COLUMBIA, Mo. — Four quarters was one too many.
Arkansas State gave Missouri all it could handle for most of three quarters and even held a lead early in the second half. But settling for field goals caught up with the Red Wolves, and Missouri turned a third-quarter deficit into an easy-looking 41-19 victory in front of a crowd of 62,468 Saturday night at Faurot Field.
ASU (2-3) lost its second straight game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season. After losing to Memphis the week before, the Red Wolves gave a much more inspired effort but left the field disappointed again.
“I’m very proud of our football team for the way that they competed and the way that they played,” ASU coach Bryan Harsin said. “We’ve got to do a better job. As coaches, we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to finish in certain situations.”
Similar to a 38-9 loss at Auburn earlier this year, Arkansas State moved the football without much of a problem but the Red Wolves couldn’t turn their red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
ASU settled for four field goals from placekicker Brian Davis, three of which after the Red Wolves had penetrated Missouri’s 22-yard line. The Red Wolves also had a pivotal drive just before halftime stall inside the Missouri 10 without any points at all.
Arkansas State finished with 425 yards offense but its 19 points were nothing close to the scoring the Red Wolves thought they should have had.
“It’s incredibly frustrating for all the guys,” ASU quarterback Adam Kennedy said. “We’re driving up and down (the field) on just about every single play with the exception of Memphis. All the other games we’re driving up and down the field. I don’t know what happened. It’s a little thing here, a little thing there. I’d have to watch the film, I can’t really explain it.”
Kennedy was 37-of-46 passing for 308 yards and a touchdown. He tied Ryan Aplin’s school record for completions in a single game set in 2011 against Western Kentucky.
ASU receivers J.D. McKissic and Julian Jones also had big nights in a losing effort. McKissic caught a school-record 15 passes for 117 yards while Jones caught a career-high 10 passes for a career-best 136 yards.
Still, none of it was enough for the Red Wolves to keep up with Missouri.
“We did some good things, we moved the ball, and then we got into some critical situations and we came up with three points when we needed to come up with seven,” Harsin said. “It was just a matter of time before this game begins to be even more competitive as the game goes on. But I’m very proud of our football team for the way that they competed and the way that they played.”
Missouri (4-0) remained unbeaten with another outstanding offensive effort. The Tigers rolled up 495 yards offense with a balanced attack that included 256 passing and 239 rushing.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin was 20-of-29 passing for 255 yards while 6-foot-6 receiver Dorial Green-Beckham had four catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel acknowledged he would have liked a better showing but was pleased with how the Tigers turned opportunities into touchdowns rather than field goals.
“We did a great job as a football team finishing,” Pinkel said. “Sometimes you don’t like (some of what happens) but we were faced with some tough situations. At halftime we weren’t playing real well as a football team, but we did the things necessary in the second half.”
Arkansas State took a 16-14 lead with 11:31 to play in the third quarter on Davis’ 44-yard field goal.
The Red Wolves stopped Missouri and had a chance to build on their lead.
But ASU stalled near midfield, was forced to punt and watched the game slip away.
The Tigers scored touchdowns on four straight possessions to turn a close game into a blowout.
Missouri had scoring drives of 95, 87 and 67 yards, then took advantage of an ASU turnover for a late TD.
“We’ve got to do a better job,” Harsin added. “As coaches, we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to finish in certain situations.”
Missouri drove for the go-ahead touchdown and scored on Franklin’s 5-yard pass to L’Damian Washington on an out route with 3:39 to play in the third quarter. The Tigers failed on the two-point conversion to leave the score at 20-16, but ASU was forced to punt without a first down on its next possession.
Missouri followed with a nine-play drive that culminated with Henry Josey’s 1-yard run on an option pitch after Franklin audibled at the line of scrimmage into the play.
It was an experienced move by the senior quarterback, who saw just one defender on the edge of the left side of the line.
ASU cut the lead back to 27-19 on Davis’ fourth field goal of the night, a 33-yard kick after the Red Wolves stalled at the Tigers’ 16. But Missouri came right back for another score that essentially sealed the outcome.
