Dan Wetzel:

Mauk good enough to keep Mizzou undefeated

The SportsXchange

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk wasn't perfect, but 14th-ranked Missouri didn't need him to be in a 36-17 victory over No. 22 Florida on Saturday.

Mauk threw for 295 yards with a touchdown on his second pass of the game in his first career start, and the Tigers (7-0, 3-0 in the SEC) defense held Florida (4-3, 3-2 to 151 total yards.

Mauk, replacing injured starter James Franklin, completed only 18-of-36 passes and a second-quarter interception by Florida cornerback Brian Poole nearly wound up as a pick-6.

But Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson allowed Mauk to be more than a game-manager.

On the game's first drive, Mauk completed a 41-yard pass to L'Damian Washington. On the next play, Mauk found Bud Sasser in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.

"Just to have that confidence in me, go out there and play in my first game starting, it meant a lot to me," Mauk said. "And have all those guys come up behind me and just know we're going to get the ball and make plays."

Said coach Gary Pinkel: "Sometimes (Mauk) tries to make too much happen. He'll fire it downfield when we have something close that's open, and he'll learn from that. But I couldn't be more pleased with him."

Mauk added a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, scrambling out of the pocket and outrunning a linebacker to the end zone.

"It just goes to show a lot about the trust that Coach Henson has in Maty Mauk," Washington said. "The first play, we went right at their corners and I think that showed a lot.

"Maty delivered a great ball, and I know his confidence went up after that."

Florida's defense ranked second in the nation in yards allowed entering Saturday, allowing opponents only 235.3 yards per game.

However, Missouri finished with 500 yards, including 136 yards rushing on 18 carries from Henry Josey. His six-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter pushed Missouri's lead to 20-10.

Josey's touchdown came on Missouri's first drive after Florida began the half with a 100-yard kickoff return by Solomon Patton.

The Gators scored again on a 20-yard run by freshman Kelvin Taylor with 46 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cut the deficit to six points, but Josey broke a 50-yard run on the next drive to set up a field goal.

Missouri scored 13 unanswered fourth-quarter points to pull away.

"I was disappointed," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "We gave up too many running seams all day. The big one in the third quarter was a huge momentum swing for Mizzou."

A week after scoring six points in a loss to LSU, the Gators' finished with 151 yards and one offensive touchdown.

Tyler Murphy completed 15-of-29 passes for 92 yards and one interception.

Missouri's defensive line, second in the SEC with 17 sacks in the first six games, sacked Murphy six times. Defensive end Michael Sam sacked Murphy three times, the third time this season he registered three sacks in a game.

"Our defensive front and Michael Sam had a remarkable day," Pinkel said. "He's playing, but you bring people to your level when you start playing like that. He's every play. Every play, as hard as he can play."

Florida's struggles on offense were made clear from the start.

After Marcus Murphy fumbled a punt return early in the first quarter, Florida gained possession at Missouri's 24 yard line. The Gators moved only 18 yards in five plays and settled for a field goal.

"We are just not really a good football team, certainly not today," Muschamp said. "That's all on my shoulders. We had a hard time running the ball and we couldn't protect, either.

"I am pretty disappointed that we have not made more positive strides offensively at this point of the season."

Missouri, which finished 5-7 in 2012, is in control of the SEC East race. The Tigers have a two-game lead over South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Missouri plays the Gamecocks on Oct. 26 at home.

"I talked to the team about getting back to the grind," Pinkel said. "They know what the grind means. They have to have the discipline and mental toughness to handle all of this attention that will be thrown at them. That's where I will lean on the seniors and captains."

NOTES: Maty Mauk's 295 passing yards were the most Florida allowed all season. The previous high mark in opposing passing yards was 164. ... Florida DB Cody Riggs received a personal foul for targeting on the first play of the game and was ejected. ... Henry Josey became the first Missouri running back to eclipse 100 yards since the third game of the season.
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