“I was waiting for a timeout to try and ice me,” said Wolfert, “I almost psyched myself out thinking about them trying to psych me out.”
No timeouts came, from either sideline, and Wolfert drilled the 35-yard attempt to seal a victory over sixth-seeded Georgia (2002), the first major upset of the Paul Finebaum Invitational.
Despite being sacked five times, Chase Daniel was dialed in. He chalked up 306 yards (16-for-27) and two scores on the afternoon, but completed no pass more important than a late 25-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin that set up the deciding field goal.
“I knew that pass could decide the game – we needed to get the ball a little closer to take the pressure off Jeff,” said Daniel, “The momentum was really in their favor, and I really wanted to avoid overtime in such a hostile place.”
The momentum swung to the Bulldogs when David Greene (25-37, 292 yards) connected with Fred Gibson for his only score of the afternoon to tie the ballgame with just 1:51 left.
“We had been trailing since the second [quarter], so I figured once we drew even we’d be able to push ahead into the lead,” Greene said. “All credit to Chase though, he came up big when it mattered.
Daniel’s production was sorely needed too, as the Tigers could only churn up 79 rushing yards against David Pollack and the imposing Georgia defense.
“We were able to stuff the run, but they just had it going through the air,” said Dawgs coach Mark Richt. “We were able to get plenty of pressure, but we lost control of the passing game.”
Allowing Daniel’s passing explosion was just about all Georgia did wrong. They out-rushed the Tigers, possessed the ball for almost 13 more minutes, had 12 more first downs on the day and committed no penalties.
They led throughout the first half: 6-0 after a pair of Bennett field goals in the first half and 13-7 when Musa Smith scored from 10 yards out. Smith’s score put a bow on a seven play, 35-yard drive set up by a long punt return.
William Franklin was on the receiving end of both touchdowns, including a 91-yard catch-and-dash after Billy Bennett’s 19-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Mizzou. The play accounted for most of his 109 receiving yards for the game.
Franklin’s second score put the Tigers ahead by one with only 26 seconds left in the first half.
Wolfert added a pair of field goals over the first 17 minutes of the second half, pushing Missouri’s lead to 20-13.
“We were in a dogfight today, if you’ll pardon the pun,” said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, whose team secured a spot the second round. “We needed to end it in regulation, because overtime in a place where the fans are so involved would be a tall order.”
The noise from the red-clad faithful was deafening after the tying touchdown, but Wolfert’s kick left them silent as time expired.
The Tigers will move on to face No. 4 Auburn (2010) in the next round, where they will look to continue a Cinderella run. Pinkel, in all the glory of the upset, had only one request.
“Somebody get me to an Applebee’s,” Pinkel exclaimed, “we need to celebrate before we head home!”