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Missouri Opens Early Lead, Hangs on to Beat Vanderbilt 24-14

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Johnny McCrary showed promise with a pair of touchdown drives, but it wasn't enough as Missouri hung on to beat Vanderbilt 24-14.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Bud Sasser had no interest in leaving Missouri's Homecoming with a loss. His two touchdown receptions helped carry the Tigers over Vanderbilt 24-14 on Saturday.

Vandy freshman quarterback Johnny McCrary played well in his first start at quarterback, finding a myriad of tight end targets despite getting swarmed by a suffocating Mizzou pass rush all day. He finished with 196 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 31 attempts, but it wasn't enough as the 'Dores fell to their new SEC East rivals.

The 'Dores had to count on McCrary after Mizzou found ways to stuff the VU run game throughout the afternoon. Vandy ran for just 44 yards on 27 carries. Defensively, they held Missouri QB Maty Mauk to 141 passing yards and a completion rate of less than 50 percent, but that was the most the Tigers have hung on an opponent in league play. Mauk had thrown five interceptions in his last two games, but Derek Mason's D failed to get their hands on any of his passes on Saturday.

Missouri got off to a hot start and kicked a 37-yard field goal on their opening possession. Russell Hansbrough added a 10-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to open a 10-0 lead in Columbia.

Vanderbilt started slowly, but a handful of Missouri mistakes and penalties kept the 'Dores afloat until McCrary game alive late in the second quarter. The quarterback's 75-yard drive ensured that Vandy would head into the locker room with momentum on their side. He found Nathan Marcus in the back of the end zone with eight seconds left in the half to make it 10-7 Tigers midway through the contest.

The Commodores looked like they might sustain that when they drove 31 yards to kick off the third quarter, but McCrary threw a back-foot wobbler into a crowded part of the field that was picked off by Braylon Webb. The two teams exchanged punts before Mauk scrambled for 39 yards on 3rd-and-15 and then found Bud Sasser with a 13-yard touchdown pass one play later to give the Tigers a 10-point cushion.

It looked as though Missouri would run away with this one when they drove to the Vandy 23, but their drive stalled there and Andrew Baggett's 42-yard field goal didn't get within 15 yards of the uprights to give the 'Dores a second wind midway through the fourth quarter. McCrary took advantage, finding his tight ends throughout a 76-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Duncan with 6:53 to play.

The touchdown had Vandy fired up, but the Tigers responded with another Sasser touchdown to put Mizzou back up by two possessions. The 'Dores got the ball back at their own 25-yard line with 2:05 left, but promptly lost 22 yards and, in an embarrassingly timid move, punted the ball away to give the Tigers the win.

Vandy fell to 0-5 in the SEC with the loss, while Missouri improved to 3-1. The Commodores will return to Nashville next week to face Old Dominion at 6pm CST. The Tigers, who still have a chance to win the SEC East, will host Kentucky.