ORLANDO – About midway through the first half, no one would have blamed Maty Mauk for feeling like the Citrus Bowl was going to be one of those days.
Minnesota picked off two of Mauk's first four passes, including one that saw Briean Boddy-Calhoun rip the ball from a receiver's grasp in the end zone. Later, a helmet to the calf left the Missouri quarterback on the ground for an extra minute trying to work out a bad cramp.
Oh, and Mauk also threw up on the sideline somewhere along the way.
"Well, I don't want to say 'throw up,' " Mauk said, flashing a sheepish grin. "I drank too much electrolytes. My stomach was too full and I had to let some of it back up."
Suffice to say it wasn't a good start.
Contrast that, though, with Mauk's emphatic display as he put the Tigers ahead for good in Thursday's 33-17 victory.
Scrambling when no one was open, Mauk bowled over Gophers defensive back Derrick Wells as he crossed the goal line on an 18-yard run. Then came the exclamation point, throwing the ball to the ground as something else came up from deep within.
"He just yelled, like a tiger in the jungle," said running back Marcus Murphy.
Said receiver Bud Sasser: "That's Maty being Maty right there. That's him taking chances. He's not about to dive into the end zone. … If he feels like you're trying to challenge him, he's going to accept that challenge and take you head-on."
Not only did the touchdown give Mizzou a 19-14 lead, it knocked Wells out of the game with an apparent concussion and seemed to sap the Gophers' spirit. The Tigers began to wear down Minnesota.
"He's a great, great competitor," Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's made plays all year long. He shined, and we're certainly very, very proud of him."
It wasn't a statistical masterpiece, by any interpretation. Mauk finished with just 97 yards passing, with just one completion longer than 14 yards. That was a 25-yard TD to Sasser near the end of the first half.
But the Tigers didn't turn the ball over again after those first two drives, and Mauk capped the scoring with a 7-yard TD pass that Sasser nabbed in the back right corner.
"Every player on the field has a couple of plays they wish they could take back," Murphy said. "He just happens to be the quarterback, and his mistakes are kind of highlighted. But Maty's done a great job all year of overcoming adversity."
Through Missouri's first two possessions, Mauk had completed two passes to his receivers and two to the Gophers. After that, though, he was on target 10 times in 15 throws.
"That just comes back to mental conditioning," said the Ohio native. "I don't think people really understand how much that stuff works — positive affirmations, moving on to the next play and all that stuff. It might sound cheesy, but it really does work. I pushed it out."
Of course, the Tigers also received a big boost from the running game. Murphy's 69-yard run helped set up that final touchdown, capping a 157-yard day. Russell Hansbrough's 78-yard touchdown run tied a Citrus Bowl record from 1976.
Hansbrough finished with 114 yards, giving the Tigers two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since the 2013 season opener.
"Our O-line kept banging the entire game," Murphy said. "You could eventually see the Minnesota defense get tired, and when they got tired we kept going. We were just able to open up some big plays for us."