Missouri Hangs On For Win Print
Written by mark   
Saturday, 30 August 2008 20:35
NCAAF Headline News

Wild Rivalry

Missouri and Illinois played another wild one, combining for 92 points and 1,068 yards while leaving fans of both schools totally wrung out by the finish. Again, the sixth-ranked Tigers held on for the win.

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Sean Weatherspoon bailed out a leaky defense with two late takeaways and Jeremy Maclin had a 99-yard kickoff return and 45-yard punt return before leaving in the fourth quarter with a sprained left ankle in No. 6 Missouri's 52-42 victory over No. 20 Illinois on Saturday night.

A poor second half left Missouri coach Gary Pinkel trying to cheer up disappointed players. The Tigers led 31-10 at halftime.

``I'll tell you one thing: you enjoy winning. You kidding me?'' Pinkel said. ``I'll kick their butt tomorrow. We'll get up tomorrow and learn those lessons.''

Illinois coach Ron Zook was saying the same things.

``It reminds me a lot of last year,'' Zook said. ``We're better than that and we can't make the mistakes we made and get behind a team of that caliber and expect to be able to come back.''

Missouri held off an Illini rally and won 40-34 last season, a great game by two teams on their way to big seasons. Missouri ended the year ranked fourth in the nation and Illinois played in the Rose Bowl.

Both are expecting more of the same this season, and both looked capable of big things on Saturday night.

Juice Williams was 28-for-42 for 456 yards for the Illini, more than doubling his previous career best of 227 yards, and threw for a career-best fifth touchdown on the final play. Chris Duvalt and Will Judson each caught two touchdown passes. Judson was wide open on a 65-yarder that cut the deficit to 45-35 with early in the fourth quarter.

``We took what the defense gave us,'' Williams said. ``We've got fast receivers on the outside and we took advantage of it.''

Maclin, who finished with 206 all-purpose yards, lost his balance while running a pattern away from the play. He covered his face with a towel while being carted off the field from the Missouri sideline. He returned to the sidelines on crutches and still in uniform, his foot wrapped in ice, but the team said X-rays showed no damage.

``It's a scary moment when an impact player like that goes down,'' said quarterback Chase Daniel, 26-for-43 for 314 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. ``He'll be out practicing Tuesday. He's fine.''

Weatherspoon stopped one fourth-quarter drive with an interception at the Missouri 26, then he ripped the ball out of Daniel Dufrene's hands after a reception and returned it 35 yards for touchdown and a 52-35 lead.

Illinois added one more meaningless score and the teams easily surpassed the total of last year's track meet in the St. Louis.

Weatherspoon's big plays were among the handful from a defense that has 10 starters back and was expected to be much improved.

Derrick Washington added 126 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns in his first career start for Missouri.

Justifying its highest preseason ranking in school history on one side of the ball, Heisman Trophy finalist Daniel and Missouri ran off 21 straight points to go ahead 31-10 at the half and then answered an Illinois touchdown to open the second half with two quick scores that seemingly put the game out of range at 45-20.

Derek Walker's 34-yard interception return of Daniel's pass gave the Fighting Illini their only lead at 13-10. It was quickly erased on Maclin's kickoff return. Maclin ran into the end zone with fingers to his lips, an attempt to silence the Illinois fans.

The game sold out for the first time since the schools went to a neutral site this decade. The Edward Jones Dome was pretty much equally divided between orange-clad Illinois backers and yellow-clad Missouri partisans.

Missouri's Jeff Wolfert hit a 51-yard field goal in the first half, 3 yards off his own school record and his 17th straight successful attempt.

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