Recap: Missouri vs. Arkansas
Columbia, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Maty Mauk threw for 265 yards and led two long fourth-quarter touchdown drives that rallied No. 17 Missouri to a 21-14 victory over Arkansas and an appearance in the SEC Championship Game.
The Tigers (10-2, 7-1 SEC) sewed up their second consecutive SEC East title by scoring 18 unanswered points -- 15 of which came in the final quarter -- to overcome a 14-3 first-half deficit and run their winning streak to six games.
"This team is very special and remarkably competitive. One of the great traits they have is that when things get tough, they get tougher," Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel said afterward. "I can't tell you how proud I am of these guys."
Mauk threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Hunt to cap a 98-yard series that tied the game with 12:41 left, with Marcus Murphy putting Missouri ahead on a 12-yard run with 4:38 remaining.
Mauk completed 25-of-42 attempts with an interception and the one touchdown, while Bud Sasser caught nine passes for 127 yards and threw for a key 2-point conversion that aided the comeback.
Russell Hansbrough added 91 rushing yards on 20 carries, and Missouri's defense pitched a shutout in the second half to deny Arkansas (6-6, 2-6) a third straight win over a ranked opponent.
Brandon Allen tossed a pair of touchdown passes prior to halftime, but the Razorbacks were held to 122 total yards over the final two quarters.
Allen finished just 13-of-30 for 133 yards. Jonathan Williams ran for 72 yards and had a 23-yard touchdown reception for Arkansas.
"I missed a lot of easy throws," said Allen, who was dealing with a hip injury that forced him out of last week's 38-0 rout of Ole Miss. "Hurt or not, a lot of third down throws I missed would've kept the drives alive."
Limited to a pair of field goals by an Arkansas defense that was coming off back-to-back shutouts over LSU and Ole Miss in its previous two outings, Missouri's offense sprung to life after getting the ball on its own 2-yard line while down 14-6 late in the third quarter.
A 44-yard deep strike from Mauk to Hunt on 3rd-and-7 into Arkansas territory got the Tigers untracked, and Sasser hauled in a 28-yard pass down the sideline before being pushed out at the 4-yard line later on the drive. Two plays afterward, Hunt wrestled the ball from a defender in the end zone to get Missouri within two points.
Sasser then took a reverse pitch on the conversion attempt and hit an uncovered Darius White to knot the score at 14-14.
Arkansas generated little before punting the ball away once again, and Missouri powered its way to a 12-play, 85-yard sequence behind strong running from Hansbrough and Murphy.
The two backs combined for 84 yards on the go-ahead drive, with Hansbrough converting a crucial 4th-and-1 and Murphy spinning off a defender on a shotgun draw to give the Tigers their first lead of the day with a 12-yard scamper with 4:38 to go.
"We started making some plays," said Pinkel of the Tigers' fourth-quarter success. "They were mostly pass big plays, but once you start doing that, the secondary is going to loosen up a little bit more and they're not going to come screaming down (into the box). Once we got going, the defense had to worry about both running and passing, and that was an advantage for us."
Missouri's Shane Ray kept the Razorbacks' hopes alive by hitting Allen after the whistle on a 4th-and-8 situation on the ensuing possession, and Arkansas converted another fourth down on Hunter Henry's 9-yard catch that moved the ball to the Tigers' 37.
Alex Collins had the ball jarred loose by Kentrell Brothers following Henry's grab, however, with Markus Golden recovering for Missouri before the Tigers ran off the remaining time.
"For us to beat an SEC team of this caliber on the road, you've got to play a lot more cleanly," said Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. "One of the things that we preach on everyday is to eliminate unforced errors, and there were some uncharacteristic offsides, a couple personal fouls -- then we obviously have to take better care of the football."
Allen at first showed no lingering effects from his injury, as the junior quarterback made good on 5-of-6 throws on Arkansas' opening series to get the Razorbacks off to a quick start.
The last of those attempts was a play-action toss on third down to a wide-open Williams, who raced 23 yards into the end zone to put Arkansas up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Missouri responded with a methodical 17-play march that culminated in Andrew Baggett's career-long 52-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but the Tigers mustered only one first down over their next three possessions as the Razorbacks increased the margin.
Jared Cornelius' 35-yard punt return that followed the second of those stalled drives set Arkansas up at the Tigers' 31, and Allen capitalized on the excellent field position soon afterward with a 12-yard strike to Keon Hatcher that extended the lead to 14-3.
Arkansas appeared to have a chance to tack on a few more points when Trey Flowers sacked Mauk and caused a fumble that Taiwan Johnson pounced on at the Missouri 19 late in the first half. A replay review ruled Mauk's arm to be going forward for an incomplete pass, however, to allow the Tigers to keep the ball.
Mauk scrambled 13 yards on the next play to convert a third down, and a 9-yard catch by Murphy on 3rd-and-9 later on put Baggett in range for a 50-yard field goal that pulled Missouri within 14-6 at halftime.
Baggett had a 35-yard try blocked midway through the third quarter, but Missouri stopped the Razorbacks on downs after the change to stay within one score.Game Notes
Missouri outgained Arkansas by a 192-47 margin in total yards during the
fourth quarter ... The Tigers, who fell 59-42 to Auburn in last year's SEC
title game, will face either Alabama or Mississippi State in Atlanta on Dec. 6
... The Tigers had lost their two previous games this season in which they
didn't score first ... The new conference rivals had squared off just five
times previously, the last two meetings occurring in bowl games. Arkansas
downed the Tigers in the 2003 Independence Bowl and Missouri dealt the Hogs a
38-7 loss in the 2008 Cotton ... Hunt finished with 61 yards on five catches.