Missouri relies on big plays from wide receivers in 38-18 win

Maty Mauk passes for three touchdowns

Story by Brandon Kiley
Photos by Christian Clark and Karen Mitchell

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COLUMBIA– The last time Missouri took the football field was for the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State in early January. The Tigers exploded for 24 points in the fourth quarter of that game, finishing the 2013 season with a 12-2 record and as the Cotton Bowl champions.

Missouri picked up the 2014 season where it left off in 2013. Missouri redshirt sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk connected with senior wide receiver Darius White on the second play from scrimmage for a 44-yard touchdown, giving the Tigers an early 7-0 lead over South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits responded on their first play from scrimmage with a 75-yard touchdown run by senior running back Zach Zenner, knotting the game at 7.

“Anytime a run like that happens, that means somebody made a mistake,” senior Missouri defensive end Markus Golden said. “After that big run we slowed him down a little bit.”

Zenner had just 16 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown following his 75-yard burst.

The big plays continued in the first quarter. Mauk and White connected for another strike, this one went for 39 yards and gave Missouri the lead 14-7.

Missouri junior running back Russell Hansbrough had a strong 2014 debut. His most impressive moment came on a run late in the first quarter. Hansbrough eluded two defenders on the right side of the line and eventually looped back around the offensive line before sprinting 10 yards down the left sideline and into the end zone for a touchdown.

“(Hansbrough) has great quickness and explosiveness,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He had a great burst. We missed at the point of attack and, sometimes, great athletes make plays just because they’re great athletes. And that’s what he did. He made a great play.”

Hansbrough finished the game with a career-high 126 yards, but he said it was something else about his performance that stood out for him.

“Getting the 20 carries… I’ve never done that before,” Hansbrough said. “I was kind of surprised by that.”

South Dakota State lost senior starting quarterback Austin Sumner for the game after his cleat got stuck in the turf on a play during the first quarter. Coach John Stiegelmeier said he expects Sumner to be out for six to eight weeks with the foot injury.

“He’s crushed inside and I’m crushed inside for him,” Stiegelmeier said.

Sophomore Zach Lujan replaced Sumner and had a solid day completing 20 of 26 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown.

“I was a little too excited, so I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” Lujan said. “In the second half it really calmed down and the game slowed down for me.”

The only scoring in the second quarter came by way of a 39-yard South Dakota State field goal by senior kicker Justin Syrovatka. The score finished off an 11-play, 41-yard drive that drained nearly seven minutes of the clock.

The second half began with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive by the Jackrabbits. Lujan completed five of seven passes for 60 yards on the drive before Zenner capped it off with a three-yard touchdown run. South Dakota State successfully completed a two-point conversion on a fade route to senior wide receiver Jason Schneider, bringing the Jackrabbits within three points of the Tigers, 21-18.

Marcus Murphy took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards untouched for the score, bringing the crowd at Memorial Stadium to its feet.

“That set a big tempo,” White said. “He told us. That’s the funny part. He told us that ‘if they kick it to me, I’m going to return it.’ And that’s exactly what he did.”

Murphy’s touchdown put the Tigers up 28-18. Pinkel said the return gave the Tigers much-needed momentum.

“That return was really something we needed,” Pinkel said.

Mauk’s inconsistent play in the third quarter was another issue for the Tigers. His first completion of the second half didn’t come until 10 minutes remained in the fourth quarter, but he made it count.

Mauk threw a rainbow pass for a 29-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Bud Sasser in the corner of the end zone to put Missouri up 35-18.

Missouri junior kicker Andrew Baggett added a 44-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining to extend Missouri’s lead to 38-18.

Missouri will travel to Toledo, Ohio, to take on the Toledo Rockets on Saturday, Sept. 6. It’s a homecoming for Mauk, who grew up in Kenton, Ohio, – a town an hour and a half south of Toledo.

“I’m really excited,” Mauk said. “I’m ready to get back to Ohio and play a game… I’m pretty sure my whole hometown has bought tickets. I’m excited to get back and play for them, but at the same time, I know what I have to do and I will come out ready to go.”

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