On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers (3-0) defeated the Central Florida Knights (0-2) by the final score of 38-10.
Central Florida, who lost a close one, 24-26, to Penn State in week one, kept it close at Missouri in the 1st half, as George O’Leary’s Knights trailed 10-14 at halftime.
But Missouri, who had won 21-16 at Central Florida two years ago, outscored the Knights 28-0 in the 2nd half.
Maty Mauk was 14-24-1 (58%) for 144 yards (6.00 yards/pass attempt) and 4 TDs passing (155.40 passer efficiency rating), and he also rushed for 30 yards on 6 carries. Marcus Murphy rushed for 94 yards on 15 carries, and Russell Hansbrough chipped in with 48 rushing yards on 9 carries.
But as good as Mauk and the offense were against a very good UCF defense, it was the Missouri defense that really took over the game. The Tigers tallied 8 tackles-for-loss and 6.5 sacks, forced 4 turnovers, and scored the game’s final TD, as Duron Singleton scooped up a fumble and raced 60 yards to the end zone.
“I thought that we really battled,” said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel “We were playing a real good football team……………………………………. I thought that we played a really good second half………………………………………. Our defense just really did a heck of a job.”
The play of the game was made by 330-pound sophomore defensive tackle Josh Augusta with 3:44 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Missouri led 14-10, and UCF was driving near mid-field. Augusta deflected a Justin Holman pass into the air and then, with a very athletic play from the big man, he made the interception of his own deflected pass at the UCF 45-yard line. Four plays later, the Missouri offensive line picked up the UCF blitz, and Mauk hit Sasser on a slant. Sasser broke a tackle, and powered his way into the end zone to put the Tigers ahead 21-10. “That was a great play,” Coach Pinkel said of Augusta’s interception that extended Missouri’s streak of 47-straight games with a takeaway. “It really changed the whole game.”
Missouri had a two-score lead and the momentum. And, the Tigers’ defensive pressure was getting to the UCF QB, Justin Holman, at a time when the Knights were forced to go to the air probably more than they would have liked.
To begin the game, Missouri forced a three and out on UCF’s first possession, pushing the Knights backward, and after a 24-yard punt, the Tigers took over on the UCF 40-yard line.
Seven plays later, Maty Mauk reverse pivoted out of the pocket and rolled left to find Jimmie Hunt in the back of the end zone from 11 yards out to take a 7-0 lead.
UCF took over at their own 25 yard line, and Justin Holman showed himself to be up to the task. Holman ran for 20 yards for a first down to the Missouri 37-yard line. Then, facing third and 19 at the Missouri 46-yard line, Holman completed a pass down the right sideline for 27 yards and a first down at the Missouri 19-yard line. Braylon Webb and John Gibson appeared to knock each other off the pass, which looked ripe for picking. UCF got down to the Missouri 2-yard line, but the Tigers stiffened, and Shawn Moffitt hit a 19-yard field goal to cut Missouri’s lead to 7-3 with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter.
On the second play of Missouri’s next possession, Mauk underthrew Jimmie Hunt, who had gotten behind the UCF defense, and Jacoby Glenn picked it off and returned the interception 31 yards to the Missouri 31-yard line.
On fourth and goal from the Missouri 2-yard line, Holman got it out quickly to RB Will Stanback on a swing pass out to the right side for a TD to put UCF ahead 10-7, with 12:17 remaining in the 2nd quarter. On the play, the UCF receivers built a picket fence to pin Kentrell Brothers and the other Missouri defenders to the inside, and Stanback waltzed into the end zone unmolested.
But Mauk and the Tigers came right back with a 14-play, 75-yard TD drive to regain the lead. On that drive, Missouri converted 4 third downs, including a third-down, 10-yard pass completion on a fade from Mauk to Jimmie Hunt in the back right corner of the end zone. Missouri took that 14-10 lead to the halftime locker room, despite having been outgained by UCF 165 yards to 114 yards.
Both defenses played tough to begin the 2nd half, and it wasn’t until Augusta’s interception midway through the 3rd quarter gave Missouri field position, as well as momentum, that Mauk and the Tigers were able to dent the 2nd half scoreboard.
That seemed to open the floodgates for the Missouri offense, as Mauk and the Tigers scored on three straight possessions. After Mauk and Sasser hooked up on the slant from 21 yards out, the Tigers forced a three and out, which included a Markus Golden sack. Then, Missouri put together a 9-play, 71-yard drive that was capped off when Mauk found Sasser behind Jordan Ozorities in the back left corner of the end zone from 22 yards out to put the Tigers ahead 28-10 with 11:32 remaining in the game.
From there, Coach Pinkel started running the football and the clock.
After Shane Ray sacked Holman, forcing a fumble that Michael Scherer recovered at the Missouri 37-yard line, Marcus Murphy rushed 7 times for 55 yards, before Andrew Baggett made good on a 26-yard field goal.
With Holman under a ferocious pass rush, Braylon Webb came up with an interception on UCF’s next possession, and Coach Pinkel cleared his bench.
For the second straight week, the Tigers had continued to improve, and Coach Pinkel agreed.
“We’re getting better,” said Coach Pinkel. “There’s a lot of little things we’re doing wrong. But there’s always things like that. You know, win or lose, you go back and evaluate. But I think we’re a better football team than we were three weeks ago. And for the most part, I think we came out of this thing pretty healthy.”
And, while the numbers weren’t as gaudy as they had been the week before, Mauk showed that he is continuing to improve.
“Wait until he gets good,” said Coach Pinkel. “There’s a lot of things out there that he can do to improve, and he knows that.………………………………….. He can get considerably better.”