- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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For some reason, Alec Lemon had been open all night. Play after play, Syracuse's senior wide receiver was finding ways to beat Missouri defenders left and right.
So Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib decided to keep going to him -- again and again -- on the Orange's final drive of the game. It worked out as Nassib targeted him six times in seven plays, connecting with him four times for 81 yards, but his final catch was the biggest one of the day -- and the season.
A play after converting a fourth-down with Lemon, Nassib found him down the right sideline for a 17-yard touchdown to make it 31-27 with 20 seconds left. The score ignited Orange's sideline, while quieting most of those sitting inside Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC) failed to score on the ensuing drive, giving the Orange its sixth win of the season, making Syracuse bowl eligible. Lemon finished the night with 12 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
The Orange (6-5, 4-2 Big East) battled back from an early 14-3 deficit to outscore the Tigers 21-10 in the second half. After allowing Mizzou quarterback James Franklin to throw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the Syracuse defense clamped down on Franklin, who eventually left in the second half with an injury.
With Franklin out of the game, Corbin Berkstresser stepped in and actually drove the Tigers 79 yards on a six-play touchdown drive that made it 24-17 Mizzou with seven minutes left. But after the Orange responded with a touchdown drive of their own, the Tigers got very conservative the closer they got to the end zone two drives later.
The conservative play calling led to an Andrew Baggett field goal with less than two minutes remaining. Syracuse then seemed to just stroll down the field on the Tigers on their game-winning drive.
This win gives the Orange postseason life, after the Orange missed out on a bowl last year. The loss puts Mizzou in real hole when it comes to the postseason. The Tigers still need one more win in order to become bowl eligible. Mizzou has made it to seven straight bowl games.
In order to make it eight straight, the Tigers will have to get that last win in College Station, Texas, to do it.
Yeah, that College Station, where Johnny Football and the Texas A&M Aggies reside. The Tigers have won three straight against Texas A&M, but these aren't the same Aggies. These Aggies are one of the nation's hottest teams and have a true Heisman candidate in quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Missing a bowl would be a very disappointing finish to the Tigers' first year in the SEC.
1dMax Olson and Jake Trotter