The 13th-ranked Cowboys were trailing the Tigers by three points but had driven to the 23-yard line with 1:09 remaining in the game, and the chance for a game-tying field goal or possible game-winning touchdown. But quarterback Clint Chelf was stripped of the ball while looking for an open receiver and Tigers defensive end Shane Ray returned the fumble 73 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.
“We were going to take a shot at the end zone, kind of a deeper pass play,” said Chelf, who was 33 of 57 passing for 381 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his last game as a Cowboy. “I felt some pressure. I was trying to get rid of (the ball), about to throw it away. I don’t know what happened. I got hit from behind. It was bad ball security.”
The Cowboys also lost in their two previous trips to the Cotton Bowl in the last 11 years, losing 31-28 to Ole Miss in 2004 and suffering a 21-7 loss to Ole Miss in 2010.
It was the second loss in which the Cowboys led in the final minute before seeing victory snatched from them. OSU lost to Oklahoma on a touchdown in the game’s final minute.
“It’s a tough way to lose the last two games. It’s really hard on our team,” OSU head coach Mike Gundy said. “A loss like this will hurt forever, but they’ll be better people for it in the future. The losses, the last two, really for this organization, are hard now because they’ve had so much success. But these guys are trained to understand adversity will make them better. It will make them better for the rest of their lives.
“It’s hard on our team. That’s a very, very disappointed locker room right now. Essentially we came up short the last two games of the year on basically what would be the last play of the game. We just didn’t make the plays in the end. So we have to find a way to win those games.”
The Cowboys struggled to find any rhythm on offense during the game’s first 43 minutes, scoring just one touchdown – a 40-yard scoring pass from Chelf to receiver Josh Stewart – over that period to fall behind 17-7.
But over the final 17 minutes the Chelf-led Cowboys scored on three consecutive possessions – a 25-yard Ben Grogan field to pull even at 17-17, a Chelf 23-yard touchdown to make it 24-24, and then Desmond Roland’s 2-yard scoring run with 5:04 remaining to give the Cowboys their only lead of the game at 31-27.
However, the Tigers also were scoring on all three of their fourth quarter possessions as OSU’s defense struggled to get off the field.
Grogan’s 25-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter tied the game after the Cowboys defense forced one of the three Tigers turnovers. Daytawion Lowe recovered a fumbled pitch by Missouri quarterback James Franklin at the Tigers’ 11-yard line. But the Cowboys offense could not punch it in for a touchdown and settled for the game-tying field goal.
Missouri went ahead 24-17 on its next drive with tailback Henry Josey scoring on a 25-yard run. Chelf and the Cowboys drove the length of the field to make it 24-24.
That led to a play that OSU fans and senior Tyler Patmon, the transfer from Kansas who was playing in his first and last ever bowl game, will remember for years to come.
Tiger quarterback James Franklin dropped back to pass from his own 28-yard line, and threw down field only to have Patmon intercept it. The senior from Round Rock, Texas returned the interception for a touchdown. But Patmon was flagged for pass interference and the Tigers regained possession, driving into OSU territory for a Andrew Baggett 46-yard field goal.
It appeared on television replays that Patmon just stepped in front of the Tigers receiver for the interception.
“They said 26 interfered, so I hadn’t really gotten an explanation,” Gundy said when asked if the officials gave him an explanation for the flag. “I just saw two guys competing for the ball. Both the receiver and the defender have a right to the football. They said that our guy interfered with him. Obviously, I have to go with that.”
The Cowboys finally took their first and only lead a few minutes later when Chelf directed a seven-play, 75-yard drive that Roland capped with his 2-yard touchdown run to make it 31-27 with 5:04 remaining.
That would be the final score for the Cowboys as the Tigers took the lead on Josey’s 16-yard run and then clinched the win with Ray’s fumble return for a touchdown.
The Cowboys finish the season with a 10-3 record, and 28 seniors leave the program in much better shape than when they arrived.
“It hurts to lose but this class, I’ve developed some relationships that I’ll keep for the rest of my life,” senior linebacker Caleb Lavey said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these two guys (Chelf and Shaun Lewis). We came up in the program together. We focused on the goal we wanted to do. We made it happen for the most part.
“All in all, you know, I love these guys. It’s been a fun ride.”