Missouri has opened the fourth quarter in better situations.
With Vanderbilt facing fourth and one on the Tigers’ one-yard line, Missouri needed a stop to prevent the Commodores from running away with the game.
On the ensuing play, VU tailback Ke’Shawn Vaughn took the handoff and was met by the tandem of linebacker Terez Hall and defensive end Akial Byers, who brought Vaughn down for no gain.
Missouri took over on downs from its own goal line and proceeded to march 99 yards and give the Tigers the deciding score in a 33-28 victory.
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While Byers got the official recognition for the stop by the scorekeeper, MU coach Barry Odom said after the game that this was up for dispute.
“I don’t know who made it,” Odom said. “There were a lot of guys taking credit for it.”
Hall said after the game that defensive tackle Jordan Elliott got some push up the middle of VU’s offensive line, which allowed him and Byers to break free and get their hands on Vaughn.
When Missouri’s offense took over on downs, the Tigers were trailing 28-26. They had failed a two-point conversion attempt following Damarea Crockett’s touchdown two drives earlier.
“It’s never fun starting at the one-yard line,” MU quarterback Drew Lock said.
Lock said Missouri originally tried to get Vanderbilt to jump offside on first down from the goal line to get out of the end zone, but when that didn’t work, the Tigers started to run their offense.
Larry Rountree got Missouri out of the end zone quickly, taking the first carry of the series nine yards. After being stopped for no gain on second down, Rountree added another 10 yards the next two plays to move the chains.
“Once we hit them for almost eight or nine on that drive, I was like, ‘Ok, this is going to be our drive to take,’” Lock said.
On his fifth straight carry, Rountree ran for 12 yards to move MU to its own 32-yard line before Lock switched to Crockett.
Missouri’s run game had one of its best performances of the season against Vanderbilt, as Crockett and Rountree combined for 214 yards. Freshman Tyler Badie was out with a foot injury.
“They’re a two-headed monster,” said MU offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton. “When they’re on, nobody could stop them.”
Crockett had a three-yard run for MU on first down from the 32-yard line before Lock hit Johnathon Johnson on a crossing route for nine yards and tight end Daniel Parker for 15 yards. Parker, a converted defensive end, had his first career touchdown in the third quarter to cut Vanderbilt’s lead to two points.
With Missouri missing starting tight ends Kendall Blanton and Albert Okwuegbunam, Parker had a career day: three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Parker’s catch got Missouri into Vanderbilt territory at the Commodores’ 46-yard line. Crockett took the next three carries for seven, four and three yards, respectively.
Lock said MU’s run game was working to the point where he’d go to the sidelines after handing off to get the next play before realizing his tailbacks were still gaining yards.
On third down and short from VU’s 28-yard line, Lock began to wind things down. He hit Raytown High graduate Dominic Gicinto for a 25-yard catch to move MU to the 3-yard line.
Earlier in the week, Lock said that Gicinto was playing well lately after discovering his role with the team and owning it, something that doesn’t click for every freshman immediately.
“I’m rolling with the punches,” Gicinto said. “When my number is called I have to make a play. I know I have to make that play because there may not be another one.”
Lock ran in the touchdown the following play to give Missouri a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Tigers had gone 99 yards and completely switched the momentum in the game while eating 5 minutes, 38 seconds off the clock.
Missouri still gave Vanderbilt a chance to win on the final play of the game but came up with the stop to become bowl-eligible for the second straight year.
Pendleton said Missouri’s goal-line stop and game-clinching drive summarized the team’s performance. The Tigers had struggled to execute in the clutch this season.
“On both sides of the ball we didn’t play our best game,” he said. “But when the play needed to be made, guys stepped up and made that play. That’s different than it has been this season.”