By: Conner Handel; KCOU Sports
The Missouri Tigers earned their sixth win this season at home by beating Vanderbilt 24-14 at Mizzou’s 103rd homecoming Saturday.
The Commodores started their fourth different quarterback this the season. Redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary started his career week 1 as a backup and went 0/3 with two interceptions. He showed some promise today, though, throwing for a pair of touchdowns and keeping his team in the game.
McCrary and the Vanderbilt offense executed a conservative game plan, allowing the Commodores to hang with the Tigers to the very end.
Drives stalled for both teams multiple times in the first quarter, leading to an uneventful 3-0 Mizzou lead. Missouri finally found some offense in the second quarter by capping off a 12-play drive with a Russell Hansbrough 10-yard touchdown run. Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel opted to forgo the 27-yard field goal on 4th and 2 and Hansbrough made it pay off.
With 3:19 remaining in the first half, Vanderbilt too found the scoreboard. The Commodores marched down the field mostly with little dink and dunk passes. With 8 seconds left in the half, McCrary found his fourth string tight end Nathan Marcus wide open in the endzone to connect on a 9-yard touchdown. The extra point made it a field goal game going into halftime, Mizzou 10 Vanderbilt 7.
McCrary made his first big mistake out of halftime by taking a shot down field that was intercepted by safety Braylon Webb. He had two receivers in the area who were both well defended.
Mizzou’s first drive in the second half started similar to its first of the game, stalling near midfield. But after the two teams played tug-of-war for field position with punts, Mizzou began a drive halfway through the third quarter at its own 44. Once again, they put together a drive and capped it off this time with a Bud Sasser 13-yard touchdown reception, his first in conference play this season.
In the fourth quarter, Mizzou had a chance to expand on its 17-7 lead, but Baggett missed a 42-yard field goal. Vanderbilt then capitalized by moving the ball quickly down the field and scoring on a 29-yard catch and run by C.J. Duncan. He beat the man coverage and his speed did the rest. With 6:53 remaining, Vanderbilt trailed 17-14.
Mizzou then tried to play the clock-milking game. They called several run plays and short-safe pass plays, but Mauk occasionally snapped the ball with plenty of time still on the play clock.
The Tigers were in field goal range, but false start moved Mizzou back to 2nd and 16 with a little over two minutes left. Vanderbilt had one more timeout and was likely going to get the ball back with about a minute and a half left, but Pinkel wanted to take a shot. Mauk tossed it to the left corner of the end zone and found Sasser who was able catch the ball with one arm for a 25-yard dagger.
This was Sasser’s second two-touchdown game this season and was ultimately the difference of the game.
The Tigers host Kentucky next Saturday at 3 p.m. Coverage will start at 2 p.m. with Tigers Pregame Live presented by El Rancho only on KCOU.