Cotton Classic

Mizzou beats Oklahoma State 41-31 to win Cotton Bowl.

— In concluding a Cotton Bowl game filled with twists, drama and record-breaking accomplishments, it was fitting that Mizzou’s 41-31 win over Oklahoma State came down to one of coach Gary Pinkel’s most celebrated seniors.

The Tigers were up 34-31, but the Cowboys were driving with less than two minutes left in the game. Senior defensive end Michael Sam, a unanimous All-American, strip-sacked the Cowboys quarterback to tie Aldon Smith’s all-time sack record of 11.5. Shane Ray returned the fumble for a touchdown and locked up the Mizzou victory.

“Just all the drama that you don't want as a coach in the fourth quarter we had,” Pinkel said. “We had a lot of adversity. Fortunately we made the plays we needed to make to win it at the end.”

The win was Pinkel’s 102nd with Mizzou, surpassing legend Don Faurot's record for the most all-time Mizzou wins. The Tigers, who finished the season 12-2, also tied a school record for most wins in a season. After the game, after the Gatorade shower and confetti-cannon explosions, several players asked Pinkel about the milestones.

“I said, ‘This isn’t about me. This is about a championship.’” Pinkel said. “But I’m very honored, very honored, to be the winningest coach in Missouri history. I thank all those people who were a part of that.”

With Mizzou’s victory, the Tigers became the 10th team from the Southeastern Conference in the past 11 years to win the Cotton Bowl. The lone exception? Mizzou, who represented the Big 12 in 2008, beating Arkansas 38-7.

Two Tigers were honored in the postgame awards. Running back Henry Josey was named offensive MVP after racking up 92 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries. Linebacker Andrew Wilson, who passed his father to become 10th all-time in tackles at Mizzou, was named defensive MVP.

“These guys believed in me even when I doubted myself, even when everybody was doubting that I would come back again,” Josey said. “That's the main thing of my success: just having the right support.”

Based on Mizzou’s win and other teams’ losses around them, the Tigers are likely to ranked in the top 5 of the national polls for the season. Auburn, one of the two teams to beat Mizzou this year, closes the NCAA football season in the national championship Jan. 6. The final polls will be released that night.

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