Friday, January 02, 2015

Missouri: 2015 Citrus Bowl Champions

ORLANDO, Florida — As Missouri players jogged to the locker room to celebrate a Citrus Bowl victory against Minnesota, running backs coach Brian Jones grabbed center Evan Boehm by the shoulders. 
"Every bone! Every bone!" Jones shouted in Evan Boehm's ear, praising the Tigers' play in the 33-17 win.
Meanwhile, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk looked worn out heading to the locker room, pressing against his temple and limping as a result of a Golden Gopher hitting Mauk's calf with his helmet. Mauk would need to be carried off the field by his teammates after that play, and he vomited on the sideline. On television, he looked dazed. 
ABC commentators discussed whether Mauk was concussed after getting hit on a touchdown run. But Mauk got up after the score and shouted in the direction of Derrick Wells, who caught one of Mauk's two interceptions in the first quarter. Mauk would later say he did not get tested for a concussion and was fine. 
"I mean, that's Maty being Maty right there," receiver Bud Sasser said. "That's him taking chances. He's not about to dive in the end zone. He's going to lower his shoulder. It doesn't matter what size you are, how big you are. If he feels like you're trying to challenge him, he's going to accept that challenge and he's going to take you head on."
As the game wound down, Missouri continued to lean on running backs Russell Hansbrough (121 rushing yards) and Marcus Murphy (159). But Mauk, despite being dinged up, stayed in the game long after it was in hand for the Tigers.
When you get down to the basics, Missouri has the same options on offense as everyone else. They can run the ball or pass it.
But with Mauk, this two-dimensional football reality becomes a vivid Jackson Pollock painting. His twists, turns, scrambles and flick throws often seem errant and undisciplined. But, in the end, the Missouri quarterback finds a way to win. 
"I’m never worried about Maty," kicker Andrew Baggett said. "He’s a phenomenal athlete, phenomenal quarterback, phenomenal leader. I know he’ll always get it done when he needs to get it done."
Missouri is now 14-4 in games Mauk has started. With key receivers departing from last season, as well as injuries to starting receivers this season, many expected that record to dive in 2014. 
But like the team did after devastating losses to Indiana and Georgia, Mauk and the Tigers bounced back from a bad first quarter to win the Citrus Bowl. Mauk completed 12 of 19 passing attempts, ran for a touchdown and threw for two, including a touchdown to Bud Sasser off a fade route. 
"That's what I love about Maty," Sasser said. "He believes in me to make those big plays." 
The Tigers won their 11th game of the season and second-straight bowl game. Their 23 victories over two seasons are the most in team history.   
An eight-play, 45-yard drive in the second quarter resulted in Missouri's first score. Andrew Baggett cut the score to 7-3 after a 21-yard field goal. Missouri failed to score a touchdown on that drive after being four yards away from the goal line. 
Missouri is losing a lot from this 11-win team, including defensive coordinator Dave Steckel and the three starting receivers. 
But in Mauk, the Tigers have a constant who reflects their win-at-all-costs attitude. He'll keep playing, no matter how long it takes him to limp back to his teammates. 
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