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December 3, 2013

Ten plays that shaped the season

Missouri's out-of-nowhere season continues this weekend in the SEC Championship Game. But with the regular season complete, PowerMizzou.com took a look back at ten plays that got the Tigers to where they are today.

The plays are listed in the order in which they happened, not in the order of importance.

Welcome Back, Henry: Missouri was already rolling Murray State 44-14 in the fourth quarter of the season opener. The 68-yard touchdown run by Henry Josey that made it 51-14 was of absolutely zero importance in the scheme of the game. But for a player coming off a catastrophic knee injury in his first game in 22 months, it was a monumental achievement. The run signalled Josey was back. It is not the last time you will see one of his runs on this list.

Holy Toledo: Missouri did not roll through this season without some tense moments. Some of them came against the Toledo Rockets in the season's second game. Missouri's red zone defense had kept the Tigers ahead, but the Rockets were driving for a potential game-tying third-quarter score in a 17-9 contest. Then Markus Golden drilled the quarterback, forced the ball loose, grabbed it out of the air and showed off the athleticism absolutely no one outside the Show-Me State knew he had, running 70 yards for a key score in a 38-23 Tiger win.

Pick Six, Take Two: Two weeks after the Toledo game, Missouri traveled to Indiana in a game that many had identified as the Tigers' first potential stumbling block. The Tigers led 14-0, but Indiana's high-powered offense tied it. Just before half, with the Hoosiers trailing 21-14 and trying to tie, Kony Ealy became the second defensive end in two games to score a touchdown. Ealy leapt to intercept a short pass and rolled 49 yards to go up 28-14. Missouri would stretch the lead to 24 and win 45-28.

Battle of the Franklins: It's really not possible to pick out a single play of Missouri's 51-28 thrashing of Vanderbilt. This was really the Tigers' coming out party. James Franklin threw for two first quarter touchdowns as Mizzou jumped out to a 20-0 lead after just 15 minutes and this one was never a game afterwards. Franklin finished with 341 total yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers and everybody started to pay a little bit of attention to the Tigers.

Sam's Defining Moment: Michael Sam had 10.5 sacks to lead the SEC, helping Mizzou to 37, which also led the conference. But his signature play came off someone else's sack. Missouri led Georgia 21-10 when Shane Ray destroyed Bulldog QB Aaron Murray and knocked the ball loose. Sam scooped it up and ran 21 yards to stake the Tigers to a 28-10 halftime lead in Athens. But that one didn't end this game...

This Bud's for You: Georgia had drawn within 28-26 and dropped a two-point conversion that would have tied the game early in the fourth quarter. Franklin went out with an injury and Maty Mauk came in. After converting a third down on a QB keeper, the Tigers lined up at the Georgia 40. Mauk swung a pass behind the line of scrimmage to the right to Bud Sasser. Sasser set up and flung the ball some 50 yards downfield to a well-covered L'Damian Washington. Washington went up and got the ball over a Bulldog defensive back, giving the Tigers a 34-26 lead. Mizzou added one more score for a 41-26 win that put the Tigers smack dab in the middle of the national radar. Most players have stated that game was the point when they really started to believe this season could be special.

Fourth and 15: Nine of the ten plays on this list are ones Missouri fans would love to relive over and over. This one is not. Missouri had blown all of a 17-0 fourth quarter lead against South Carolina, but had managed to score in the first overtime to go ahead 24-17. After a sack, the Gamecocks were in fourth down and goal from the Missouri 15. Bruce Ellington beat Ian Simon on a corner route and Connor Shaw led the Gamecocks back from the dead to tie the game again. When Andrew Baggett clanged a 24-yard field goal off the left upright in double overtime, Missouri had its lone loss and the SEC East remained in doubt for another five weeks.

DGB Breaks Out: Dorial Green-Beckham put together a strong sophomore season. The former No. 1 national recruit had 49 catches for 686 yards and ten touchdowns, which tied for the team lead. Never was his all-out potential seen in all its glory as it was during Missouri's 48-17 win over Kentucky. DGB had seven catches for 100 yards and a school-record four touchdowns on a banner day. The win was expected, but the big day for Green-Beckham was one Mizzou fans had been waiting to see for two years.

Repelling the Rebels: At Ole Miss, Missouri was again in a game that many expected to end its SEC title hopes. The Tigers did not start quickly on offense, but led 7-0 late in the first quarter. The Rebels had driven 85 yards on 16 plays in 7:45. At one point in the drive, Ole Miss had first and goal from the one. After a tackle for a two-yard loss by Kentrell Brothers, the Rebels had a false start that pushed them back to the eight. Mizzou stopped a third down run for no gain and the Rebels jumped early again, ultimately settling for a 30-yard field goal attempt. The kick was blocked by Harold Brantley. Ole Miss had three plays to get three feet and ended up without a point. Missouri would never trail in a 24-10 win.

Running to Atlanta: For the second week in a row, Missouri had to win to make the SEC Championship Game. The Texas A&M defense had surprisingly bottled up Mizzou's offense most of the day, but the Tiger defense matched that play, holding Johnny Manziel to 216 total yards and just 21 points. The Tigers faced third down and a long yard at their own 43-yard line with just less than four minutes to play. Henry Josey took a handoff, leaped over a would-be tackler just past the first down marker and outran the rest of the Aggie defense for a 57-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 28-21 lead. One more stop and three first downs on offense sent the Tigers to Atlanta for an SEC Championship Game matchup with equally surprising Auburn.

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