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Temple enjoys another big bowl game
The running back eclipsed his previous career-best rushing total, set last season in the Sun Bowl.
DALLAS -- Just like last year, Tony Temple saved his best for last. This time, the running back's record-setting day was more than enough for Missouri.
Temple broke a pair of ancient Cotton Bowl records, rushing for 281 yards and four touchdowns in the seventh-ranked Tigers' dominant 38-7 victory over No. 25 Arkansas on Tuesday, and was named the game's outstanding offensive player. His previous best day was 194 yards and two scores in the 2006 Sun Bowl, when he was on the verge of being named that game's offensive MVP before Oregon State pulled off a last-minute, one-point victory.
He made sure it held up Tuesday with one of the greatest performances in bowl history.
"The offensive line did a great job," Temple said. "All I did was run through the holes."
Temple kept running until his legs finally gave out, helping Missouri reach 12 victories for the first time in school history. A hamstring injury put him on the bench for part of the fourth quarter, but he re-emerged for perhaps his most impressive carry of the day, breaking free with a spin move about 15 yards downfield and then limping stiff-legged into the end zone with 8:33 left to cap the scoring.
Quarterback Chase Daniel and offensive tackle Tyler Luellen carried Temple off the field after the spectacular final run. It was the least Daniel could do for the underappreciated running back who became the first player in school history with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, despite missing two games and most of a third with an ankle injury.
An equally underrated defense also stood out for Missouri (12-2), which stifled a team that had been averaging 40 points -- at times after spotting Arkansas favorable field position.
William Moore, named the outstanding defensive player, set a school record with his eighth interception, which he returned 26 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
Minutes after the victory, Missouri defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus made certain a photo of himself and his family was taken with the scoreboard in the background.
"I'm very proud of my defense, our seniors who came out there and put their heart out there on the line," Moore said. "It was real big."
Temple had three carries of 22 yards, his uniform number, and six carries of 20 or more yards overall. He averaged 11.7 yards per carry, and the final carry broke the previous mark of 265 yards on only 11 carries by Dicky Maegle of Rice in 1954. He also scored on runs of 22, 4 and 4 yards to better the TD record shared by three players, with Jim Brown of Syracuse the last to do it in 1957.
Arkansas interim coach Reggie Herring said the Razorbacks' defense made it much too easy, noting that Temple was untouched for several yards on many of those breakaways.
"He was running on air," Herring said. "We've never played the run that poorly."
Temple has an outside shot at making a run at three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Missouri is seeking a medical redshirt fifth season, based on Temple's abbreviated play as a freshman in 2004. He played in only one game, rushing for 13 yards on six carries, before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury. But the chances for success are iffy because he played in the eighth game in the season.