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October 19, 2013

Defense, Josey dominate



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In a dominating win on both sides of the ball, the biggest play of the game for Missouri came on a defensive play by an offensive player.

Leading 13-3 with less than four minutes until halftime, Maty Mauk made his biggest mistake of the game. He forced a throw into double coverage, and Bernard Poole intercepted the pass and streaked to midfield.

The end zone was all but his.

Henry Josey, however, ran Poole down and made a shoe-string tackle at the 50-yard line, getting just enough of the Florida defensive back to bring him down.

With Florida showing no signs of life on offense, Josey's tackle made sure the Gators didn't bring any momentum into halftime. Because of that play, Missouri's offense and defense cruised the rest of the way.

"That's the first thing I said to him when I got in the locker room," receiver L'Damian Washington said. "I said, 'Great tackle.' That play right there was probably one of the plays of the game. He returned that for a pick six, the whole momentum is gone.

"Tremendous play by Henry."

"Yeah, I did (thank him)," Mauk said. "I saw that corner go off and then he kind of jumped it. He made a great tackle and hats off to him, too."

Josey did more than make a tackle, though. He finished with 136 yards on 18 carries, adding a six-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter after Solomon Patton returned the second half's opening kickoff for a touchdown. It was his first 100-yard game since the season opener and the tenth time in his career he's eclipsed that mark.

There was one scary moment for Josey. He injured his knee late in the third quarter, but jogged off on his own. He returned on Missouri's next drive and took a handoff 50-yards to set up a field goal.

"He was holding his leg," Gary Pinkel said, shaking his head. "I didn't know what we were going to run. I was just hoping and praying that he was OK.

"With what he went through? The two years to get back? And all of a sudden it gets tweaked like it hasn't been since it was fixed. He was scared to death. Good news is, he's OK and he had a heck of a game."

DOMINATING DAY BY THE DEFENSE: Florida's offense won't be confused with the nation's elite, but Missouri dominated the Gators through and through. Florida finished with 151 total yards, the fewest Missouri has allowed in a conference game since it held Kansas to 137 yards in 2011.

Missouri's defensive line again lived in the backfield, totaling six sacks. Three of those came from Michael Sam, the third game this season in which he's reached that total. Sam's nine sacks for the season places him fifth on Missouri's single-season sack list, and he's just 2.5 sacks away from tying the team record.

"Our defensive line and Michael Sam had a remarkable day," Pinkel said. He's playing -- but you bring people to your level when you start playing like that. He's every play. Every play, as hard as he can play."

"Michael, he's leading right now," defensive end Markus Golden said.

Golden had four tackles, 1.5 for loss.

As Pinkel said, Sam's play has energized the defense, but Kony Ealy said it's more than just Sam that's motivating the defensive line.

"I think when everyone's out there playing extremely well and making plays and stuff, stopping the offense, creating a lot of momentum, I think it automatically brings a lot of attention to the defense," Ealy said. "Not just one person, everyone's doing their job and you see the success we have after it."

PENTON'S FIRST START, FIRST PICK: Filling in for an injured E.J. Gaines, freshman cornerback Aarion Penton played well in his first career start. Penton finished with three tackles, one for loss, an interception and a pass break-up.

"He's got a real positive personality, and also, he makes mistakes -- not that he doesn't care -- but he doesn't beat himself up," Pinkel said. "Good corners gotta be able to forget, because that's just the position they play."

Penton said he didn't have any pre-game jitters, and his play on the field showed it. Missouri's secondary held Tyler Murphy to 92 yards passing. His interception came on a tipped pass off the hands of a receiver. Missouri went on to kick a field goal on the ensuing drive, pushing its lead to 10-3.

BAGGETT'S BIG DAY: After an inconsistent start to the season, Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett converted all five of his field goal attempts. His kicks were 43, 19, 39, 33 and 28 yards.

"He hit those things where it became a nine-point game instead of an eight-point game," Pinkel said. "... That's why those field goals are so important. It was slowly, slowly taking them (Florida) out of the game."

Baggett's last missed field goal came against Arkansas State, although he did miss a PAT against Georgia. For the season, Baggett is 11-for-14 on field goals. In 2012, he converted 14 of 20 kicks.

INJURY UPDATE: As expected, E.J. Gaines and James Franklin did not play Saturday. Running backs Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough also sustained injuries. Murphy suffered a concussion on a big hit on the sideline in the first half. He came back out and returned one punt, but missed the rest of the game. Pinkel said Hansbrough had turf toe. He was limited to 47 yards on 12 carries.

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