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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri tight end Daniel Parker Jr. is mobbed by his teammates after he scored on a 2-point conversion to end a 24-23 overtime victory Saturday against Florida at Faurot Field. Photo by Associated Press / News Tribune.

COLUMBIA — The play looked dead until Connor Bazelak looked to his left.

Tyler Badie was the first option on the right side and saw the ball fly into the air as Bazelak fell on his back.

"I didn't see what happened," Badie said. "I just saw the ball go in the air and hoped somebody would catch it."

The ball found Daniel Parker Jr., Bazelak's third read, wide open in the end zone for a game-winning 2-point conversion that pushed Missouri to a 24-23 win against Florida at Faurot Field that revived the Tigers' bowl hopes.

"Normally we just go through it mindless and we come out and we just throw it to the tailback," Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. "For whatever reason yesterday, Connor came out and boom, fakes it and looks, buys the exact same play he did right there and threw it up to Daniel and he caught it. I thought, 'Well, that's interesting.'"

The same execution of that play a day later made the Tigers (6-5, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) bowl eligible, with those hopes hinging on the outcome of Drinkwitz's call to go for the 2-point conversion after Badie's rushing score in overtime instead of kicking the extra point to send the game to another overtime.

"It's a strategic decision," Drinkwitz said. "If you have offense, the second set, you got to go back on offense (in the second overtime), and then you'd have to go for two. So why have to go back on offense and then have to go for two? You might as well do it then."

That decision paid off as the home crowd erupted and Missouri players rushed onto the field after Parker Jr. caught the pass all alone after slipping away from the defense on a fake screen.

It was a big play for Bazelak, who struggled for most of the afternoon while his performance elicited boos from the home fans. Those boos were long gone by the time the game was done. Bazelak finished 15-for-26 passing with 165 yards and a score.

"The most popular person on a football team is the backup quarterback," Drinkwitz said. "But right now Connor gives us the best opportunity to win the game. I thought he stepped up and made some big plays."

That end zone Parker Jr. was mobbed in after his game-winning catch was elusive for the Missouri offense for the game's first three quarters.

Then, touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime were enough to give Missouri a Senior Day win after the team had nine points through three.

Early in the fourth quarter, Connor Bazelak found Niko Hea down the right sideline for a 41-yard score that gave the Tigers the big play they had been missing all afternoon. It also gave Missouri a three-point lead with 11:53 left.

Florida (5-6, 2-6 SEC) tied the game with a field goal drive, then the teams traded punts before a golden opportunity for the Tigers. After driving to the Florida 29, Missouri gave Harrison Mevis an opportunity to hit a 46-yard field goal to go ahead with a minute left. The sophomore who had made 24 of his last 25 kicks pulled the kick wide right and the game went to overtime tied at 16.

Gators quarterback Emory Jones caught a Gainsville rendition of the Philly Special from Trent Whittmore to open overtime and give Florida a 23-16 lead.

On Missouri's possession, it took Badie two carries to go 25 yards and score. His 13-yard score was his 27th carry on a 146-yard day.

The extra period was a dramatic switch after both offenses were stagnant in the first half while no one found the end zone.

Florida started the game with a 10-play, 50-yard drive to begin the scoring with a 42-yard field goal from Chris Howard with 9:49 left in the first quarter.

A series of punts followed, with Florida's 11-yard shank from its own 7-yard line putting the Tigers in the red zone. Missouri's offense went three and out before Mevis tied the game with a 39-yard field goal near the end of the opening quarter.

Howard and Mevis traded field goals again to start the second, before a late drive — one that included Micah Wilson motioning under center to draw the Gators offside — ended in another Mevis field goal to give Missouri a 9-6 lead heading into halftime.

Dameon Pierce got the first touchdown of the day with a 2-yard run that gave Florida a 13-9 lead with 12:52 left in the third.

Hea's score early in the fourth on a play where Badie was the decoy. A fake screen opened up Hea on a wheel route down the sideline.

"We call it 'Burn'," Drinkwitz said. "I was like, 'No that's a crazy idea. Then I was like Nah, that's probably a pretty good idea.' So we call it and it hits for a touchdown."

On the game-tying field goal drive, Florida looked poised for a touchdown to take the lead until transfer linebacker Blaze Alldredge stopped both Jones and the running back on a speed option on a third-and-short.

"What I have to do right there, it's called a feather technique," Alldredge said. "I got to make sure that I don't just shoot up to the running back and allow the quarterback to pick up that short yardage. I'm kind of sitting in between trying to play both."

That brought up a fourth down and short where Florida coach Dan Mullen opted for the field goal that ended up forcing overtime.

That play by Alldredge showed the sure tackling Missouri had all afternoon, with a defense that has seemingly turned a corner during the past two weeks to put the team in a bowl game.

"Everybody's working as one and we're all communicating," Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey said. "That's the biggest part."

Missouri has a game Friday against Arkansas (7-4, 3-4 SEC) in Fayetteville, Ark., to close out the regular season. Then Missouri will play in a bowl game for the first time since 2018.

With most of the roster not around then, it's a first for many including offensive lineman Mike Maietti, who decided to come back this season to get one last crack at a bowl game.

"I promised Mike Maietti he'd go bowling if he came back," Drinkwitz said while fighting back tears. "That's the only reason he came back is that he'd never been to a bowl game. We came through today with that."

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