COLUMBIA, Mo. — No James Franklin, no problem for Missouri.
Maty Mauk threw for 295 yards in his first career start and Andrew Baggett converted five field goals to help the No. 14 Tigers defeat No. 22 Florida 36-17 on Saturday and open a two-game lead in the Southeastern Conference East Division.
With Franklin watching on the sideline in street clothes, Mauk put any doubts to rest about whether he was ready on the first play of the game with a 41-yard pass to L’Damian Washington and then a 20-yard toss to Bud Sasser for a 7-0 lead just 22 seconds in.
Coach Gary Pinkel said Saturday was the toughest situation he’s ever had to put in a quarterback, especially against a defense only allowing 235.3 yards per game. But the opening drive helped ease the stress on Mauk, who said he was determined to throw the ball downfield on the opening play.
“He looked like a seasoned veteran out there,” Pinkel said.
Missouri (7-0, 3-0) outgained the Gators 500-151 and became the first conference opponent in 14 games to score at least 21 points against them. The Tigers bullied Florida (4-3, 3-2) at the line of scrimmage, sacking quarterback Tyler Murphy six times and flushing him out of the pocket throughout the game.
The Tigers knocked off their second consecutive ranked opponent for the first time since 1973 and will face No. 11 South Carolina next week at home. The Gamecocks lost at Tennessee 23-21 on Saturday.
“This team is resilient, coming back from where we were last year,” Washington said. “I told Coach Pinkel, ‘We’ve got to stop talking bowl games around here. Let’s talk BCS, let’s talk national championships.’”
Florida is off before facing Georgia on Nov. 2 in Jacksonville.
Mauk entered the game having only thrown six passes this season, but three of those came in the final quarter of a 41-26 win at Georgia last week after Franklin suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him out at least two more games. Mauk completed 18 of 36 passes Saturday, including three for 37 yards or more down the sideline.
The 6-foot, 200-pound redshirt freshman capped the scoring with 6:30 remaining on a 17-yard scramble, prompting the 67,124 in attendance to perform the “Gator Chomp.”
“Backup quarterback?,” center Evan Boehm asked. “Maty would be starting anywhere else.”
Mauk also made a few ill-advised throws, as Brian Poole intercepted a pass with 3:34 left in the first half and almost had another in the same quarter but dropped it.
Murphy completed 15-of-29 passes for 92 yards and an interception for the Gators as he tried to escape Missouri’s defensive line all game. Freshman Kelvin Taylor, son of former National Football League running back Fred Taylor, ran for 74 yards on 12 carries in his fifth career game.
Murphy thought he had time on some of his missed throws despite absorbing three sacks from SEC-leader Michael Sam and one apiece from Kony Ealy, Matt Hoch and Shane Ray.
“They did a good job covering, but we’re got to find ways to make plays,” Murphy said. “I have to find ways to get guys the ball.”
The Gators only gained 61 yards in the first half — including nine rushing — but used six runs to drive 70 yards and pull within 23-17 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. Missouri answered with a 33-yard field goal by Baggett following a 50-yard run by Henry Josey, who ran for 136 yards on 18 carries.
Baggett also converted from 19, 28, 39 and 43 yards to tie the school record in makes in a single game, as Missouri far exceeded the 13 points per game Florida allowed this season entering the matchup, the second-fewest in the SEC. In addition to Mauk’s 295 passing yards, the Tigers added 205 on the ground and had 24 first downs.
“This is not a very good football team, and certainly not today,” Gators’ coach Will Muschamp said. “I am pretty disappointed that we have not made more positive strides offensively at this point of the season.”
Florida earlier narrowed its deficit to three on a 100-yard kickoff return by receiver Solomon Patton on the first play of the second half, but the Tigers responded with a 75-yard drive finished by a 6-yard scamper by Josey for a 20-10 advantage.
Florida drove 22 yards to the Missouri 28-yard line with 58 seconds left in the second quarter on its longest drive of the first half before Ealy burst through the line and forced Murphy to fumble on a sack. Missouri recovered to squelch the threat and end the half up 13-3.