The Missouri Tigers are back in the win column.
Following their first loss of the season, against Kentucky last weekend, coach Eliah Drinkwitz’ squad routed Southeast Missouri State in a 59-28 home victory Saturday afternoon.
The contest was never in question as the Tigers were in complete control from the opening kickoff. They’d coasted to a 38-0 lead by halftime, at which point the game was essentially over and Drinkwitz elected to put in rotation players that normally don’t see much, if any, time on the field.
Here are some key takeaways from the game.
Tyler Badie continues to impress
Tyler Badie termed himself a “bell horse” back for Missouri before taking on the lead running back role for the offense this season; he has lived up to the lofty designation, and more, so far in 2021.
Badie was a spark for the offense, enabling the Tigers to build an early lead by scoring on each of the first two drives of the contest.
After taking the handoff with a little over 13 minutes left in the first quarter, Badie burst through the defense and sprinted 49 yards to the end zone to give Missouri its first touchdown. On the following drive, he caught a short pass from quarterback Connor Bazelak and then ran into the end zone for an 11-yard score. Badie later made it a hat trick with a 1-yard rushing TD in the second quarter.
The running back didn’t see much action as the game continued and the lead grew out of the Redhawks’ reach, but he impressed in his time on the field. He finished the afternoon with 81 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on nine attempts, along with two receptions for 14 yards and a receiving touchdown.
Badie now has 345 yards on the ground and 142 yards through the air on the season, along with six total touchdowns. He is 39 receiving yards away from becoming the first player in program history to record over 1,000 receiving and rushing yards.
Defensive starters looked much more competent
Simply put, the Missouri defense had struggled through the first two games of the season. A lot. The Tigers had allowed more total yards per game and rushing yards per game than any other Power Five team. They needed to show major improvement against the Redhawks, and they did exactly that.
The Tigers held the Redhawks to 373 total yards, 294 of which came on the ground. On paper, that doesn’t look great, but most of that damage came in the second half once the lead had already ballooned and MU’s starters and primary backups were out.
Through the first two quarters, SEMO was held scoreless and had just 69 yards on 21 plays. The Missouri defense didn’t allowed the visitors to convert any of their five tries on third down and allowed a scant three first downs during that span.
The Redhawks didn’t manage to get into the red zone until late in the third quarter. It was on that drive that the Tigers’ defense, mostly consisting of backups at that point, also allowed the first score of the contest: SEMO running back Geno Hess scored on a 4-yard carry to make it 45-7.
Mizzou’s backup defenders allowed two more scores, but the starters held things down when they were on the field. Of course, SEMO is an FCS opponent, and this is what the Tigers’ defense was supposed to do.
The question is whether MU can find similar success on that side of the ball against tougher squads.
The quarterbacks were in control
Quarterback Connor Bazelak commanded the Missouri offense with ease in this one.
Bazelak came out of the gates firing, completing 10 consecutive passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns to open the game.
The redshirt sophomore led the Tigers to scores on every drive he led Saturday, resulting in five touchdowns and a field goal. He looked calm and comfortable in the pocket throughout.
He didn’t panic when facing the few third-and-long situations that came his way, converting all but one. Toward the end of the second quarter, with Missouri facing a third and 14, Bazelak connected with redshirt freshman JJ Hester to advance the Tigers to SEMO’s 34-yard line. Hester hadn’t recorded a reception through the first two games, but his drive extended the play and set up Mizzou for the score in a key moment.
The Tigers scored several plays later on a rushing touchdown from Badie to make it 38-0 before halftime.
Bazelek was subbed out early in the third quarter, ending his day with 346 yards (21-for-30) and three touchdowns. After passing for seven touchdowns last season, Bazelak already has nine through three games in 2021.
Backup quarterbacks Brady Cook and Tyler Macon both saw second-half action. Each managed to score a touchdown, with Macon particularly impressive on a 65-yard connection with Hester in the third period. Cook completed all four of his passes for 25 yards; Macon threw for 69, with just one incompletion in four attempts.