Franklin rolled out on a pass play to his right, saw nobody was open and then sliced his way between defenders and into the end zone for a 9-yard TD and 34-19 lead.
“That’s what good players do, they make big plays,” Pinkel said. “The team looks for him, and obviously, he made some plays out there.”
Missouri added one last TD on Franklin’s 5-yard rollout pass to Green-Beckham that finished the scoring. The touchdown was set up by Kennedy’s second interception of the year after he was picked off by E.J. Gaines at the ASU 21-yard line.
ASU linebacker Kyle Coleman said the Red Wolves gave a much better effort than the week before. He was disappointed with the loss, but not with the effort the team gave.
“We came here with a chip on our shoulder and we just didn’t want to give up,” Coleman said. “I just feel like last week some of us laid down or whatever, but this week we all just kept fighting through it all.”
ASU started strong scoring on its first two possessions to take a 6-0 lead and stun a large Missouri crowd expecting an easy night.
Davis booted a 41-yard field goal on the Red Wolves’ opening drive. The Red Wolves held Missouri on its first drive without a first down, then marched to the Tigers’ 14 before settling for Davis’ kick.
Davis added a 21-yard field goal on ASU’s next drive after Missouri drove the ASU 6 but failed to score. Missouri placekicker Andrew Badgett missed a 24-yard field goal as the Tigers came up empty.
Arkansas State followed with a 10-play drive that covered 76 yards to the Missouri 4. Davis’ kick put ASU up 6-0 with 3:35 to play in the first quarter.
Missouri answered with back-to-back touchdown drives to take away the momentum.
The Tigers kept the ball on the ground entirely on their first scoring drive, marching 75 yards on five plays. Russell Hansbrough had a 42-yard carry to begin the drive and Marcus Murphy took a pitch on the option for a 6-yard touchdown that gave Missouri a 7-6 lead with 2:00 to play in the first quarter.
Missouri held ASU again, then scored quickly again. Franklin connected with Green-Beckham on a 68-yard touchdown pass for a 14-6 lead with 11:57 to play in the half.
Missouri appeared in position to take control of the game a couple of minutes later, but a fumble turned the momentum back to ASU.
With the ball near midfield, Murphy took a handoff and was hit in the backfield and the ball popped free. Coleman scooped up the ball and headed for a touchdown but the play was blown dead.
A review, however, reversed the ball and Arkansas State was awarded the football at its own 44.
The Red Wolves then drove 56 yards, taking 11 plays and melting 5:33 off the clock to take the lead.
ASU mixed in short passes and running plays to keep the Tigers off-balance, and Kennedy found Julian Jones on a fade route for a 17-yard TD. Jones made a fantastic grab on the play under heavy coverage while coming back to retrieve an underthrown ball.
“I thought Julian made a great play on not the best ball I could have thrown to him,” Kennedy said.
Brian Davis’ point-after kick pulled the Red Wolves within 14-13 with 5:20 to play in the half.
Arkansas State had a chance to take the lead back just before halftime but missed a big scoring opportunity.
The Red Wolves drove from their own 3-yard line to the Missouri 1. They had first-and-goal from the 2 with under a minute to play in the half, but couldn’t punch it in and mismanaged the clock.
Facing third-and-goal from the 1, Kennedy backpedaled and dumped the ball off in the middle of the field to David Oku to avoid being sacked. Oku had nowhere to go, though, and the first half ended without ASU scoring as the Red Wovles were out of time outs and couldn’t stop the clock.
Arkansas State ran 52 plays and totaled 285 yards offense in the first half. Missouri had 231 yards on just 25 plays.
Kennedy said the loss to Missouri was more difficult to swallow than the loss at Auburn in which the team had similar break downs in the red zone.
“It hurts worse just knowing we were so close, just a couple plays here or there,” Kennedy said. “I think it all comes down to not converting in the red zone. It hurt so bad getting those field goals, and obviously at the end of the half not getting anything.”