Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sasser makes big plays in win at Toledo, UCF up next

If you have a problem, you might give Bud Sasser a call.

Missouri (2-0) had a lot of impressive performances in its 49-24 win at Toledo (1-1), but we have to start with Sasser, the redshirt senior receiver from Texas.

Sasser won me over in 2012, during a struggle of a game in a struggle of a season. He reeled in a pass against Vanderbilt and ran to the end zone for a 85-yard touchdown reception. It was a nice play, but it was memorable because Sasser could not outrun the Vanderbilt defenders. But that little velocity problem didn’t stop Sasser; he stuck his arm out behind him to fend off his pursuers and just did make it to the end zone. As someone who can relate to not being able to outrun people, I became one of the biggest members of the Bud Sasser Fan Club that night at Faurot Field.

Move ahead to last October down in Georgia. Missouri’s 18-point halftime lead had melted down to two, Sanford Stadium was going crazy and Tiger quarterback James Franklin had left the game with an injury. No problem, Sasser simply heaved a 40-yard touchdown pass on a trick play to help secure the Missouri win.

There Sasser was again on Saturday at Toledo, making a big, hustling, unconventional play. With the Tigers up 14-7, Missouri’s Maty Mauk threw an interception to Jordan Haden, who was running closer and closer to the goal line. Sasser caught him and ripped the ball away from the Toledo player, and Missouri recovered it to keep possession.

In the second half, when Toledo rallied to within two touchdowns, Sasser had a 47-yard reception on third-and-7, then caught a 25-yard touchdown on the next play.

Sasser wasn’t the only star for the Tigers, as Mauk tossed five touchdown passes and ran for another. He threw two interceptions, but it was overall another productive day for the sophomore. Missouri’s defensive line timed Toledo’s snaps incredibly well, putting a lot of pressure on the Rockets’ quarterbacks.

Now Missouri returns home Saturday to host Central Florida (11 a.m., SEC Network). UCF went 12-1 last season, including a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. The Knights aren’t quite as good this year, having lost quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson to the NFL. But UCF does feature a stout defense with nine returning starters. The Knights have one of the nation’s best pass defenses, anchored by Jacoby Glenn and Clayton Geathers.

UCF opened the season with last-second loss to Penn State in Ireland, that noted football hotbed. UCF quarterback Pete DiNovo struggled in the first half before being replaced by Justin Holman in the second half. Holman played much better, and the Knights might have won had he played the whole game. Holman will start against Missouri.

UCF is a tough, well-coached opponent. Missouri will have to work for this one, but especially playing at home I’d expect the Tigers to get the win.

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