KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- J'Mon Moore's touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter helped Missouri to a 20-16 victory over BYU on Saturday night, capping a tumultuous week for the Tigers that began with a boycott and included the resignation announcement of coach Gary Pinkel.
Drew Lock threw for 244 yards, and Russell Hansbrough ran for 117 yards, helping the Tigers (5-5) snap a four-game losing streak while greatly improving their faded bowl prospects.
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Tanner Mangum threw for 244 yards for the Cougars (7-3), hitting Francis Bernard with a short TD pass with 7:19 left to get within 20-16. But the Missouri defense stiffened the rest of the way to seal the victory in a game that could have never happened.
The game was put in doubt last weekend when black players said they wouldn't practice or play until university system president Tim Wolfe left office. The team joined forces with a student activist group that had been trying to get the president's attention for months, as well as a graduate student, Jonathan Butler, who had started a hunger strike as part of the protest.
Not playing the game could have cost Missouri $1 million or more. The president resigned on Monday, less than 48 hours after the team joined the cause.
Several members of the campus community had argued for months that Wolfe had been slow -- even negligent -- in responding to several cases of racism on campus.
By the end of the week, the furor on their Columbia campus had slowly begun to wane.
That's when Pinkel, who had stood by his striking players, announced that he would step down at season's end. The winningest coach in school history revealed he had been diagnosed with lymphoma in May, and had undergone several rounds of treatment over the summer.
The 63-year-old Pinkel said his decision had nothing to do with the turmoil at Missouri, or with the team's struggles this season. He said he had decided shortly after a PET scan last month that he wanted to spend more time with his family as he continued to fight the disease.
It was against that backdrop that the Tigers headed down Interstate 70 to Arrowhead Stadium for their game against BYU, which had been riding a five-game winning streak.
The Cougars trailed a field goal-fest 6-3 at halftime, but they briefly pulled ahead late in the third quarter, after Lock's interception gave them good field position. Algernon Brown's 11-yard touchdown run made it 10-6, silencing a sparse but heavily pro-Missouri crowd.
Missouri answered with arguably its two most important touchdowns of the season.
The first came on Lock's go-ahead fade pass to Moore, who managed to get a foot down in the corner of the end zone early in the fourth quarter. It was the first TD pass thrown by the Tigers since Oct. 3 against South Carolina, a span of nearly five games.
On the ensuing offensive play, Mangum fumbled the ball while getting sacked. Moments later, Tyler Hunt barreled in from a yard out to give the Tigers a 20-10 lead -- and give their beleaguered fans an opportunity to celebrate for the first time in weeks.
There were no protests or other incidents surrounding the game, though one fan was denied entry with a sign referencing "Concerned Student 1950" -- the name of the activist group. A spokesman for the Chiefs said security made a mistake not letting the fan in.
Otherwise, the majority of signs referenced campus unity. And as the final minutes ticked off the clock, chants of "Gary Pinkel" began to rise from the Missouri fans still in the stands.