Key play: Quarterback Maty Mauk was baited into a deep throw up the Missouri sideline, which was undercut and intercepted by Central Florida cornerback Jacoby Glenn. His 31-yard return set up the Knights for the go-ahead touchdown.
Key stat: Missouri took advantage of a short field after a shanked field for a touchdown, but the defense was on the field for most of the first period. Central Florida owned a massive edge in time of possession and controlled the ball for 11 minutes, 24 seconds.
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Key play: Pick pretty much any play on a 14-play, 75-yard march midway through the second quarter. Central Florida had taken a 10-7 lead, the first time the Tigers trailed all season, before Mauk and the offense answered with a methodical march capped by senior Jimmie Hunt’s 10-yard touchdown reception.
Key stat: Missouri ran only 24 plays in the first half and was outgained 165-114 in total yards as a result. The Tigers actually averaged slightly more yardage per play than the Knights, but Josh Henson’s offense seldom had the ball.
Key play: Missouri sophomore Josh Augusta batted a pass by Central Florida’s Justin Holman into the air then tracked the ball for an interception. The takeaway extended Missouri’s nation-leading streak of consecutive games with a takeaway to 47. It also set up the Tigers to pull away.
Key stat: After averaging nearly five yards per play in the first half, Central Florida managed only 3.7 yards per play in the third quarter. The Knights continued to control the clock, possessing the ball for 9:43 in the period, but the offense was far less effective.
Key play: Mauk lobbed a 22-yard dart to Bud Sasser for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter that salted away the victory. Sasser ran by Central Florida’s secondary like it was standing still to haul in Mauk’s fourth touchdown and ninth touchdown in the last two games.
Key stat: Missouri forced three turnovers in the quarter against a desperate Central Florida offense, including a 60-yard fumble-return touchdown by senior Duron Singleton. The Tigers also had three sacks for minus-27 yards in the quarter.
Player of the game: Missouri junior defensive end Shane Ray was a constant menace. He finished with two sacks for the second straight game and had four tackles for a loss among seven total tackles, all solo stops. Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate, also forced a fumble.
Reason to hope: Missouri’s defense gave up only 10 points. Central Florida, which averaged only 4.0 yards per play, ran 75 plays — 16 more than the Tigers — but managed only 299 yards — 23 fewer than the Tigers.
Reason to mope: Central Florida dictated the game’s pace for three quarters. The Knights owned a 29:14-15:46 edge in time of possession until the fourth quarter. Also, there were empty seats in the corners of the upper deck and the announced crowd of 60,348 was smaller than the opening-game crowd for South Dakota State.
Looking ahead: Missouri hosts Indiana, which got beat 45-42 by MAC power Bowling Green on Saturday. The Tigers, by contrast, roughed up Toledo, their non-conference MAC opponent 49-24 last week. Anything less than a 4-0 record entering SEC play would be shocking and disappointing.
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Missouri was efficient against a defense that took away the deep throw, going 10 of 14 on third down. Were it not for a first-half interception and sack that took away a chance at a two-minute drill, the grade would be higher.
In the first half, Central Florida dominated time of possession nearly 2-to-1 by sustaining drives. But Missouri’s relentless pass rush wore down the Knights after those three first-half drives of at least 10 plays.
Missouri didn’t have any special-teams gaffes like Central Florida’s missed field goal and shanked punt. There weren’t any extraordinary plays either.
The Tigers’ halftime adjustments worked exceedingly well. Central Florida was shut out in the second half and committed four turnovers, while Missouri’s offense got on track.