Missouri coach Gary Pinkel knew his team’s motivation to play the worst team in the conference might not be at an optimum level.
So Pinkel thought of 13 reasons a win against Iowa State mattered. He announced the list to his players at a meeting Thanksgiving morning.
After MU’s 45-7 victory at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, the Tigers could name most of them.
“One was to be 6-0 (at home), one was to be 8-4, one was to win for the seniors, one was to get back in the winner’s circle, one was for redemption and possibly get a better bowl,” defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison said. “Win for the seniors, did I already say that?”
The Tigers (8-4, 4-4 Big 12 Conference) finished undefeated at home for the first time since 1974 and 6-0 at home for the first time. MU did not lose two straight all season.
Iowa State finished 2-10, 0-7 with a 10-game losing streak.
Pinkel has accused his team all season of not handling success, though, and he was right to suspect the Tigers. The beginning of their eventual trouncing was not pretty.
In the second quarter, MU scored two touchdowns and gave up one against Iowa State’s No. 100 defense and No. 111 offense.
Quarterback Brad Smith rushed for a 19-yard score, and tailback Zack Abron had one of 17 yards. On his run, Smith had no trouble breaking two tackles, and Abron stiff-armed safety JaMaine Billups on his way to the end zone.
Abron did not wait long to break MU’s career rushing record in his final game on Faurot Field. Abron passed Brock Olivo’s record of 3,027 yards on a 12-yard run in the first quarter. Abron finished with 3,061 yards after rushing for 46 yards on 11 carries.
With two seconds left in the half, Iowa State receiver Lane Danielsen scored on a 62-yard pass from junior Waye Terry. Danielsen caught the ball at the 30 and weaved through three MU defenders.
“The guy had like eight seconds to throw, and we broke down in the secondary,” Pinkel said.
The Tigers scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, though, and started erasing Danielsen’s touchdown from their minds.
Kicker Mike Matheny, who earlier had almost skimmed his linemen’s helmets on a blocked 26-yard field goal attempt, tied his career-long on a 44-yarder. On Iowa State’s next play, Ellison forced Terry to fumble on the Cyclones’ 22. Defensive end Xzavie Jackson picked up the ball and ran to the 4.
“All I was worried about was like we do in practice, scoop and score,” Jackson said. “I picked it up and ran, but I was tired a little bit, couldn’t get in.”
Tailback Damien Nash scored easily on the next play for his first of two touchdowns in the game.
Smith had two touchdowns and 195 yards rushing.
For the second straight game, MU had trouble defending the run. Iowa State tailback Stevie Hicks gained 123 yards rushing. Terry was able to break free for a couple of runs, but the Tigers hassled him for most of the game, sacking him three times.
With 11 seconds left in the third quarter, Terry left and did not return. On fourth-and-1, Terry tried to sneak the ball through. Outside safety Jason Simpson forced Terry to fumble and cornerback Michael Harden recovered. Terry did not get up and was taken off the field on a stretcher.
Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said after the game that Terry had regained feeling in his hands and feet. Terry stayed overnight in Columbia and received a CT scan.
“They’re keeping him here for a while; it’s more of a precautionary measure,” McCarney said. “I think he’s got a chance to be just fine.”
MU won eight regular-season games for the first time since 1980. A bowl game is next. The players said they will not have problems being motivated for that.
“I think if we can keep this on track into the bowl game and next year, we’ll finally start getting some recognition in the Big 12,” Ellison said.
Players of the Game
Surprise, surprise. Smith was about all the Tigers had going on offense until the fourth quarter. He rushed for 195 yards on 17 carries, scoring two touchdowns. Smith also passed for 108 yards, completing 15-of-24 passes.
Harrington made five tackles. Two of Harrington’s tackles went for losses, including a 9-yard sack on which he forced Iowa State’s Waye Terry to fumble. Brandon Barnes recovered the fumble at the Iowa State 40.
5 Keys Answered
1Missouri needs to run the ball early. Iowa State’s defense is dismal, but it defends the pass better than the run.
The Tigers carried the ball 26 times in the first half, and their first two touchdowns came on runs from Brad Smith (19 yards) and Zack Abron (17).
2The Tigers must beware of an embattled Iowa State team. The Cyclones want nothing more than to finish the season with a win.
The Cyclones captured a bit of momentum when Jon Davis blocked Mike Matheny’s field goal attempt in the second quarter, but could not stop Missouri’s powerful rushing game.
3MU must not lament about what could have been, as in a Big 12 Conference North Division title, and concentrate on finishing the season undefeated at home.
After a slow first half, the Tigers scored twice in the first five minutes of the third quarter. At halftime, players said they regained their focus. “Everyone just said that we have to have the best game of our season in the last 30 minutes of the ball game,” defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison said.
4The Tigers’ offensive line must contain Jason Berryman, Iowa State’s freshman defensive end. Coach Dan McCarney called Berryman his team’s defensive MVP, and if he makes a big play, it could give the Cyclones momentum.
Berryman had a quiet game. He made 1 1/2 tackles and no tackles for losses.
5The Tigers’ defense must keep on its toes because Iowa State has been rotating its quarterbacks, using three players at the position last week.
Junior Waye Terry had moderate success running the ball before he left with an injury, but the Tigers sacked him three times. Replacement Austin Flynn did not make any significant plays in one quarter.
Highs and Lows
PUNT RETURNS: Marcus James averaged 23.5 yards on four returns, coming close to breaking several long ones. James passed Mike Fink’s school record for return yards. James has 1,765 yards, passing Fink’s mark of 1,692 late in the first quarter.
TURNOVERS: The Tigers intercepted a pass and forced and recovered three fumbles, including one that freshman defensive end Xzavie Jackson scooped up and returned 18 yards to the Iowa State 4, setting up a Damien Nash touchdown run on the next play.
SLOW START: Missouri had a hard time scoring in the first half, despite moving the ball well. Although the Tigers gained 251 yards, they didn’t score until there was 3:48 left in the half, struggling to a 14-7 halftime lead.
BIG PLAY: Missouri allowed a 62-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left in the first half. The Tigers’ zone defense was burned when quarterback Waye Terry hit receiver Lane Danielsen on a deep post pattern.