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December 3, 2009
Ten plays that shaped the season
The regular season is over and the Tigers await their bowl fate. Before we find out where the season's 13th game will be played, we take a look back at the previous 12. In a feature we do every year, PowerMizzou.com has selected ten plays that shaped the season. Some were good, others not so much, but these are the ten snaps that got the Tigers to where they are:
10. Blaine Gabbert outruns Illinois
This was supposed to be the year Illinois beat Missouri. It wasn't. On his first series as a starting quarterback, the Missouri sophomore took off on a designed run play and outsprinted an Illinois defensive back to the corner for a first down. The Tigers scored on that drive and never looked back. And that run gave Missouri fans their first glimpse of the potential Gabbert has.
9. Sean Weatherspoon stuffs the Buffs
Missouri was doing everything it could to give back a 33-0 halftime lead in Boulder. Gabbert had thrown a pick six and the Buffs faced fourth and two at the Tiger 12 with a chance to creep within eight points. Spoon stuffed a run up the middle short of the first down and CU never threatened again.
8. Nick Florence's coming out party
Baylor had been averaging eight points a game in Big 12 play through four contests. The Bears started Florence, a freshman third-stringer, at quarterback. He proceeded to throw for a school record 468 yards. The scary thing about this game was that you couldn't pick out one play. There was no freak turning point. The Bears just flat beat Missouri.
7. Gabbert to Jared Perry against Bowling Green
Coming off the Illinois domination, the Tigers sleep walked through the first half against Bowling Green. They were down 20-6 in the third quarter when the offense woke up. Gabbert floated a perfect 30-yard touchdown pass to Perry just over the arms of a Falcon defender and Missouri would score 21 straight points to pull off the comeback.
6. Brian Coulter recovers a win in Reno
Missouri's matchup with Nevada on Friday night in Reno had all the makings of a trap game. And the Pack was hanging right with Missouri, running all over them even without their starting running back. But inside the five, Coulter forced and recovered a fumble from Luke Lippincott. Missouri went 97 yards for a touchdown that put the game out of reach.
5. Jordan Shipley starts fast
The Texas Longhorns came to Columbia as a heavy favorite in front of a sellout crowd and a national audience. On the Horns first play from scrimmage, Colt McCoy hit a wide open Shipley down the middle for 30 yards. Even the most optimistic Tiger fan felt the wind go out of his sails. Texas scored at will and had a 35-7 halftime lead.
4. A missed opportunity in Stillwater
Despite a greatly hobbled quarterback, Missouri had thrown the ball all over and was tied at 17 with nationally ranked Oklahoma State. On third down late in the second quarter, Gabbert heaved a 65-yarder to Wes Kemp. The ball hit Kemp in stride...and bounced off his thigh. OSU would score a go-ahead touchdown before the break and Missouri would never score again. Loss number two came to the Cowboys.
3. Super Nario burns the Cats
Pick out just about any play Danario Alexander made in his record-setting, nation-leading season. But none was bigger than his 80-yard touchdown in Manhattan. KSU had crept back to within 17-12 and, at this point, Missouri hadn't scored a second half touchdown in five weeks. With a minute left in the third quarter, the Tigers had run exactly three offensive plays. The fourth was a pass over the middle to Alexander, who shrugged off a tackle and outran the defense for an 80-yard touchdown. He scored three all told on the day and posted the first of four consecutive games with 173 yards or more to close the season.
2. A stunning three minutes in KC
With 2:59 to play and trailing by three, Gary Pinkel punted the ball away to a Kansas offense that had rolled up more than 500 yards in the first 57 minutes of the game. From that point on, the Tigers were perfect. Jake Harry and Trey Hobson teamed to down a punt inside the Kansas three for the third time on the day. Kevin Rutland became the first Tiger to successfully cover Dezmon Briscoe all day. Coulter and Aldon Smith combined on a safety. Derrick Washington ran for 27 yards on third and one. And Grant Ressel capped off an all-Big 12 season with Missouri's first come from behind game-winning field goal in 37 years.
1. Down goes Gabbert
How could the KU sequence not be number one? It wasn't the best plays, it was the ones that shaped the season. And no play shaped the season anymore than Ndamokung Suh rolling over Gabbert's ankle in the second quarter of Missouri's loss to Nebraska. Not only did Gabbert throw two picks in the fourth quarter of that game, but he was hobbled for weeks afterward and Missouri's offense was severely limited. Would the Tigers have been 10-2 with a healthy Gabbert? Maybe not, but they'd have had a shot.
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