2013 Missouri Tigers football season was nothing short of magical.
From a tumultuous 5-7 season in its first season in the SEC, to an 11-2 record and an SEC East crown in year two, Mizzou took the university, the state, and the entire country on an inspirational ride that will never be forgotten.
The journey started with a bold prediction in July at SEC media days. Senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington said he expected Mizzou to win 11 games and finish on top of the SEC Eastern Division.
“Whenever you get people that laugh at you at SEC media day whenever you say 11 wins, I wouldn’t say it’s embarrassing, but inside you feel some kind of way,” Washington said. “And I relayed that message to our entire team.”
Mizzou sets out to achieve three goals at the beginning of every season: win the division championship, win the conference championship, and win the national championship. The scoffs didn’t deter those goals. They only served as further motivation.
The first stop on the road to the championship came was the game against the Murray State Racers. Mizzou outscored the visiting Racers 45-0 in the final three quarters.
James Franklin threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns, but Henry Josey stole the show. In his first game back after tearing essentially every working part of his left knee, the junior tailback ran for 113 yards on 13 carries. 68 of those yards came on one carry in which he sprinted over the spot where his knee exploded 659 days earlier, en route to a touchdown. Final score: 58-14 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 1-0.
Next up was a tough test against the Toledo Rockets. Mizzou found themselves in a battle because they only led 17-9 after two quarters. The game looked like it was going to get even closer on Toledo’s first drive of the third quarter, as the Rockets were driving and on the verge of entering the red zone. That’s when Markus Golden rushed the quarterback and forced an errant pass that he picked off and ran 70 yards to the house.
Mizzou is 2-0.
The Missouri Tigers traveled to Bloomington, Ind. to face the Indiana Hoosiers in game number three. With two of the nation’s most efficient quarterbacks and two of the nation’s top-10 scoring offenses on the same field, the game had all the makings of a shootout. At the end of the first quarter, it was all Mizzou as the Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 lead.
After the Hoosiers tied the game, a rushing touchdown by Franklin put Mizzou back on top. And then an ultra-athletic pick-six by Kony Ealy gave Mizzou a two-touchdown cushion and momentum going into the half. The high-powered Indiana offense was never the same after that. It managed only two first downs and punted four times over the next 24 minutes as Mizzou ran away with it. Final score: 45-28 Indiana.
Mizzou is 3-0.
Arkansas State rolled into Columbia, Mo. in week four. Mizzou had a one-point lead at halftime. That was enough to wake up the offense, and Franklin led scoring drives of 94 and 87 yards to pull away and break the game open.
Mizzou outscored Arkansas State 27-6 in the final two quarters thanks to a balanced offensive attack and an opportunistic defense. Josey ran in it for two scores and Franklin threw three, one to Washington and two to Dorial Green-Beckham. Final score: 41-19 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 4-0.
Mizzou opened conference play the following week in Nashville against Vanderbilt. The Commodores won 19-15 at The ZOU the year before, and the Tigers were determined to settle the score.
Boy did they ever.
Less than a minute and half into the game, Franklin hit Washington in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. Five minutes later, Andrew Baggett made it 10-0 with a field goal. A Kentrell Brothers interception on the Vanderbilt 26-yard line gave Mizzou the ball at the 11. One play later—touchdown, Eric Waters. Another Vanderbilt three-and-out and a Baggett field goal made it 20-0 Mizzou before the end of the first half.
At halftime, it was 30-7, and a game that was supposed to be close turned into a blowout. A rushing touchdown by Josey and receiving touchdowns by Washington and Marcus Lucas in the second half helped seal the statement victory. Final score: 51-28 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 5-0.
Mizzou’s next test came between the hedges at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga. Not intimidated by Georgia, the Tigers jumped out to a 28-10 halftime lead. Franklin had a touchdown on the ground and through the air, and Marcus Murphy broke multiple tackles and made defenders miss on his way to a 36-yard score. And then, just 10 seconds later, Shane Ray hit the Georgia quarterback from behind and caused the ball to come loose. Michael Sam scooped up the fumble and ran it 21 yards for the touchdown to put an exclamation mark on a dominating first half.
Touchdowns from Georgia narrowed the Mizzou lead to two, but a huge stop on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt suddenly gave the Tigers new life. On the fifth play of the next drive though, Franklin was injured.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk entered the game.
On third and six, the freshman picked up six tough yards to keep the drive alive. A 9-yard rush by Josey made it second and one from the Georgia 40. What happened next gave Mizzou fans reason to believe that this season would be extra special. Mauk swung a screen pass to Bud Sasser, who flung the ball some 50-yards downfield to a well-covered L’Damian Washington in the end zone. The 6’4”, 205 lb. receiver elevated and corralled the ball over a Bulldog defensive back to put Mizzou up 34-26. A Randy Ponder interception and a Josey touchdown put the game away and let the nation know that Mizzou was a force to be reckoned with in the SEC. Final score: 41-26 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 6-0.
