For the second season in a row, Missouri ended its season with a win in a bowl game while representing the SEC. No. 16 Missouri pulled away from No. 25 Minnesota in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl Thursday afternoon in Orlando, Florida, winning 33-17 to even the SEC’s record against the Big Ten this bowl season.
Russell Hansbrough ripped off a 78-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to boost a two-point advantage over the Gophers to a 26-17 lead, and Maty Mauk completed a seven-yard touchdown pass to Bud Sasser later in the fourth quarter for what was effectively a knockout blow for the Tigers. Missouri shrugged aside a sluggish start to the game with a pair of turnovers by way of intercepted passes on the first two possessions of the afternoon, and came back to play a physical game. Mauk played a role in that as well with 38 hard-earned rushing yards and a touchdown that saw Mauk being the last man standing despite being tackled by one Minnesota player and another coming in for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Mauk was charged with emotion as his touchdown run gave Missouri a 19-14 lead following a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Minnesota may not have had many highlights, but tight end Maxx Williams may have turned in one of the best plays of the bowl season. Williams caught a pass and started to work his way down the left sideline. With a Missouri defended looking to force him out of bounds from the front, Williams took to the air to hurdle the defender. He then raced down field and left the Missouri defenders in the dust en route to an amazing 54-yards touchdown pass from Mitch Leidner.
The Tigers owned the advantage on the ground too. Marcus Murphy led all players with 157 rushing yards and Hansbrough added another 114 yards on the ground. Minnesota’s David Cobb ended his day with 81 rushing yards.
The win by Missouri was the fifth by the SEC this bowl season, improving the SEC’s bowl record to 5-4. That includes winning records against the ACC and Big 12 and a .500 mark against the Big Ten (with two more match-ups against the Big Ten to be played). The SEC East is now 3-0 in bowl action as well.
The Big Ten dropped to 3-4 as a result of this game, and with Michigan State trailing Baylor it looks as though the Big Ten is in at risk of a losing record this bowl season (Well, Michigan State just won, so forget about that thought for now). Ohio State and Iowa are the only two bowl teams remaining for the conference.
To say the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl has been an ugly game at times might be an understatement. The game featured three turnovers within the first few minutes of the game, and No. 16 Missouri busted out a fake punt run by a 290-pound nose guard for an 19-yard gain. At the half, Missouri leads No. 25 Minnesota 10-7.
Missouri got off to a rough start on offense, with quarterback Maty Mauk being picked off twice on the first two possessions of the game for the Tigers. Minnesota gave the football back just as quickly as they took it away in the opening minutes with a turnover of their own when quarterback Mitch Leidner lost the football while being sacked. Minnesota got the scoring going a little later in the first quarter when Rodrick Williams Jr. busted open a 20-yard touchdown run up the middle. Mizzou hung around for much of the half and used some late-half heroics from Mauk to take the lead. Mauk took off for a 20-yard gain on the ground down the right sideline to set up a late touchdown pass to Bud Sasser from 25 yards out with just over a minute to play in the first half.
The highlight of the first half came on special teams.
On 4th and 17 from their own 17-yard line, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel rolled the dice with a fake punt that saw nose guard Harold Brantley take a direct snap and take advantage of some solid blocking (and a napping Minnesota special teams coverage), but also showed a swift move or two on his way to a 19-yard gain. Missouri could not capitalize on the big special teams play though, ending the drive with a punt downed at the Minnesota two-yard line.
Gary Pinkel last won on Toledo’s home field came on November 22, 2000. It was a Wednesday night conference match-up against Bowling Green. That drought ended Saturday afternoon as Pinkel’s No. 24 Missouri Tigers (2-0) managed to keep Toledo (1-1) at a distance, winning 49-24.
A quick glance at the box score would suggest this was a pretty even contest between the SEC and MAC schools, but Missouri built up a 35-7 lead on the Rockets midway through the third quarter. Missouri was well on their way to a victory on the rare SEC road trip to a MAC school. Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk passed or 325 yards and five touchdowns in the win. Mauk also added a touchdown run and 36 rushing yards to his stat line, just for good measure.
Bud Sasser was Missouri’s leading receiver with five receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown, but four different players caught a touchdown pass from Mauk in this one. Toledo got a big game from their running back, Kareem Hunt. Hunt rushed for a game-high 148 yards and three touchdowns, but Missouri’s offense had done its job early enough to limit the damage ultimately done by Hunt and the Rockets.
Missouri will return home net weekend for a match-up with UCF. The Knights had a bye week this weekend after losing in the final seconds against Penn State in Ireland in week one. UCF has named Justin Holman the new starting quarterback for next weekend’s game. Holman gave the UCF offense a spark against Penn State in last weekend’s game. UCF is one of the favorites in the American Athletic Conference this season.
Toledo will take on the preseason AAC favorite, Cincinnati, next weekend. The Rockets will take to the road to play at Cincinnati on Friday night. Due to some bizarre scheduling, this will actually be Cincinnati’s season opener.