The Missouri Tigers capped off their second consecutive 11+ win season with a 33-17 victory against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the 2015 Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day.
The reigning, defending, back-to-back SEC East Champions combated early struggles in Orlando on Thursday afternoon to eventually deliver another strong performance, moving to 23-5 in their last 28 games played.
The Tigers were led by yet another terrific outing from their dynamic duo of running backs. Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough combined for 301 yards on just 27 carries on Thursday afternoon -- for a startling 11.14 yards per carry. It was the junior running back from Arlington, Texas in Hansbrough who got the rushing touchdown between the two, which was scored on a 78 yard scamper.
Minnesota's Mitch Leidner had a good day throwing the football, going 21-for-31 for 258 yards and no interceptions, but the Golden Gopher defense was gashed so badly on the ground that he could not quite compensate.
Here are three things we learned from Mizzou's win:
1. Maxx Williams is an absolute stud...
Arguably the No. 1 tight end prospect in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft, if he chooses to declare himself eligible, Maxx Williams had another stupendous outing on Thursday afternoon. Williams caught seven passes and amassed 98 yards. The most spectacular of plays for Williams though was his touchdown reception in which he hurdled over a Missouri defender on his way to the end zone. We will likely see him make more plays like this on Sunday in the near future.
2. ...And so are Shane Ray and Markus Golden
Speaking of future NFL playmakers: How about this Mizzou pass rushing combo? Ray and Golden capped off their season with two terrific games, wreaking havoc in the backfield and creating pressure and disruption just about everywhere. We'll see if Ray decides to declare -- all bets are on him leaving school early -- and Golden is graduating, so now the only thing to wonder is where they'll end up. It would be a good guess to say they'll be highly touted going into this year's NFL Draft.
3. Gary Pinkel is one hell of a football coach
All Indiana jokes aside, this was a terrific year for Gary Pinkel. In arguably his best coaching job in recent memory, the Tigers netted 11 wins despite losing their top three receiving targets, one way or another, as well as their top tailback in Henry Josey. Oh, and not to mention the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and his fellow edge rusher in Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Pinkel deserves every bit of credit being dished out to him for the 2014 campaign. That much is certain.