WACO, Texas -- Everything was going so easy, just as expected for Chase Daniel and 14th-ranked Missouri.
Two drives and two touchdown passes by Daniel, with the Tigers poised to score again. But then came an interception in the end zone on the first play of the second quarter, and what could have been an early runaway turned into a gut-check 31-28 victory over Baylor on Saturday.
"I wouldn't say that was a great team effort, but we got it done," Daniel said.
"I feel very fortunate," coach Gary Pinkel said. "We found a way to win at the end when we had to."
Daniel finished with 318 passing yards and three touchdowns, but the Tigers (7-2, 3-2 Big 12) needed Jeff Wolfert's 34-yard field goal with 2:31 remaining and Brock Christopher's interception -- the first in 210 attempts this season by Baylor freshman Robert Griffin -- to finally clinch the game.
Pinkel called it one of the better interceptions he's ever seen. Yeah, because it ensured that Griffin and Baylor (3-6, 1-4) couldn't pull off the upset.
Led by Griffin, who finished 26-of-35 for 283 yards with two TD passes and established a major college record for most passes at the start of a career without an interception, Baylor had long scoring drives on each of its first three possessions after halftime. Griffin had a 4-yard keeper for Baylor's only score before halftime.
"For me to go out and throw an interception when we had a chance to win the game, that's just not acceptable," he said. "It's a crucial part of the game, I tried to fit it in there and the linebacker made a good play.'
Twice down by 14, the Bears got even twice but never led. It was their 16th straight loss to ranked teams over the last five seasons, but the others had been by an average margin of nearly 30 points.
"It was a very emotional, very devastating non-win," first-year coach Art Briles said, refusing to utter the word loss. "I am extremely proud of our players for their energy, for their belief, for their effort."
Daniel's first interception came on the first play of the second quarter when Joe Pawelek picked off a pass in the end zone to keep Missouri from adding to a 14-0 lead.
"To me, that was a huge play," Pinkel said. "The other way, we score three points, get to 17 and it's score, score score, and [instead] they stopped us. ... There's no excuse for not playing our best. You've got to give Baylor credit. That's the best I've seen them play all year. It was a tremendous game."
Griffin's 36-yard TD pass to Jay Finley with 9:54 left tied the game at 28, and Baylor got the ball back four plays later. Daniel's throw to Chase Coffman was high, deflecting off the tight end's outstretched hand and picked off by Jordan Lake near midfield.
But the Bears couldn't get a first down, forced to punt after a false start penalty when they were lined up and set to go for it on fourth-and-4.
Missouri then went 75 yards on 13 plays for the game-winning field goal.
"We tried to stay as calm as possible. We didn't play as well as we want, obviously," Christopher said. "But it's a win against a Big 12 team on the road and either way you win, if you win by three points like we did, it's a win."
The Tigers, their national championship hopes dashed by consecutive losses before a 58-0 victory over Colorado last week, jumped in front when Daniel's first two TDs came less than 8 minutes into the game.
They can still get back to the Big 12 championship game for the second straight season, if they can beat struggling Kansas State and Iowa State before a likely showdown for the North Division title against Kansas in the regular season finale.
Griffin's record passed the 202 attempts Southern California's Brad Otton had without an interception from 1994-95. Griffin had already set the FBS record for most attempts by a freshman to start a career, with 175 before Saturday.
He came four short of the overall Big 12 record of 213 consecutive passes without throwing a pick.
Baylor opened the second half with a 12-play, 69-yard drive and got within 21-14 when Ray Sims scored on a 2-yard run. After Mizzou went three-and-out, Griffin's 16-yard pass to Brad Taylor tied the game after another 12-play drive.
The Tigers went back ahead when Coffman caught a 13-yard TD pass, getting one foot down in the back left corner of the end zone. Like his 3-yard scoring catch in the back right corner on the opening drive of the game, officials had to look at replay to confirm the touchdown.
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