Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big 12 [Print without images]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Instant analysis: Iowa 27, Missouri 24

By David Ubben

That's a crushing loss for Missouri, who looked like it was in complete control before a mistake by the team's best player swung the game in Iowa's favor. Here's some instant analysis from the Tigers' 27-24 loss.

How the game was won: Blaine Gabbert rolled to his left and tried to loft a ball across his body to Wes Kemp, but Iowa's Micah Hyde intercepted the pass and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to put Iowa up 27-24 and provide the final score. Iowa's offense looked lackluster in the second half, but the Hawkeyes defense gave them enough to get over the hump and close the season with a win instead of a four-game losing streak.

Turning point: The interception was a big one, but T.J. Moe made what he thought was a diving catch in Iowa territory on 4th-and-6 with Missouri trailing by three and just more than two minutes to play. More on that later.

Stat of the game: Iowa's offensive points in the game's first 20 minutes: 17. Offensive points in the final 40 minutes: three. It's really that simple for the Hawkeyes. They rolled over Missouri early on, beginning with a dominant opening drive and a 62-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but in the second half, Iowa looked sluggish and quarterback Ricky Stanzi wasn't sharp, throwing a pair of interceptions during the 40-minute stretch after tossing just four the entire season coming into the Insight Bowl.

Player of the game: Marcus Coker, RB, Iowa. Missouri's defense will head back to Columbia with visions of the 6-foot, 230-pound Coker for quite awhile. The freshman bruised the Tigers' defense for the better part of the game and racked up an Insight Bowl-record 219 yards to go along with a pair of touchdowns.

Player of the game II: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. Outside of his inexplicable interception, Gabbert had one of his best games ever. Iowa's defense played a soft zone for much of the game before switching to man late, but Gabbert sliced up the Hawkeyes defense for 434 yards on 41-of-57 passing with a touchdown and a pair of picks. Again, the interceptions aside, Gabbert made good decisions for the majority of the game, had lots of zip on the ball and looked as accurate as ever. Receivers Jerrell Jackson (9 rec, 129 yards) and T.J. Moe (15 rec, 152 yards) had big nights, but Gabbert's arm was the reason why. The Tigers looked downfield more than they worked the screen game, and Gabbert delivered.

Unsung hero of the game: The crowd. Conflicting black-and-gold colors made it difficult to tell who brought more, but Missouri certainly helped its "our fans don't travel" perception with an Insight Bowl record crowd of 53,453. Iowa and Missouri fans both made lengthy cross-country trips to fill Sun Devil Stadium. The past three seasons have resulted in what Missouri fans could fairly consider slights by bowl committee, but in the future, the school can point to this game as evidence to the perception's contrary.

Second guessing: The replay decision late in the fourth quarter on Moe's catch. My gut says Moe didn't have full possession of the ball as he slid out of bounds, but based on the replays provided, it didn't look like there was conclusive evidence to overturn the call. Maybe the right call in reality, but based on the way the replay rules are written, the wrong one in practice.

What it means: Missouri suffers a second consecutive disappointing bowl loss. The Tigers were only a three-point favorite, but a loss to an unranked 7-5 team when a team enters a bowl game at 10-2 and ranked No. 12 never looks good. Last year, Missouri couldn't slow Navy's option attack and dropped a 35-13 game to the Midshipmen. For Missouri, the loss could pay off in 2011. Gabbert is a pretty even-keeled player, but a it's hard to see a competitor of his caliber feeling comfortable moving to the NFL with this kind of cap on an otherwise excellent career. The smart money was probably on Gabbert staying at Missouri for his senior year, but it'd be very surprising if he left now.