For the first time since its season opener against Wyoming, Missouri went deep into the second quarter without supreme confidence that a win was already locked up.
Mississippi was the first team this season to come to Columbia and not be run off the field by the Tigers.
Missouri still notched its fifth straight win of the season 38-27 — a result that vaulted MU into The Associated Press Top 25 at No. 22. This marks the first time the Tigers are ranked this season.
With under a minute left in the first half of Missouri’s final home game until Nov. 16, the Tigers led by five points. But Ole Miss was threatening.
Then came the apex of the Southeastern Conference clash.
After Missouri extended its lead from two to five points midway through the second quarter on a Tucker McCann field goal, Ole Miss tried to reinvigorate its offense with its first quarterback switch of the game.
Matt Corral entered to temporarily take John Rhys Plumlee’s spot. Corral led the Rebels down the field on a 13-play drive that turned into trench warfare as it neared the goal line.
With a first-and-goal from the Missouri 10-yard line, Ole Miss made it clear which player it felt most comfortable with handling the ball: Snoop Conner.
Conner took a handoff on each of the four Rebel plays from the red zone on the drive. On first down, his carry gained seven yards. Second down covered two more yards.
On third-and-goal, the Tigers got the stop they needed and tackled Conner for no gain.
The Rebels drained most of the remaining time in the first half before calling their final timeout with 14 seconds left.
They decided to go for the touchdown.
Both teams presented a goal-line set for fourth down.
Ole Miss put a tight end and five offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage, with Corral and Conner directly behind them. The Rebels positioned three wide receivers to the near side of the field in a bunch formation.
Corral and Conner stood behind the Missouri 5-yard line in a shotgun position.
Missouri had cornerback DeMarkus Acy as well as safeties Khalil Oliver and Joshuah Bledsoe guarding the trio of Ole Miss wideouts.
At the ball, the Tigers countered with four defensive linemen as well as two linebackers, a safety and another cornerback directly behind them to try and block all running avenues.
Once the ball was snapped, it appeared Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke called a read option because of the way Corral handed the ball to Conner.
Missouri likely could have stopped both options outside the end zone, but the one Corral chose put Conner right into the path of four Tigers.
The quartet of Tre Williams, Tyree Gillespie, Cameron Wilkins and Nick Bolton created a wall that separated Conner from pay dirt.
As Conner lowered his shoulder, Williams made contact with the Rebels running back a split-second faster than his trio of Missouri teammates within striking distance.
The four Tigers overpowered Conner and brought him to the ground for a turnover on downs despite a late push.
Missouri called a quarterback sneak for Kelly Bryant for no gain on the next, and final, play of the first half.
The goal-line stand helped the Tigers keep the Rebels off the scoreboard for a 39-minute span. During that time frame, Missouri scored 28 points.
“If we score that right before half, even at the end with as bad as we played in the third quarter, that's a one-score game right there,” Luke said. “It had a huge effect on the game. But when you're on the road, you have to find a way to punch it in from 1 yard out. ... There were just too many missed opportunities in this football game.”
Missouri ended its five-game homestand with an unblemished record and won its SEC division crossover game for the first time since 2014.
As of Monday, the Tigers are a three-touchdown favorite for their first SEC road game of the season against Vanderbilt this coming Saturday.