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Mauk directs Missouri past Tennessee

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11/02/2013 Tennessee vs Missouri Football Highlights

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11/02/2013 Tennessee vs Missouri Football Highlights

11/02/2013 Tennessee vs Missouri Football Highlights
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COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Ninth-ranked Missouri rediscovered its rhythm in a 31-3 win over Tennessee on Saturday night.

After struggling against South Carolina, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk rebounded with a solid but somewhat erratic performance. He threw three first-half touchdown passes to help the Tigers (8-1 overall, 4-1 SEC) to a 24-3 halftime lead.

Mauk finished 12 of 25 for 163 yards, the second straight game his completion percentage was below 50 percent.

"It's only the third game he started," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "He'll get better and better as he goes, but he does make plays. We all know that. He does it with his legs and he also does it with his arms, scrambling."

Mauk said, "The main thing is just being comfortable. Not trying to do too much, just letting the game come to us. I feel confident, a lot more confident now, and it's about going out there and executing."

Mauk didn't rein in his scrambling ability, however, which helped Missouri's offense move down the field after stalling a week ago. Mauk ran for 114 yards on 13 carries, becoming the first Missouri quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards since James Franklin in the 2011 Independence Bowl.

Against South Carolina, Mauk scrambled early from the pocket and missed plays downfield. Pinkel thought he might have scared Mauk by talking about the pass rush too much. In the buildup to Saturday's game, Pinkel said they focused on coaching Mauk to determine when it's the right situation to leave the pocket.

"I thought he did a lot better job," Pinkel said.

Mauk's three touchdown passes went to three different receivers. Dorial Green-Beckham caught a 9-yarder in the first quarter, followed by a 26- and 40-yard hookups with L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas.

"He would hit the open receiver, he would find it if we had a kink in our coverage," Tennessee defensive back Brian Randolph said. "And, also if there was nothing there, he would take the ball out and run with it. It was definitely frustrating, but we can't let it get to us. We just have to get him off the field the next series."

The Tigers' defense pressured Tennessee freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs throughout the game in the first start of his career. Dobbs turned the ball over three times, including two interceptions.

Dobbs' first interception was returned to Tennessee's 26-yard line by Missouri CB E.J. Gaines, and the Tigers scored on the next play.

Dobbs finished 26-42 passing for 240 yards and led the Volunteers (4-5, 1-4) with 45 yards rushing.

The Volunteers struggled for the second straight week. Tennessee largely put the game in Dobbs' hands, who was announced as the starter after Justin Worley tore ligaments in his thumb in a 45-10 loss to Alabama last week. Tennessee ran the ball 21 times for 90 yards, but running back Raijon Neal was held to 8 yards on eight carries. He entered the game as the SEC's fourth-leading rusher, averaging more than 95 yards per game on the ground.

Tennessee's offense drove inside Missouri's 20-yard line once. A fourth-quarter march ended at the Missouri 8 when the Volunteers couldn't convert a fourth-down attempt.

"Executing is the main thing," Tennessee wide receiver Pig Howard said. "We have the chemistry, we work hard every day, we know the game plan. It's executing the game plan."

Missouri's rushing attack avoided any hangover after struggling in the Tigers' first loss of the season. Seven players combined for 339 yards on 54 carries, with the only rushing touchdown coming on a 26-yard run by Russell Hansbrough in the third quarter. Missouri's three main running backs -- Hansbrough, Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy -- combined for 31 carries and 179 yards.

"That's what get paid to do is to move people," Missouri guard Max Copeland said. "When we don't do that well, we want to make sure we redeem ourselves. Today was a little bit about redemption, but it was also about putting the past behind us."

The Tigers' victory helped maintain their one-game lead over South Carolina in the SEC East. The Gamecocks beat Mississippi State 34-16 on Saturday.

"We aren't talking about being 8-1," Pinkel said. "We are talking about these games in a row and next week is going to be a critical game with Kentucky."

NOTES: Franklin, listed as questionable before Saturday's game, dressed but did not play. Mauk received his third start for the Tigers. After the game, Pinkel said the staff thinks it's "very possible (Franklin's) ready for next week." ... Missouri K Andrew Baggett made one of his two first-half field goal attempts, after missing two against South Carolina, including a 24-yard attempt in the second overtime that would have tied the score. ... Tennessee entered as the SEC's least-penalized team, but the Volunteers were whistled for nine penalties against Missouri. ... Missouri's 339 rushing yards were its most against a conference opponent since Oct. 25, 2003, against Texas Tech. ... Dobbs' 240 passing yards were a season high by a Tennessee quarterback.
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