COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A sophomore was the big star on senior night for No. 14 Missouri. Of course, this might have been Jeremy Maclin's last home game, too.
Maclin scored three touchdowns and totaled 278 all-purpose yards, helping the Tigers shake off a slow start in the home finale and whip Kansas State 41-24 Saturday night to grab first place in the Big 12 North.
Maclin's considered NFL-ready, and three years removed from graduating high school he's eligible to call it a college career after this season. But he but wasn't saying whether he was prepared to make the jump.
"It hasn't even crossed my mind," Maclin said. "There's a lot of talk about it, but we'll approach that situation when it comes."
Missouri (8-2, 4-2 Big 12) took control with 17 points in the final 5:46 of the half, including a pair of touchdown passes from Chase Daniel to Maclin. Maclin had eight receptions for 118 yards and two TDs, four carries for 84 yards and a third TD on a 56-yard jaunt on a direct snap.
"J-Mac, what can you say?" Daniel said while reading the statistics off a sheet. "It's unbelievable, the things he can do with a ball in his hands."
Kansas State (4-6, 1-5) has lost five of six under lame-duck coach Ron Prince, the latest setback coming only three days after Prince was fired effective at the end of the season.
"It was a distraction going into the game," quarterback Josh Freeman said. "Everyone plays for something. It's just a matter of getting on the same page and playing for the postseason and sending the seniors out the right way."
The Kansas State defense had a familiar feeling of helplessness against Maclin, who burned the Wildcats last year for three touchdowns and a school-record 360 yards total offense in Manhattan, Kan. Maclin entered the game averaging 189.67 all-purpose yards, second in the nation.
"In this business we use the word great too often, but he is a great player," Prince said. "He does so many things and you set the coverages to deal with him, and then all of sudden one guy is out of position and he's gone."
The Tigers got a strong effort from their lightly regarded defense to beat Kansas State for the third straight time after losing 13 in a row to the Wildcats.
It was an emotional senior day for the Tigers. The father of linebacker Aaron O'Neal, who died after a voluntary summer workout in 2005 and never played for Missouri, led a procession of 23 seniors who have combined for 35 wins over four seasons in a pregame ceremony.
"I think it threw everyone off," said Daniel, who was 24-for-36 for 271 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. "I'm just glad we were able to come through."
Missouri is 11-2 against the North the last three seasons and can clinch its second straight Big 12 championship game berth next week with a victory at Iowa State combined with a Kansas loss at home against No. 5 Texas.
Kansas (6-4, 3-3) dropped a game back after losing 45-35 at Nebraska.
"If that happens, great," Maclin said. "We want to win out, that's our goal. We control our destiny and we're not worried about anyone else, just about getting our job done."
Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, averaging 10 catches the last four games, missed the game with a sprained big toe. The offense seemed out-of-sync early without Daniel's most consistent pass-catcher, running only seven plays on its first two possessions.
Blair Irvin's interception ended Missouri's first possession after only two plays, and the second drive netted one first down.
Two big plays from Maclin helped the Tigers open things up. He won a foot race on a simple swing pass on a 42-yard score, one play after Will Ebner's blocked punt, and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass on one leg in the back of the end zone.
Kansas State trailed 24-3 at the half and barely avoided getting shut out in the first 30 minutes for the second straight game, getting a 43-yard field goal from Brooks Rossman on the final play.
"They have good players," Irvin said. "If you don't play every down, they're going to make plays."
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