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Mauk leads Missouri Tigers past Florida Gators

COLUMBIA, Mo. — In 2012, with a battered, injury-plagued team playing its inaugural season in the SEC, Missouri was the topic of many discussions about if it could compete in the conference.

The discussions are changing as the Tigers are proving they should be taken seriously.

Playing without its backup quarterback after the loss of James Franklin last week, No. 14 Missouri ran roughshod over No. 22 Florida on Saturday 36-17 in front of 67,124 in a pivotal SEC East game at Faurot Field.

The Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) amassed 500 yards of offense against a defense that entered first in the SEC. Their balanced effort included 295 passing yards. It was the first time the Gators allowed 500 or more yards in an SEC game since 2007 against Kentucky.

Florida (4-3, 3-2), which won last year's matchup 14-7 while going 11-2, was held to 151 yards (59 rushing), its fewest since 114 against Alabama in 1999. It has scored just one offensive touchdown over the past eight quarters: freshman Kelvin Taylor's 17-yard run on Saturday.

"We're just not a very good football team, certainly not today," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "That falls on my shoulders. We're inept offensively. We have a hard time running it, and we certainly can't protect very well. And that obviously showed today against the front we played against.

"I'm just very disappointed we haven't made more positive strides offensively this season. We've regressed again from last week."

You could tell immediately it probably wasn't going to be Florida's day.

On the first play after the kickoff, Missouri's Maty Mauk (18-of-36 with a touchdown pass and touchdown run) — making his first career start — threw a 41-yard pass to L'Damian Washington to the Florida 35. On the same play, cornerback Cody Riggs was penalized for targeting and ejected.

One play later, Mauk hit Bud Sasser in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.

"We did what we do best," Mauk, a redshirt freshman, said. "The running backs made plays. Receivers got the ball and made plays. We just knew we had to come together with me coming in, and we did."

Florida's longest drive of the first half was 22 yards, ending in a sack and fumble by Tyler Murphy. It had 61 yards of offense in the first half.

Down 13-3 at halftime, Florida made the game interesting — albeit briefly — when Solomon Patton returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. But Missouri responded with a 75-yard drive capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by Henry Josey (18 carries, 136 yards).

From there, Florida did not threaten.

For the second straight week, Murphy (15-of-29 for 92 yards) spent most of the game running from blitzing defenders behind a porous offensive line with little time or ability to throw. Murphy was sacked five times.

"We're playing at an all-time level up front on the defensive line," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, whose team went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the SEC last season.

"We rotate a lot of players in there, and they play hard against good offensive lines."

Murphy credited the Tigers' front but said some blame should fall his way.

"I've got to find a way to get the ball out quicker and put us in better routes and better protections," said Murphy, who in last week's 17-6 loss to LSU threw for 115 yards. "They have a good front, and they did a good job just finding ways to bring (pressure)."

Muschamp said he was extremely disappointed in the Gators' run defense, which entered allowing 83.3 yards per game but gave up 205.

"We're all looking for answers right now," senior safety Jaylen Watkins said. "We need to go back and get to the drawing board, watch the game so we can actually see what's going on. It's a lot of different things, but it's on everybody."

Mauk leads Missouri Tigers past Florida Gators 10/19/13 [Last modified: Sunday, October 20, 2013 1:28am]

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