The Extra Point: Missouri Disposes No. 22 Florida, 36-17
COLUMBIA - On a wild Saturday in which we discovered some flaws with several top teams, we also learned more about the Missouri Tigers:
This team is on a mission.
And not one involving moral victories. These Missouri Tigers will be having none of that, thank you.
No, the 2013 Missouri football team is on a mission win football games, and to prove to the nation that their move to Southeastern Conference last year wasn't a death wish for the program. And they're off to a strong start after taking down two SEC East powerhouses in consecutive weeks.
Following their impressive road win over Georgia last Saturday, the Tigers welcomed the No. 22 Florida Gators for an early afternoon clash on Faurot Field. This game would mark the first career start for freshman quarterback Maty Mauk, who will be leading the Tigers indefinitely as senior James Franklin recovers from a shoulder sprain.
After their ascent to the No. 14 ranking in the nation last week, many analysts around the country assumed Mizzou's stay in the Top 25 would be short-lived; without the leadership of Franklin, they said, the Tigers would prove unable to move the ball against the stingy Florida defense, and would fade into obscurity within the vicious SEC. After all, Mauk was being forced into a game against a Gator defense that had only allowed one team to tally 20 points against them all season.
That was, of course, prior to their trip to the Columbia.
Missouri stacked up 500 yards of total offense en route to a 36-17 victory over Florida, as Mauk was aided by a stellar performance by junior running back Henry Josey's 136 rushing yards and touchdown.
Gary Pinkel turned Mauk loose right from the start, and after two deep passes, the young quarterback had led his team into the end zone. The Tigers led 7-0 after just 22 seconds had elapsed from the game clock.
Besides the arm of Mauk and his plethora of receiving weapons, Missouri utilized an effective running game and stout defense to stifle the Gators, who hadn't given up 36 points since Oct. 8, 2011 against LSU.
The Tigers moved the ball well throughout, and though they managed just two touchdowns after Mauk's quick 20 yard strike to Bud Sasser on the opening drive, they were able to consistently force their way into Gator territory. This gave Andrew Baggett the opportunity for a career day, as he was 5-for-5 on field goal tries, tying a school record for field goals in a single game.
Despite the large margin of victory for Missouri, it actually could have been worse for the Gators.
Following a quick stop by the Tiger defense in the first quarter, Marcus Murphy muffed a punt, which was recovered by the Gators. Mizzou's defense held the Florida to a field goal, accounting for their only points as they headed into halftime down 13-3.
While Mauk played exceptionally well for the circumstances, he was far from infallible during the game. He had several errant passes tipped and nearly intercepted in the first half, and was successfully picked off by Florida DB Brian Poole late in the second quarter, on a throw Mauk never should have delivered.
With more experience, Mauk should improve in his decision-making, and avoid costly errors like that one. Mauk finished the day 18/36 with a TD, and added a rushing TD when he scampered for a 17 yard score late in the fourth quarter to ice the game for the Tigers.
Despite mediocre numbers for Mauk, Coach Pinkel has to be happy with his performance and thrilled with his potential upside. As Mauk's patience and poise improves, Mizzou will become increasingly dangerous to the rest of the conference.
The Missouri Tigers are 7-0 and will welcome the South Carolina Gamecocks for the Homecoming game next Saturday Oct. 26. Because of losses by South Carolina and Georgia Saturday, Mizzou currently holds a two game buffer in the standings over the rest of the SEC East. With wins over Georgia and Florida already in the books, a Homecoming victory over USC would place Missouri in an excellent position for a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game at the season's end.
It was a wild day of football in the Southeastern Conference, as five ranked teams in the conference lost on Saturday. Ole Miss beat No. 6 LSU, 27-24. No. 24 Auburn beat No. 7 Texas A&M 45-41. Tennessee beat No. 11 South Carolina 23-21. Vanderbilt beat Georgia 31-27. No. 14 Missouri beat No. 22 Florida, 36-17.
Though few would have thought such an outcome could be possible after their disappointing 2012 inaugural season, the Tigers are in the driver's seat in the Southeastern Conference. And whether it's Mauk or Franklin throwing the ball, it's hardly worth denying anymore:
This team has the talent and determination to contend for a BCS run in 2013. Their mission to do so will continue next week, in a crucial home game for the Missouri Tigers.