COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Two dazzling plays from one of the underclassmen helped save Senior Day for BCS No. 6 Missouri.
Redshirt freshman Jeremy Maclin caught two touchdown passes, one to pull the Tigers out of late trouble and the other on the school’s longest reception in 31 years, in a 40-26 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday.
Coach Gary Pinkel jokingly claimed credit. He said Maclin, who missed last year with a knee injury, has been his personal project this season.
“I select every year who I coach,” Pinkel said. “Last year I coached Chase Daniel and this year I’m coaching J-Mac. He wasn’t very good when he got here, either.”
Daniel threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns for Missouri (9-1, 5-1 Big 12), which reached nine victories for the first time since 1969 and only the fourth time in school history. The Tigers scored nine points in the final 3:44 on Maclin’s 12-yard grab and a safety when Lorenzo Williams sacked Stephen McGee in the end zone to avert a second-half collapse.
“I don’t think you ever want games like this or need games like this, but it was good to have it,” Daniel said. “I’d rather be blowing people out by 60 if we possibly can.”
Missouri set a single-season scoring record of 411 points, 12 more than the 2003 team in a 13-game season, with at least three games to go.
They also finished 5-0 at Faurot Field and clinched their first winning record in conference play under Pinkel, in his seventh season.
But Texas A&M (6-5, 3-4), which has lost three straight to top-10 opponents and is a team in turmoil amid reports coach Dennis Franchione’s contract will be bought out after the year, made Missouri work on Senior Day.
“Our guys kept fighting, and I wish we could have converted a couple of times,” McGee said. “We just didn’t do that. You’ve got to hand it to them, they played a really good game.”
Maclin’s 82-yard sprint on a routine sideline pass near the end of the half put Missouri ahead 24-9, but the Aggies twice cut the deficit to five and missed a chance to narrow it to 2 when Matt Szymanski was wide right on a 36-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter.
Missouri responded with an 80-yard drive capped by Jimmy Jackson’s 6-yard run and Texas A&M again shaved the deficit to five when Martellus Bennett broke several tackles on a 42-yard catch, his second touchdown of the game.
Maclin twisted, strained and then stretched the ball into the end zone on his 12-yard grab up the middle with 3:44 left that put Missouri ahead 38-26 and finally out of danger. He bruised his left shoulder on the play and did not return, but Pinkel said the injury was not serious.
“The guys battled hard, we got it to the fourth quarter, we had a chance,” Franchione said. “We just couldn’t get back in position to get a score and get ahead.”
Jorvorski Lane tied the Texas A&M record for career rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns, getting his 44th rushing and 45th overall on a 2-yard run in the third quarter.