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Missouri recovers from freakish loss to Nebraska with win over Baylor

Nov. 17, 1997

The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A fluke loss to Nebraska didn't end up leaving much of a hangover for Missouri.

The Tigers got over their gut-wrenching near-upset of the then-top-ranked team and got back to business on Saturday,

clinching the school's first bowl bid in 14 years. Missouri's 42-24 victory over Baylor in its regular-season finale also moved the Tigers up a few spots in The Associated Press poll, from No. 25 to No. 21.

Next stop: Probably either the Alamo Bowl Dec. 30 in San Antonio or the Holiday Bowl Dec. 29 in San Diego.

'A game like that, a loss like that, we're human,'' tailback Brock Olivo said. 'We decided to use it as a positive and say,

'This is redemption week. Let's make up for the misfortune.''

After Nebraska beat Missouri 45-38 in overtime last week on an improbable touchdown catch on the final play in regulation, coach Larry Smith said he hoped his players could move past their bad luck. Early in the week, he saw positive signs.

Still, he didn't know what to expect on game day.

'I don't think we came out ready to tear things up,' Smith said. 'We struggled somewhat, but in the second half we went out and did what was necessary.''

Baylor coach Dave Roberts was impressed. He wants his team to be just like Missouri.

'Coach Smith has done what we're going to do,'' Roberts said. 'He's taken a program that was down and won.''

For a change, defense was the difference for Missouri (7-4 overall, 5-3 Big 12). The nation's sixth-best running game produced 341 yards, but the lightly-regarded defense turned three Baylor turnovers into touchdowns.

'The whole key was how well our defense played,' coach Larry Smith said. 'Offensively, we weren't as smooth, but we got the job done.''

The defense produced the game's first big play when Wade Perkins recovered a fumble by Jerod Douglas at the Baylor 31 with 10:33 to go in the first quarter. Three plays later, Ernest Blackwell ran it in from 1 yard out.

Midway through the third quarter, Harold Piersey got a nice bounce to intercept a Jeff Watson pass intended for a diving receiver, and returned the ball 35 yards to the Baylor 4. Two plays later, Brock Olivo ran for a 1-yard score to make it 28-10.

With 7:52 to go, 261-pound lineman Justin Wyatt gave the Tigers an insurmountable 35-10 lead when he picked off a screen pass from Baylor backup Odell James and returned it 92 yards.

'I thought I was going to die,'' Wyatt said. 'I went to the sidelines and was glued to the oxygen, but it was a fun time.''

There are more fun times to come for Missouri, which secured its first bowl bid since 1983 -- also the school's last winning season.

The Alamo Bowl has the fifth pick of Big 12 teams. Oklahoma State is a game ahead of Missouri for that slot, but the Cowboys lost 27-3 to Texas Tech on Saturday and lost in double-overtime to Missouri earlier this season. Missouri could end up in the Holiday Bowl, which is the fourth pick, if Kansas State ends up in Alliance spot.

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