Missouri Surges in Second Half to Defeat Kansas State
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Missouri can finally look ahead.
Led by freshman wide receiver and all-purpose guru Jeremy Maclin, the Tigers defeated Kansas State 49-32. They will play Kansas for the Big 12 North Division title Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., at Arrowhead Stadium.
Missouri (10-1, 6-1 Big 12) refused to mention Kansas during its preparation for its cousin to the west, Kansas State (5-6, 3-5 Big 12). Players said they were focused on the Wildcats.
But after their victory, the Tigers congregated in the southwest corner of Bill Snyder Memorial Stadium and raised their helmets while fans wearing black and gold chanted, "Beat KU!" Soon after the cheer started, Kansas State fans joined in to voice their displeasure for their cross-state rivals.
“I’m already looking at KU film in my mind,” Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel said after the game. The Heisman Trophy contender had another impressive performance Saturday (28-of-41 for 284 yards and four touchdowns).
He will have to have another if Missouri hopes to beat undefeated Kansas. The stakes are high for the winner of the border clash, who will claim the Big 12 North and likely face Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. The winner at the Alamodome will have a chance to play for the greatest prize - the national title. After Oregon's stunning upset against Arizona on Thursday, the winner of the Big 12 is guaranteed a slot in the title game.
Kansas State coach Ron Prince believes Missouri has a chance at the title. He said Missouri was the best team the Wildcats had faced this season. "I clearly feel after today that we played a team that has a legitimate chance from a talent standpoint, an organizational standpoint to win the national championship," Prince said.
Missouri didn't look like it had a chance during the first half, but it took control after halftime. Although it led 21-18 at halftime, Missouri was outplayed by Kansas State during the first 30 minutes, getting outgained 248-145. But several plays hurt Kansas State, costing it a chance to lead. Missouri scored a touchdown after an early Josh Freeman interception deep in KSU territory. Then, after Kansas State answered with a field goal, Maclin ran back a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.
But the Tigers struck quickly to begin the second half, needing only 59 seconds and six plays to score a touchdown. Then, Maclin broke away for a 44-yard touchdown catch on their next drive to take a 35-18 lead.
But Kansas State answered with wide receiver Ernie Pierce's 20-yard catch, narrowing the lead to 35-25.
That was its last positive play on offense. After Kansas State stopped Missouri on the ensuing drive, it went nowhere after getting the ball back. The Tigers got the ball near midfield and drove to the goal line. After they decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal, quarterback Chase Daniel sealed the victory with a 1-yard touchdown pass.
Missouri will play its most important game in decades against Kansas on Saturday with a trip to San Antonio and the Big 12 Championship at stake. Kansas State must beat Fresno State next week to qualify for a bowl.
Player of the Game: Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yards gained by a freshman. He had nine catches for 143 yards and scored three touchdowns (two receiving and one on a kickoff return). He had 360 total all-purpose yards.
Play of the Game: Leading 35-25 with less than 10 minutes remaining, Missouri had fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel elected to go for it, and Daniel found tight end Martin Rucker for a 1-yard touchdown, ending Kansas State's chances.
Next up: Missouri plays Kansas next Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., at Arrowhead Stadium. The game will begin at either 3:30 or 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC. Kansas State takes on Fresno State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern in Fresno, Calif. The game will be televised on ESPN.