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Eye Of The Tigers: Missouri Outlasts Oklahoma State In Wild Cotton Bowl

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ARLINGTON, Texas -

It took until the fourth quarter, but the Cotton Bowl finally turned into the exciting, back-and-forth affair that many anticipated.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, the Cowboys were on the wrong end of a 41-31 thriller against former Big 12 rival and eighth-ranked Missouri at AT&T Stadium.

Defense reigned supreme for the majority of the game, but both offenses hit their stride and then some in the fourth quarter, striking for a combined 41 points in the final 15 minutes after scoring just 31 in the previous three quarters.

But, just when defense appeared to take a backseat to the offensive fireworks, it was a single defensive play that made all the difference in Dallas.

After a 16-yard Henry Josey touchdown run gave Missouri a 34-31 lead with just over three minutes remaining, Oklahoma State got the ball with a chance at a game-winning drive to help wipe away the sour memories of what unfolded one month prior against rival Oklahoma in a similar setting.

But instead, it was a bad case of deja vu.

With the Cowboys facing a third-and-seven and having already reached reasonable field-goal range at the 23-yard line, Clint Chelf dropped back to pass and was flushed out of the pocket to his left before the Tigers' Michael Sam stripped the ball from behind. The ball was subsequently recovered by Mizzou defensive end Shane Ray and returned 73 yards for a touchdown with 55 seconds remaining.

And just like that, after a wild and hard-fought comeback effort from OSU, it was over in the most crushing of ways for 28 Cowboy seniors who were gunning for the school's third 11-win campaign in four years.

The events that unfolded would no doubt have stung in their own right, but how eerily similar the final few minutes were to waning moments of Bedlam stings even worse.

"It's a tough way to lose the last two games," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "It's really hard on our team ... we had our chances ... They fought all the way to the end. We just didn't make the plays in the end. They made the last couple plays."

And that is what will linger for the Pokes for the foreseeable future — making the last few plays.

The Cowboy offense was stagnant for the majority of the contest, but the defense played well enough to keep them in the game despite putting up just 14 points through three quarters, holding the Tigers to just 17.

In fact, it was the defense that sparked the Cowboys' comeback, forcing two second-half fumbles from Tiger quarterback James Franklin that resulted in 10 points for the Pokes in short-field drives to comeback from a 17-7 deficit.

But when the OSU offense showed up to play, the defense faded into the background after an otherwise stout performance from Glenn Spencer's unit.

The teams traded scores on six-consecutive possessions in the final quarter before Chelf's fumble was returned for the game-deciding score, sending a sea of orange toward the exits in Arlington.

And even when something went well for the Cowboy defense late in the game, it ultimately didn't.

The most glaring example being when OSU corner Tyler Patmon appeared to have secured a huge momentum-swinging play when he snagged an apparent interception and returned it for a touchdown that would have put the Pokes up 31-24.

Instead, the play was called back for a questionable pass interference call on Patmon. And this was the way things seemed to go for the Cowboys on Friday, as Mizzou appeared to be on the receiving end of nearly every 50-50 call and replay situation.

The Tigers seemed to get the breaks, the Cowboys didn't, but Gundy wasn't in an excuse-making mood after the game. Gundy knew he had a talented team, but it fell short against a pair of excellent opponents in its final two games of the season.

"We played (Oklahoma) who won the Sugar Bowl and (Missouri) that won 12 games. Basically we lost on the last play of (each) game," Gundy said, shrugging in obvious frustration. "We got a lot out of (our team), we just need to find a way to finish. We had a chance to makes plays in both games. We need to find a way to finish those games and we'll push hard in the offseason."

Overall, Chelf finished 33-of-57 passing for 381 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions to go with 48 rushing yards and another score. Desmond Roland led the charge on the ground with 66 yards and a score for a Cowboy ground game that never seemed to find its footing with 167 total yards and two scores on 4.3 yards a carry.

Josh Stewart had a team-best eight receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown, while senior Tracy Moore snagged seven catches — including several big ones in the second half — for 100 yards with a long of 41.

Defensive end Jimmy Bean had a standout performance for OSU with seven tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. Senior safety Daytawion Lowe finished tied atop the tackle tally with seven of his own.

Missouri had considerably more success rushing with 256 yards, highlighted by 92 yards and three touchdowns from Josey. Oklahoma State (10-3) held the Mizzou passing game in check with James Franklin completing just 15-of-40 passes for 174 yards and no touchdowns with a pick and two lost fumbles.

OSU outgained the Tigers in total yardage 548-to-462 and each team committed three turnovers.

The Cowboys finish the season 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the Big 12, while Missouri wrapped up its second SEC season with a 12-2 record.

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