ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert may have found a new go-to wide receiver. Sophomore T.J. Moe hauled in 13 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in his first career start, helping Missouri beat Illinois 23-13 in the season opener.
The Tigers need to make up for the departure of receiver Danario Alexander, who set school records in receptions (113), yards (1,781) and touchdowns (14) last season. Moe may not be a household name, but he was one of the school's top recruits two years ago, and coach Gary Pinkel wasn't surprised by his performance.
"As I said once we recruited him, he's going to catch a lot of balls for this team," Pinkel said. "He has met the challenge and done well."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Moe was a standout quarterback at Fort Zumwalt West High School in St. Charles and was named offensive player of the year in Missouri by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. During his senior season, he threw for 2,557 yards and 31 touchdowns and rushed for 2,029 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Those skills have combined to make Moe the dynamic receiver the coaching staff anticipated. His touchdown catch in the third quarter Saturday came on a broken play in which past experience helped him get open for Gabbert.
"T.J. is great about finding the zones, he knows exactly what I'm looking for," Gabbert said. "Being an ex-quarterback, he sat down perfectly and I was able to make the throw."
Moe credited his high school coaching staff for making the transition to the next level an easy one. He quarterbacked a college-style offense similar to the one at Missouri. Zumwalt West's strong conditioning program also helped.
"They really got us prepared for college," Moe said. "I really felt prepared to come here and play."
Yet it wasn't all fun and games. In the third quarter, on a simple out route, Illinois linebacker Nate Bussey delivered a bone-crunching hit that sent Moe's helmet flying.
The collision left a gash in his chin that required five stitches after the game.
"I really need a new helmet," Moe said. "I need to go find the equipment guy."
Tight end Michael Egnew also had a busy day, catching 10 passes for 60 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Jerrell Jackson, Missouri's top leading receiver, caught four passes for 50 yards while wearing a small cast to protect his left wrist, broken last month.
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