Mauk throws 3 TDs to lead No. 21 Missouri past Arkansas St
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) With Missouri's running game struggling with injuries, quarterback Maty Mauk took over.
The junior threw three touchdown passes and accounted for 223 yards to lead the No. 21 Tigers to a 27-20 comeback victory over Arkansas State on Saturday night.
Missouri (2-0) extended its road winning streak to 11 games by rallying from a 17-10 halftime deficit. It did so behind the arm and legs of Mauk, who matched the second-highest rushing total of his career with 75 yards on 10 carries.
With starting running back Russell Hansbrough injured early, Missouri had only 88 yards rushing on 33 carries in its season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State. Hansbrough played sparingly Saturday, finishing with 15 yards rushing on five carries - and Mauk accounted for more than half of the team's 134 yards rushing.
That included a run of 24 yards and another 19-yard scramble on third-and-13 to set up the game's final field goal.
''We've got some severe problems (running the ball),'' Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. ''We lean on Maty a lot, and he pulled through.''
While Mauk helped the offense recover from its early deficit, it was once again Kentrell Brothers who led the Missouri defense. A week after making a career-high 16 tackles in a season-opening win, the Tigers linebacker added 16 more tackles and a pair of interceptions Saturday.
That included a spectacular fourth-quarter takeaway out of the hands of Arkansas State's Dijon Paschal, leading to a 41-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett to give the Tigers a 27-20 lead.
Missouri allowed only 37 yards of offense in the second half by the Red Wolves (0-2), who got two touchdown passes from Fredi Knighten and gained 180 yards in the first half while taking the lead.
''I wouldn't say we were frustrated,'' Brothers said. ''... We were a little annoyed but not frustrated.''
Arkansas State lost 41-13 in Columbia in 2013, and Missouri had hoped to move the return game to a neutral site such as St. Louis' Busch Stadium. However, the Red Wolves declined that option last year - preferring to use Saturday as a showcase for the recently renovated Centennial Bank Stadium.
With a crowd of 29,143, Arkansas State did its best to put a season-opening 55-6 loss at USC behind it. Knighten, a week after throwing a pair of interceptions against the Trojans, made a pair of touchdown passes on highlight-worthy catches by Tres Houston. The first, a high-reaching one-handed grab, put the Red Wolves up 7-3 early in the second quarter.
Houston's second touchdown came with only 8 seconds remaining in the first half, a diving 5-yard catch which was initially ruled incomplete. However, following a review, officials saw the senior was able to drag his feet through the back of the end zone on his way out of bounds - giving Arkansas State a 17-10 halftime lead.
Knighten left the game late in the third quarter with a groin injury, giving way to backup quarterback James Tabary, who threw the two interceptions to Brothers. That included one on Arkansas State's final drive, allowing Missouri to kneel on the ball and run out the clock.
''We played harder than they did,'' Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson said. ''We just didn't make enough plays when it counted in the third quarter, the fourth quarter, to get the win.''
Nate Robinson, Sean Culkin and Wesley Leftwich each caught touchdown passes for Missouri, which hasn't lost on the road since a 59-29 defeat at Texas A&M on Nov. 24, 2012.
Mauk's 75 yards rushing matched his total in a win over Kentucky last season. His career-best of 114 yards on the ground came in 2013 in a 31-1 win over Tennessee.
''We could be sitting here talking about a loss,'' Pinkel said. ''But we found a way to win a game, and that's good. The bad news is we're not playing as good as we can play.''