Mizzou had no time to bask in the glory of the thrilling victory though, as the Florida Gators paid a visit to CoMo the following week. After learning that Franklin would miss three to five weeks with a shoulder strain, Mauk made his first career start against a defense that was only allowing 235.3 yards per game.
Mauk put any doubts to rest when he threw a perfect 41-yard pass to Washington in between two defenders on the first play of the game. On the following play, he threw a 20-yard touchdown to Sasser to put Mizzou up 7-0 just 22 seconds in. The freshman finished the day with 295 yards and two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing. Baggett nailed a record-tying five field goals, and the defense dominated, recording six sacks and allowing the Gators to gain just 151 total yards. Final score: 36-17 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 7-0.
Next on the schedule was South Carolina and Mizzou’s 102nd Homecoming. Mauk set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Murphy that put Mizzou up 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. A 96-yard touchdown pass to Washington in the second gave Mizzou a 14-0 lead going into the locker room.
Baggett knocked one in from 27-yards out to extend the Mizzou lead to 17 with a little less than seven minutes left in quarter number three, and Mizzou looked to be in firm control. The Gamecocks answered with 17 points to send the game into overtime, where they would outlast Mizzou to put the only blemish on the Tigers’ regular-season record. Final score: 27-24 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 7-1.
Tennessee rolled into town next, and Mizzou greeted the Volunteers with a dominating victory. The Tiger offense ran all over the Tennessee defense and amassed 339 yards on the ground alone. Mauk accounted for 114 of those yards and also threw touchdowns passes to Green-Beckham, Washington and Lucas. The Mizzou defense was equally impressive, forcing three turnovers: interceptions by E.J. Gaines and Braylon Webb, and a fumble recovery by Matt White on a strip by Darvin Ruise. Final score: 31-3 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 8-1.
After thumping Tennessee, Mizzou paid a visit to Lexington, Ky. The Tigers took care of business against the Wildcats and a set one new school record while tying another in the process. Making his fourth consecutive start in place of the injured Franklin, Mauk completed 17 of his 28 passes for 203 yards and five touchdowns and tied Chase Daniel’s record for touchdown tosses in a game. Green-Beckham came down with four of them, the most ever for a Mizzou receiver in a single contest. Josey had the other receiving touchdown and also ran two in to complete the scoring. Final score: 48-17 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 9-1.
Mizzou’s last road stop on its way to Atlanta was in Oxford, Miss.
In his first start in five weeks, the senior quarterback led Mizzou straight down the field on its first possession, and Josey punched it in from four yards out to put Mizzou up 7-0. The Tigers never trailed thanks to a defense that came up with three red zone stands and a balanced offensive attack. Murphy scored Mizzou’s second touchdown, and Josey added one more before it was all said and done. Mizzou executed a flawless eight-minute drive to run out the clock and secure the win. Final score: 24-10 Mizzou.
Mizzou is 10-1.
Eleven games down, one to go. Mizzou was only 60 minutes away from being crowned champions of the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern division, and Texas A&M was the only thing standing in their way.
Mizzou’s first touchdown came on a drive that started at its own six-yard line midway through the second quarter. Franklin gave the offense some life and breathing room when he connected with Washington for 23 yards on the first play. Six plays later, Franklin hit Green-Beckham for a 38-yard touchdown to put Mizzou on the board.
Mizzou trailed 14-7 going into the locker room at the half.
The Tigers tied the game at 14 with a 75-yard drive on their first possession of the third quarter. Riding the newfound momentum, the defense forced a punt on the ensuing Aggie possession, and Washington made arguably the catch of the year on a jump ball in the corner of the end zone to put Mizzou up 21-14.
Texas A&M evened the score at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the game remained tied until 3:34 remained on the clock. On third and one from the 43, Josey took the handoff from Franklin, hit the hole, and sprinted 57 yards into the end zone untouched to put Mizzou up for good.
The Mizzou defense came up huge one last time and forced another Texas A&M three-and-out and then a 16-yard play action pass to Eric Waters and an 11-yard run by Russell Hansbrough sealed the victory.
The clock hit 0:00, and pandemonium ensued. Flashes from camera phones filled the stadium as fans tried to visually capture the memory that will be engraved in their hearts forever. Students rushed the field, and “Georgia On My Mind” played through the speakers.
Mizzou’s trip to Atlanta was booked, and there were no more stops to be made.
In just its second year in college football’s premier conference, Mizzou left nothing, took everything, and made it to the top.