AMES, Iowa—After opponents had overcome huge deficits and made big plays all season on Missouri, a Tiger cornerback running out of the end zone with the ball in overtime was a reversal of fortune.
A.J. Kincade streaked down the sideline after intercepting a Bret Meyer pass to seal the 17-14 win for Missouri over Iowa State, ending a five-game losing streak and giving the Tigers their first win since Oct. 9 against Baylor.
The Cyclones (6-5, 4-4 Big 12 Conference) finish second in the Big 12-North Division with the loss. Colorado wins the North and will play Oklahoma Dec. 4 in Kansas City for the conference championship.
The Tigers and Cyclones played to a 14-14 tie after four quarters. Missouri had possession first in overtime and drove to the 7 from the 25 before Adam Crossett made a 24-yard field goal to give the Tigers a three-point lead.
Iowa State quickly worked its way toward the end zone on its possession and looked destined to win, with first-and-goal from the 3. The Tiger defense penetrated the Cyclone line twice, though, giving Iowa State third-and-goal on the 6.
“We have huge playmakers on defense,” safety Jason Simpson said. “We got a great defense and I think we showed it today.”
After sitting out the first two plays, Kincade entered to play cornerback on the right side. Meyer took the snap, fell back and lobbed a pass toward the right side of the end zone just as Kincade turned around and snatched it, taking off down the sideline before he was tackled to end the game.
“I wanted him to get down so he didn’t (fumble),” coach Gary Pinkel said. “The way the things have been going, the ball pops out, they get it, they run a touchdown, win the game, see you guys later.
Kincade lacked Pinkel’s sense of urgency.
“I just wanted to make a touchdown,” Kincade said “I used to play running back in high school and I kind of miss those days.”
Missouri was fortunate to make it to overtime after it looked like Iowa State was going to put the game away late in the fourth quarter.
With 4:45 left in the fourth, Missouri started on its own 20 and marched down the field, moving the ball to the Iowa State 42. On second-and-10 Smith threw a 10-yard pass to Thomson Omboga that looked good for a first down, but safety Nik Moser knocked the ball loose. Steve Paris recovered the fumble for the Cyclones and returned it 51 yards before colliding hard with Smith and going out of bounds.
Smith and Paris were slow to get up after the play.
“We got a drive going, we’re going to win this football game,” Pinkel said. “We not only turn the ball over, but they advance it 70 yards to put them right back in field goal range.”
Missouri then got lucky for one of the first times this season.
The Cyclones moved the ball to the Missouri 6-yard line and brought in kicker Bret Culbertson to attempt a 24-yard field goal. Culbertson, who was 19-of-20 on the season before Saturday, missed the kick wide right, giving Missouri life.
“We had a lot of opportunities to come out on top,” Cyclone tailback Stevie Hicks said. “We just didn’t finish today.”
The Tigers entered the game with nothing to lose and nothing to gain. After a slow start by both offenses, Missouri put together its longest scoring drive of the season (94 yards) at the end of the first half and threatened to score numerous times.
The normally porous offensive line supported the running game. Backup tailback Marcus Woods ran for a career-high 81 yards on 17 carries and Brad Smith had 101 rushing yards, his only 100-yard effort on the ground this season. It was the 13th of his career.
After failing to qualify for a bowl, the Tiger players said this win will erase some of the pain from the difficult season and will give them something to build on in the offseason.
“It’s almost too much to talk about,” offensive lineman Scott Paffrath said. “The guys in there battled. The season didn’t turn out the way we wanted it, but this is kind of our cherry.”