(Saturday, August 30th)
Final Score: (6) Missouri 52, (20) Illinois 42
St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - Chase Daniel connected on 26-of-45 passes for 323 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, as the sixth-ranked Missouri Tigers started their highly anticipated 2008 campaign with a convincing 52-42 win over the 20th-ranked Fighting Illini of Illinois.
The win may have been costly as Heisman candidate Jeremy Maclin left the game with an apparent injury to his left ankle. Maclin showcased his talents before leaving in the second half by taking a kickoff 99 yards to pay dirt for Missouri (1-0), which is coming off a school-record 12-win season.
Chase Coffman hauled in nine catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, while Derrick Washington led the Tigers' rushing attack with 130 yards and a pair of scores.
Juice Williams did everything he could behind center for Illinois (0-1), throwing for a career-high 451 yards on 26-of-42 efficiency with five touchdowns and two rather costly interceptions. Will Judson was his favorite downfield target, hitting him five times for 177 yards and two TDs, but the Illini couldn't avenge last season's heartbreaking 40-34 loss to the Tigers.
Each team returned an interception for a touchdown in a game otherwise dominated by the respective offenses.
The Tigers marched down the field on their opening possession, highlighted by Washington running seven yards around the left side of the line for the game's first score.
Williams got the Illini offense going through the air late in the first quarter, finding a covered Judson in the end zone, who adjusted to the ball in the air and got his left foot inbounds for a 30-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, however.
Jeff Wolfert knocked in a 51-yarder to put Missouri up 10-6 early in the second, but on its next possession, Daniel's errant pass on an apparent quick screen was thrown directly to defensive lineman Derek Walker, who returned the pick 34 yards for the go-ahead score.
Maclin answered immediately for the reigning Big 12 North Division champs, taking the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to bring the lead back, 17-13.
The next time the Tigers got the ball, Washington added to the lead by shaking several tackles on his way to a 40-yard TD run, and Missouri scored on its last possession of the half, a 17-yard touchdown hookup from Daniel to Coffman to take a commanding 31-13 lead into the locker room.
Williams' 20-yard connection to Chris Duvlat 5 1/2 minutes into the second half was erased by two straight Daniel touchdown passes to Tommy Saunders, one a four-yard TD reception and another a 21-yarder.
Trailing 45-20, Illinois didn't back down as Williams led last year's Rose Bowl participants right down the field and found Duvalt on a 26-yard fade in the end zone. A two-point conversion from Williams to Daniel Dufrene was good.
Early in the fourth, Judson made it a 10-point game by taking a 65-yard pass from Williams to the promised land, and on the team's next possession, Judson made a diving 53-yard catch down the right sideline inside the Tigers' 30, only to have Williams throw an interception a few plays later.
Sean Weatherspoon sealed the game by stepping in front of a hook route late in the fourth quarter and returning it 35 yards for a TD with 3:18 left in the game.
Michael Hoomanawanui scored Illinois' final touchdown as time expired on a five-yard pass from Williams.
Missouri compiled 549 total yards, compared to Illinois' 532...Maclin had four receptions for 31 yards...Illinois looks to recover next weekend when they host Eastern Illinois, while Missouri squares off against Southeast Missouri State in Columbia.
08/31 03:15:17 ET