Mizzou gets bowl-eligible with victory over Vanderbilt on cold afternoon in CoMo

In the week leading up to Missouri’s showdown with Vanderbilt, offensive lineman Paul Adams stressed the importance of the Tigers refocusing after their big win at No. 13 Florida. Missouri couldn’t afford to get complacent against a Southeastern Conference opponent, even one with a losing record.

The Commodores proved Adams right. They did not come out playing like two-touchdown underdogs. If anything, Vanderbilt looked like the better team for three quarters. Missouri’s defense couldn’t figure out how to stop running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and quarterback Kyle Shurmur played like an NFL prospect.

But the Tigers came through in the fourth, seizing the lead early in the quarter and winning 33-28 on a brisk Saturday. Temperatures sat at 25 degrees at kickoff — Missouri’s coldest game since the school started listing temperatures in 2000.

The victory makes the Tigers eligible for a postseason bowl at 6-4.

Leading by two at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt went for a touchdown on fourth-and-one at the goal line, but defensive lineman Akial Byers stopped running back Khari Blasingame before he crossed the line. The stop set up a 14-play, 99-yard drive that culminated in a Drew Lock rushing touchdown.

Injuries tested Missouri’s depth, especially on offense. Star tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (shoulder), receiver Nate Brown (groin), running back Tyler Badie (foot) and tight end Kendall Blanton (knee) all missed the game. Adam Sparks (shin) also sat out.

Lock threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, Damarea Crockett rushed for 122 yards and Larry Rountree added 92 of his own. Missouri wore military appreciation uniforms in honor of Veterans Day weekend. The black MU helmets featured golden decals of the service medal given to Missourians who served in World War I. Instead of players’ last names, the back of each Tigers jersey featured the name of an MU student who died in World War I.

On the opening drive of the game, Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn punished Missouri’s defense for a 65-yard touchdown run. Vaughn torched the Tigers throughout the game, finishing with 182 yards.

The Tigers responded with a strong drive of their own. Lock hit Johnathon Johnson with a 35-yard pass over the middle of the field, and running back Crockett barreled into the end zone five plays later to tie the score.

Helped by a struggling Missouri secondary, Vanderbilt scored on its second drive. A Tyree Gillespie missed tackle opened up a 30-yard gain for tight end Jared Pinkney, and receiver Kalija Lipscomb beat Joshuah Bledsoe on a third-and-10 play. The Commodores traveled 75 yards in fewer than four minutes.

Instead of answering, Missouri turned the ball over. Lock and Emanuel Hall failed to connect on a long pass, and a missed block led to pressure on the next play. Lock was hit as he threw, and the ball fell into the arms of Vanderbilt’s Jordan Griffin. The interception marked Missouri’s first turnover since the Alabama game Oct. 13.

After allowing touchdowns on Vanderbilt’s opening two drives, Missouri’s defense rebounded. Tackle Terry Beckner chased Blasingame out of bounds on third down, and Vanderbilt missed the subsequent field goal.

The teams traded three-and-outs over the next 8 minutes, 55 seconds until Missouri drove into the red zone. The drive stalled when linebacker Josh Smith sacked Lock, and the Tigers had to settle for a 33-yard field goal from Tucker McCann.

Vanderbilt scored again before halftime but left enough time for Missouri to kick a field goal. The Tigers trotted to the locker room down 21-13.

Whatever woes the Tigers offense showed in the first half vanished in the second. Lock orchestrated an 80-yard touchdown drive to open the half, hitting an open Crockett, who ran 11 yards into the end zone. Hall had a key block on the play. The Tigers failed to convert a two-point conversion, and Vanderbilt remained up by two points.

Shurmur answered Lock’s touchdown pass with one of his own. He and Lipscomb teamed up on a fade route for a two-yard score.

Freshman tight end Daniel Parker, who converted from defensive end during preseason camp, collected his first career catch against Florida. Lock turned to him again in the third quarter, and this time it led to a touchdown. Parker hauled in an underthrown pass, turned around and sprinted to the end zone for a 20-yard score.

With the Commodores clinging to a two-point lead late in the third quarter, Vaughn broke off runs of 20 and 44 yards. The long runs didn’t lead to points for Vanderbilt, though. They set up Byers’ goal-line stop, which tilted the game in Missouri’s favor.

Missouri’s go-ahead drive included a 25-yard reception by freshman receiver Dominic Gicinto — a two-star recruit — and a 15-yard catch by freshman tight end Daniel Parker Jr., who converted from defensive end before the season.

The Tigers forced a three-and-out on Vanderbilt’s next series. They were helped by a Commodores unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Lock tried to hit Jalen Knox cutting across the middle of the field, the ball deflected and was intercepted. Vanderbilt couldn’t capitalize, though. Beckner tipped a Shurmer pass on fourth-and-nine and the Tigers took over on downs.

Missouri kept Vanderbilt’s hopes alive when McCann missed a 31-yard field goal with 1:48 left. Beckner sacked Shurmur on Vanderbilt’s first play of the drive, but the Commodores managed to get the ball to Missouri’s 25-yard line with five seconds remaining.

Vanderbilt’s final drive resembled the final drive of the MU-Kentucky game, when the Wildcats won on a last-second touchdown. This time, though, the quarterback’s final pass to the end zone fell incomplete. The game ended with Missouri’s players hugging on the field, not trudging to the locker room.