Key play: Pick either of sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk’s two interceptions.
Key stat: Minnesota outgained Missouri 143-28 .
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Key play: Two plays after Mauk scrambled for 20 yards, he lobbed a 25-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Bud Sasser, who flipped his body at the last second to snag the go-ahead touchdown.
Key stat: Missouri outgained Minnesota 156-41 in the second quarter, turning a 7-0 deficit after the first quarter into a 10-7 lead at halftime.
Key play: Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams scored on a spectacular 54-yard touchdown. He ran away from Kentrell Brothers, hurdled Aarion Penton and dived over Braylon Webb on the way to the end zone.
Key stat: Minnesota had two fumbles and lost them both in the third quarter, leading to seven Missouri points.
Key play: Junior Russell Hansbrough’s 78-yard touchdown run was Missouri’s longest play of the season from scrimmage.
Key stat: Senior running back Marcus Murphy set up the game’s final touchdown with a career-long 69-yard run to the Minnesota 11.
Player of the game: Markus Golden finished with a team-leading 10 tackles, four tackles for a loss, 1 1/2 sacks and three quarterback hurries. He also had a forced fumble on the way to Citrus Bowl MVP honors. It was a fitting sendoff for a fan favorite and dedicated Tiger. Now, the NFL awaits.
Reason to hope: If Missouri’s breakthrough SEC East championship in 2013 was unexpected, the 2014 division crown ranks as even more surprising. The Tigers had to close the season with six straight wins to return to the SEC Championship Game, but it happened. Eleven wins are impressive any year.
Reason to mope: Golden is gone and his partner in crime, junior defensive end Shane Ray, is probably gone, too. Senior Braylon Webb also is moving on, while the offense loses left tackle Mitch Morse and almost every wide receiver of consequence. It also might take three guys to replace running back/return specialist Marcus Murphy.
Looking ahead: Quarterback Maty Mauk and four of five offensive linemen return, but the offense needs reinforcements and playmakers, either from deep on the roster or on national signing day. The defense also will be in flux in the quest for an SEC East three-peat under new coordinator Barry Odom.
Missouri was only four of 13 on third down, and the interceptions early hurt, but it’s hard to complain about 33 points and 434 yards in a bowl game. The Tigers wore down Minnesota on the ground and averaged 8.1 yards per carry before three kneel-downs at the end.
Missouri allowed one long drive and one big play. Otherwise, it was a terrific sendoff for defensive coordinator Dave Steckel. The Tigers got gashed on cutback runs up the gut early but adjusted well and shut down the Gophers’ run game after the first quarter.
Punter Christian Brinser put three of four punts inside the 20-yard line and another one was a 53-yard bomb. Andrew Baggett started the second half with a successful onside pooch kick. Harold Brantley’s fake-punt run ignited a sluggish Missouri offense.
Missouri took some chances, which is a great approach for the players and fans. The defense adjusted after a rocky first half, and the offense settled down after a sluggish start, helping the Tigers claim a convincing win to end the season.