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Columbia Missourian

Missouri football survives, beats Tennessee in fourth overtime

By Richard Fernandez
November 10, 2012 | 3:21 p.m. CST
Missouri tailback Kendial Lawrence runs the ball during the first half of the Missouri football game against Tennessee on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Missouri quarterback James Franklin rolled out to the right, started to run, then looked up and saw Marcus Murphy wide open on the right sideline.

Franklin quickly released the ball, which went straight into the grass, well short of Murphy. It was his first throw of the game against Tennessee, and he was coming off  a four-interception game the week before.

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The offensive struggles continued for the entire first half, but Franklin and the Missouri football team managed to tie the game in the final minute of the fourth quarter and eventually beat Tennessee 51-48 in the fourth overtime.

"That's just momentum, confidence, all those things," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. "There's no secret here. There's no magic. You've got to make plays."

Despite playing a Tennessee defense that allowed 48 points and 721 yards to Troy last week, the Missouri offense wasn't making any plays in the first half. The Tigers managed just 64 yards on offense in the first half, compared to the Volunteers' 383.

"I just didn't think we were playing (in the first half)," Pinkel said. "When you don't have confidence and you don't play with momentum and have confidence, you can't dial it up. You know, you can't. A speech isn't going to do it. You've got to have somebody make some plays."

Missouri kept the game close thanks to big plays. Jimmie Hunt returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Kendial Lawrence scored on a 77-yard run to open the second half.

The Tigers tied the game on their final drive in regulation. Trailing 28-21 with 43 seconds left, Dorial Green-Beckham was able to keep his feet in bounds as he reached out to grab a pass from James Franklin on fourth and 12 for a 25-yard touchdown.

The teams were even through the first three overtimes. In the fourth overtime, Missouri defensive back Ian Simon tipped Tyler Bray's fourth down pass, and it fell incomplete. Andrew Baggett kicked a 35-yard field goal to win the game.

"It was just a good feeling," Franklin said. "It felt like a team victory where everyone did their part and did well."

After the defense has kept Missouri in several games this season, the offense made plays to win this game. Pinkel talked about how difficult it has been for players on his defense because they haven't had much support from the offense all season. The offense came through in this game. Franklin ended up with four touchdown passes, doubling his total for the season.

"It felt pretty good watching them do that," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. "They saved us."

The Tigers' bowl hopes are still alive after their first Southeastern Conference road win. Missouri is 5-5 and will need to beat either Syracuse or Texas A&M to reach a bowl game.

"I'm just real proud of my players and my coaches, and this has been difficult and now there's a little light shining here at the end of the tunnel," Pinkel said. "It got a little brighter, but now next week's game is mammoth."