SAN ANTONIO — Northwestern punter Stefan Demos made the mistake of kicking it directly to Missouri’s No. 9.
Receiver Jeremy Maclin exploded from the Missouri 25-yard line, dodging defenders, hauling the ball all the way to the end zone, leaving a purple wake of Wildcats no match for his speed.
With that, Maclin effectively erased the Tigers’ disappointing first half. Missouri went to the locker room with a much-needed surge of confidence. It’s no secret this team had higher hopes than the Alamo Bowl, but the Tigers were still looking for 10 wins and regained respect. Completing the half with more penalties than points could have destroyed the bit of morale Missouri had.
“We knew we could play much better,” Maclin said.
Maclin has been invaluable to Missouri’s offense and special teams in the past two years, and he proved just as vital in the Tigers’ come-from-behind win. Maclin earned offensive player of the game honors with 187 total yards and two critical scores. His first-half touchdown put Missouri back in the game. His overtime touchdown sealed the win after the Tigers almost threw it away.
“It was a sigh of relief,” Maclin said.
Not just for Maclin, but coaches, players and fans.
Missouri loses 23 seniors this year, but Maclin, a redshirt sophomore, could be one of the most missed Tigers next year. No one will be surprised if Maclin forgoes future seasons at Missouri. He is likely to be an early first-round draft pick if he decides to make the jump to the NFL.
His name is all over Missouri’s record books. He leads in single season receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. This year he is leading the nation in all-purpose yards, even though most teams have been kicking away from him.
When senior quarterback Chase Daniel saw the punt at the end of the second quarter fly in Maclin’s direction, without much hangtime, he had one thought: “Mistake.”
“Y’all are going to pay for that,” Daniel remembers thinking about the Wildcats.
As expected, Maclin submitted his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board but has repeatedly said his decision is far from made.
“There’s a lot more that I want to achieve at this university,” Maclin said.
Maclin said he will discuss his options with coaches and family when the time comes.
Missouri players and coaches will miss Maclin if he gets an opportunity in the NFL, but they point to the depth of the Tigers' receiving corps as hope for next season. Juniors Jared Perry and Danario Alexander, who have had their share of playing time this year, will fill the slot if Maclin leaves.
Teammates and friends, of course, hope he doesn't.
“I’m his roommate,” junior linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “I can probably get him to stay.”
If the Alamo Bowl turns out to be Maclin’s last game as a Tiger, he won’t be disappointed.
“I caught Chase Daniel’s last pass at Mizzou,” Maclin said.
Even though he wasn’t supposed to. The Tigers had a different pass route planned for the overtime play, but when Daniel bobbled the snap, Maclin improvised and made himself open.
“It worked out pretty well,” Daniel said.
Especially if it was Maclin’s last play, too.