If you spent your New Years Eve sitting through the defensive slugfests that were the Sun Bowl and Redbox Bowl, then you deserved to reward yourself for your devotion to the sport of college football by catching the second half of the Autozone Liberty Bowl. Oklahoma State (7-6) avoided a complete meltdown in the fourth quarter to drop No. 23 Missouri (8-5) by a score of 38-33.
Oklahoma State nearly coughed up a bowl win in the fourth quarter by having one of the worst showings in the fourth quarter seen this bowl season. It started with Missouri quarterback Drew Lock uncorking an 86-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Johnston on the first play from scrimmage after Cam Hilton picked off a pass from Cowboys quarterback Taylor Cornelius in the red zone. That cut a 16-point deficit to a nine-point game after kicking an extra point. Larry Rountree III brought Missouri to within two points with a 55-yard touchdown run on a drive that was aided by a pair of personal foul penalties called on Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State later made the odd decision to try running a fake punt that was not catching the Missouri special teams unit off guard for a turnover on downs, although the football gods refused to punish the Cowboys by having a Missouri field goal attempt to give the Tigers the lead blocked to preserve the two-point lead for Oklahoma State.
The offense was bonkers in the game, especially compared to some of the earlier bowl results in the day. The teams combined for 1,139 offensive yards, with Missouri leading Oklahoma State 637-502. Oklahoma State also lost the turnover battle (2-1) and the time of possession battle, yet they came up with the only defensive play needed in the game with a fourth-down stop of Lock to preserve the win.
Lock had passed for 373 yards with three touchdowns. Cornelius passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns but had two interceptions for Oklahoma State. In the absence of Justice Hill, who sat out of the bowl game to focus on staying healthy for the NFL draft process, Oklahoma State handed the ball off to Chuba Hubbard, who rushed for 145 yards and a score. Missouri’s Rountree topped him with 204 rushing yards.
The win marked the third consecutive season ending with a bowl victory for Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are now 9-4 in bowl games under Gundy since he was named the head coach of the program. Oklahoma State also avoided a losing season for the first time since 2005, Gundy’s first season as head coach in Stillwater.
Although the season ends with a second straight bowl loss, the Tigers took another step forward this season by improving its win total from the previous year. Barry Odom‘s third year on the job continued to show some signs of progress for the program as they move into 2019 looking to getting back to a level where it can be a factor in the SEC East. The Tigers are a good way away from their back-to-back SEC East Division runs under former head coach Gary Pinkel at a time when the rest of the division has and could continue to improve as well, but the offense continues to offer a glimmer of hope in Columbia.