab with Georgia cornerback Shaq Wiggins draped all over him.
“(Washington’s) a monster, and I felt rejuvenated after that touchdown,” Vincent said. “It was crazy and all the momentum swung to us right there.”
Tigers coach Gary Pinkel didn’t realize the play had been called initially. He was probably getting an update on James Franklin, who had left the game with a separated shoulder three plays earlier.
Pinkel said there are some plays he wants advance notice to OK, but that the double pass wasn’t one of them and offensive coordinator Josh Henson had free reign to call the play when he saw fit.
With redshirt freshman Maty Mauk stepping in at quarterback and Sanford Stadium shaking, Henson decided the time was right.
“We wanted to protect him a little bit that first series,” Henson said. “The momentum of the crowd was really going at the time.”
He also thought it might catch Georgia off guard, though the Bulldogs’ defense didn’t seem fooled.
“They’d been triggering really hard and the two guys we had blocking there — I believe it was Marcus Lucas and Jimmie Hunt — did a great job holding off the defense,” Henson said. “I thought Bud made a good decision.
“They gave Bud a little extra time to make a decision. What it ended up being was just a one-on-one shot down the field and we always tell our quarterbacks, to go ahead and give it chance right there. He did, and it wound up being a great play.”
Of course, Henson also knew he was taking a big gamble.
“I was somewhat concerned about it, because it was second-and-2 and I thought, ‘Crap, if we lose 5 yards here, I’m going to look like an idiot,’” Henson said.
Hunt and Lucas deserve a lot of credit for giving Sasser plenty of time to set his feet and cock his arm for the downfield throw.
Tigers talk respect
If there was any lingering doubt that Missouri was on a mission to earn respect in the Southeastern Conference, the Tigers’ reaction to Saturday’s win erased it all.
Senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington vividly remembers Georgia celebrating on Faurot Field last year and didn’t want to live through a similar scene.
“(Friday) night, we watched the video of Georgia celebrating and saying, ‘Grown-man football,’” Washington said. “That’s cool, but we can compete in the SEC. Period.”
Hard hit by injuries, Missouri went 2-6 in its new conference last year, but winning at Georgia would seem to validate the Tigers’ ability to compete in the nation’s toughest football conference.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it feels damn good,” Copeland said.
Make no mistake, it was a watershed win for Missouri.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” junior defensive tackle Lucas Vincent, an Olathe North graduate, said. “They won the SEC East last year. When you knock off the SEC East champions, that’s going to turn some heads.”
And that certainly served as motivation for the Tigers.
“I’ve said since day one I’m proud to be a member of the SEC and you’ve got to earn respect,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “We earned a little bit.”
Henson alluded to trying to ease Mauk into the game. Here’s how the process went on the sideline.
“(Quarterbacks) coach (Andy) Hill went through and said, ‘Maty, what do you like on the call sheet?’” Henson said. “They went through it and he gave that to me. I called those plays based upon the feedback from coach Hill and Maty.”
Other than that, Henson said the coaching staff had immense confidence in Mauk.
“It’s very high,” Henson said. “You just saw what he can do. He made a big throw to win the game basically down there. Maty will do a great job and our team will rally around him. Everybody’s got to play a little better around him, especially when you’ve got a guy going in for the first time. You’ve got to be right on all your stuff.”
The throw Henson referenced was Mauk’s 20-yard strike to sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham, which set up Henry Josey’s 7-yard touchdown run for the game’s final score.
“That throw he made to Dorial was huge,” Pinkel said. “Instead of us having to be concerned about making a field goal, that got us down to the 5-yard line and we were fortunate to get it in. Maty’s a good competitor and he likes to be in this environment.”
Let’s not overreact, though, it was an underthrown ball and Green-Beckham deserves credit for the adjustment he made and the ball skills he displayed to haul it in.
Clearing up the ‘top 10, road win’ issue
Finally, there seems to be some confusion about the whole “last win over a top 10 team on the road thing,” so let’s clear that up.
Missouri’s last win against a top 10 team away from home was the 2007 win against No. 2 Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium. Anyone remember that game? Moving on …
The last win “on the road” was Oct. 3, 1981, against No. 9 Mississippi State, but that games — a 14-3 win for the Tigers — was played in Jackson, Miss., and not on the Bulldogs’ campus.
That leaves the last win in a true road game at a top 10 team’s on-campus stadium as Nov. 18, 1978, against second-ranked Nebraska — a 35-31 win in Lincoln.