By The Associated Press
TOLEDO, Ohio — Maty Mauk was sharp for most of the day — and when he did make a big mistake in the first half, receiver Bud Sasser was there to bail him out.
Sasser hustled back and forced a fumble after Mauk threw an interception in the first quarter, and No. 24 Missouri had a fairly easy time after that in a 49-24 victory over Toledo on Saturday. Sasser also caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter, helping coach Gary Pinkel to a win against his former program.
The Tigers (2-0) were only up 14-7 when Jordan Haden intercepted a pass by Mauk and returned it all the way to the Missouri 12 before Sasser caught him and forced the fumble, which Missouri recovered.
“I started to follow him as soon as he picked it off, and I knew he didn’t know where I was. So I was just hoping that I was going to be able to catch him,” Sasser said. “That was the first thing that went through my mind —get the ball back, get it out and give someone else a chance to hop on it.”
Mauk threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns and ran for a TD. The Tigers never trailed in what was expected to be a tricky road game against one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference. Missouri led 35-7 in the third quarter, and the Rockets (1-1) could get no closer than 14 points in the second half.
Pinkel coached Toledo from 1991-2000 before taking over at Missouri. He is the winningest coach at both schools.
Toledo’s Kareem Hunt ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns, but Rockets quarterback Phillip Ely went down with a right knee injury late in the third quarter.
Toledo coach Matt Campbell said it was too early to make a final determination on the severity of the injury.
“Doesn’t look good,” Campbell said. “That’s all I know.”
Mauk went 21 of 32 and was intercepted twice. His five touchdown passes equaled a career high, and this was his first time surpassing 300 yards passing.
“We came out and had a really good game plan,” Mauk said. “We knew when we wanted to take shots, based on alignment. There were multiple things we practiced all week that we were able to execute today.”
Missouri was the first Southeastern Conference school to play at Toledo’s Glass Bowl. The Tigers hosted the Rockets last year but Pinkel doesn’t sound interested in another home-and-home series any time soon.
“I don’t think that would be a very good idea, just because Toledo’s too good,” Pinkel said.
The Tigers opened the scoring on Russell Hansbrough’s 16-yard touchdown run. Hunt answered with a 38-yard scoring run later in the first quarter.
Mauk threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Darius White and added a 1-yard scoring run of his own to make it 21-7. He then threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Hunt with 6:12 remaining in the second quarter.
The Tigers led 28-7 at halftime, although Toledo could have kept it closer if not for a couple mishaps deep in Missouri territory. Haden’s interception-turned-fumble was one of them. Then in the second quarter, with Missouri up 21-7, Toledo had first-and-goal from the 6, but a false start and a 17-yard sack forced the Rockets to try a field goal, which was blocked.
Mauk threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Murphy early in the third, but Kareem Hunt answered with two touchdowns for Toledo. The Rockets had a chance to get the ball back again, but Mauk found Sasser for 47 yards on third-and-7, and on the next play those two connected again for a 25-yard touchdown.
That 75-yard drive took only 57 seconds, and Missouri led 42-21. Mauk also threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Hunt in the fourth.
Of the game’s 10 touchdown drives, only two were longer than 1:31, and four took less than a minute.
Missouri is scheduled to face Central Florida on Saturday, Sept. 13 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia. Game time is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Central time.