By Stewart Mandel, SI.com
ST. LOUIS -- For about the first 20 minutes here Saturday night, Missouri appeared to be stuck in one of those unwanted games where one team is dominating the other yet trailing on the scoreboard.
Jeremy Maclin promptly changed that with one of his vintage kick returns.
Despite outgaining Illinois 173 to 81 in the first quarter, the Tigers briefly fell behind the Illini 13-10 with 9:25 left in the second quarter after the normally impeccable Chase Daniel threw a pass right to Illini defensive end Derek Walker, who returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Missouri's electrifying all-purpose threat Maclin turned on the jets to break a 99-yard touchdown -- and it's been all Tigers ever since.
Illini QB Juice Williams (12-of-16, 153 yards) has had his moments -- most notably a beautiful 30-yard touch-fade to Will Judson for his team's first touchdown -- but the majority of the time he's had trouble escaping Missouri's swarming defensive front. He's been sacked twice.
Meanwhile, with the exception of that one interception, Daniel (15-of-28, 200 yards) has been his usual, methodical self, picking apart the Illini defense on consecutive touchdown drives to end the half. It's been interesting to see the emergence of Mizzou's new crop of skill players: Sophomore tailback Derrick Washington (eight carries, 85 yards) -- Tony Temple's replacement -- broke off a 40-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers up 24-13, while junior receiver Jared Perry (three catches, 69 yards) has been one of Daniel's favorite targets.
Illinois can certainly mount a comeback if Williams gets hot (and if receiver Arrelious Benn starts becoming a factor; he's been silent so far), but the Illini defense will need to force more mistakes from Daniel -- not a likely occurrence.