January 1, 2008

Cotton Bowl Notebook

Prior to Tuesday, Tony Temple had no reason to know who Dicky Maegle was. Frankly, he still doesn't. While being presented the offensive MVP award from the Cotton Bowl, Temple was informed he'd broken Maegle's single-game Cotton Bowl rushing record. The senior promptly turned to Gary Pinkel and whispered "Who's Dicky Maegle?"

For the record, Maegle is the man who previously held the single-game and career Cotton Bowl rushing records, with 265 yards piled up in Rice's 28-6 win over Alabama way back in 1954. Whether he knew it or not, Temple obliterated Maegle's name from the record book, going for 281 yards on 24 carries.

Everyone expected the Cotton Bowl to serve as a coronation for an exclamation point on an outstanding career for a running back. It was just that Darren McFadden was the guy that was supposed to provide the punctuation.

"Everybody talked about Arkansas' running backs," Chase Daniel aid. "No disrespect to those guys, but I wouldn't trade my back for anything."

"I don't think McFadden had 100 yards did he? He might have got close," offensive guard Monte Wyrick said. "I think Tony Temple looked like more of a first round draft pick than Darren McFadden did."

McFadden had a pedestrian day by his standards, carrying 21 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Temple obliterated the Cotton Bowl rushing record books and carried Missouri to a 38-7 win over the Razorbacks. All told, Temple set career highs in yards, carries and touchdowns, with another Cotton Bowl record four scores which accounted for every offensive point not scored by kicker eff Wolfert.

"We got the W, and that's what matters most," said a subdued Temple. "Really, this is about Chase and my receivers and my tight ends. They've been setting this up all year. I'm just doing my job."

Temple took it to the Razorbacks in about every imaginable way. His first four carries went for 55 yards. He outran Razorbacks to the corner and ran them over up the middle.

"He was running on air guys," said Arkansas coach Reggie Herring. "Missouri's a great team and Temple's a great back…We've never played the run that poorly."

It was a heck of a swan song for Temple and Missouri's senior class…if indeed it was Temple's final game as a Tiger. He played in just one game as a true freshman, carrying the ball six times for 13 yards. The Tigers remain hopeful the NCAA will grant him an extra year of eligibility.

"We'll see what happens," Pinkel said. "That would be a nice call to take."

Temple's day overshadowed perhaps the worst statistical performance by Missouri's passing game all season long. Daniel completed just 12-of-29 passes for 136 yards and did not throw a touchdown for just the second time all season.

"hey were dropping nine, sometimes ten guys into coverage," Daniel said. "It's hard to throw the ball like that."

Not that Daniel minded ceding the spotlight for a day.

"At one point, I said to coach Yost, 'Let's just keep feeding Tony the ball,'" Daniel recalled.

In all, the Tigers totaled 43 rushing attempts, their second-highest total of the season, for a season-best 323 yards. Pinkel hinted that the reliance on the running game was a plan that simply developed as the game progressed.

"I don't want to get into this where we outsmarted them type thing because I don't think it comes down to that, I think we out-executed them," the coach said. "People get in the three-man front with us and they put a lot of defensive backs in, which I thought was a great plan. They stifled our passing game. They were dropping everybody, they were rushing one or two people at times and it caused some problems for us…They probably said, and you'd have to ask them, let them beat us running the football and not throwing the football."

That is exactly what the Tigers did. Afterward, a few players hinted that some comments from the Arkansas defense earlier in the week gave a little extra motivation.

"We knew it," Martin Rucker said about the expected success of the Tiger running game. "Whenever they're coming out talking about shutting us down and playing all this man defense, that's what we love. You tell us what we're going to do and we're just going to do what you don't take away. Take away the pass and we're going to run the ball."

And run the ball, and run the ball, and run the ball.

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