2014 Cotton Bowl Recap

Hey y’all. So I was privileged enough to get to attend the Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas tonight. For those of you who watched, you don’t need me to tell you it was a great game and featured a very exciting finish. Usually my thoughts would be spilling (more like overflowing, but I digress) onto Twitter, where you can follow me @joshmajika; shameless plug. However, I was dumb and didn’t charge my phone during the day, leaving me with what was equivalent to a hunk of plastic by halftime. So here’s a few handfuls of thoughts I had during the game that I thought I’d share since I never got to share them with all of my beautiful followers.

– The score would suggest otherwise, but that was one of the uglier games that Mizzou played in this year. Neither team ever seemed to have control of the game, which provided for a thrilling finish, but it was odd given how sizable some of the momentum shifts seemed to be. Frankly put: neither team played well overall, but relied on clutch play to keep them in the game.

– In a year where head coach Gary Pinkel has rightfully earned numerous nominations for Coach of the Year awards, I was quite puzzled with many of his decisions during the game, namely when it came to who would be playing quarterback from drive to drive. More on that in the upcoming bits…

– I’m glad to know that James Franklin stormy tenure as Mizzou’s starting quarterback won’t be remembered by his overall poor performance in this game, but rather that he got the job done when it mattered. He was criticized unfairly for an injury-riddled season last year (especially by me), and responded to an open quarterback battle in spring ball by winning the job. He proved throughout this season that he deserved the job and while he played a very, very, VERY poor game tonight, his team picked him up and that’s what counts in the end. Pinkel’s insistence on sticking with his senior paid off in the very end. He’ll always be remembered as the ultimate nice guy who led Mizzou to two bowl wins when he was healthy. Class act and great player.

– Maty Mauk has given Mizzou fans everywhere cause for optimism in the future. He was absolutely electric on his first drive of the game, looking every-bit like the quarterback who stepped into a tough situation mid-season and pulled the Tigers through the mire. His uncanny ability to turn negative plays into big gains is exciting, and he’ll only improve as he ages. The touchdown pass he threw to Marcus Lucas was an absolute thing of beauty. That being said, he gave Pinkel no choice but to return to Franklin after an ugly three and out on his second series. He played a major role in this victory, but he wasn’t the one to lead the Tigers home. His time starts next year.

– I’ve enjoyed having Josh Henson as Mizzou’s offensive coordinator. He’s certainly better than David Yost. But if I had to give Henson a grade on his play-calling tonight, it would be an undoubted F. Maybe an F-. I know that Mizzou scored 34 points on offense, but Henson simply refused to play to Mizzou’s strengths the entire game. While Josey rushed for three touchdowns and nearly 100 yards, he didn’t get the ball nearly enough. Instead, Henson forced the issue with a quarterback who was clearly having on off night throwing to receivers who struggled mightily with catching the ball. It’s all a moot point now, but Henson made that game a lot closer than it needed to be.

I thought Oklahoma State outplayed Mizzou in a lot of areas and was able to neutralize Mizzou’s strengths, especially the pass rush. The quick outs and screens kept the vaunted Missouri pass rushers from getting to Chelf, allowing him to get the ball to his speedy receivers. In the end, though, they couldn’t stop Missouri’s run game when it mattered. And even the defensive line broke though…

– Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Kony Ealy has a phenomenal chance to be yet another first-round draft pick for Mizzou in the 2014 NFL Draft? Ealy came on strong at the end of the year and continued his reign of terror tonight. He had two huge sacks, a clutch batted pass on the final Oklahoma State drive and caused general frustration all night. I’m sure Mizzou fans everywhere are hoping he stays in Columbia for another year…but he shouldn’t.

– Speaking of great defensive linemen, it’s fitting that the biggest play of the game came from Michael Sam, the unanimous All-American. He hasn’t been stuffing the stat sheet as much as he was at the beginning of the year and there were many wondering if he deserved his high accolades. He was quiet again tonight…that is, until he broke around the edge and caused the fumble/scoop n’ score that effectively ended the game. That sack was about as important as anything he’s done all year and capped off a terrific season for him. He should be a high-round pick in the upcoming draft as well.

Rapid Fire, non-football thoughts:

– For those who didn’t see my tweet earlier in the night, AT&T Stadium is an absolutely breath-taking sight inside and out. The sheer size is amazing, not to mention the largest video board I’ve ever seen that offers a crystal clear picture. Every football fan should make it a point to make a pilgrimage to Jerry’s World at least once. You won’t be disappointed.

– Even though I thought there was a more significant Oklahoma State presence among the nearly 73,000 attendees, the Mizzou crowd was a much more boisterous and lively one the entire time. They seemed to be enjoying the game and atmosphere significantly more. That might say something about the state and recent history of the two programs, but I thought it was an interesting observation.

– The quality of the physical tickets that the Cotton Bowl gave out are outstanding. I’ll definitely be saving this one.

– Big fat shout out to Marching Mizzou. Every time those guys and girls step onto a football field, they absolutely blow me away with how entertaining they are. Not only are they immensely talented, but they have more fun than anyone I’ve ever seen in a marching band. They’re passionate, they’re loud and I’m proud to call them my university band. As is the rest of the Mizzou population.

– Finally, this is all you’ll ever need as a Missouri fan:

Thanks for reading, everyone. M-I-Z.

– Josh

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