Vanderbilt dominated the headlines, but Mizzou dominated on the field this Saturday.
The Tigers got off to a perfect start against Vanderbilt. After Eli Drinkwitz won the toss and deferred, the Tigers defense made an instant impact. Following a quick Commodore first down, the defense stood firm and forced Vanderbilt to make a decision on 4th & inches. Derek Mason elected to leave his guys out there, and it didn’t work out; the Tigers swarmed the Commodore backfield and forced a turnover on downs at the Vanderbilt 45.
With great field position the Tigers would waste no time cashing in. A quick six-play drive that was capped off by a 7-yard Larry Rountree touchdown run put the Tigers up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
On Vanderbilt’s next drive, the Tiger defense would continue their strong performance from the first drive. Despite cries from the Vanderbilt sideline for targeting on Tyree Gillespie in this series, no flag was thrown and the following play would be a 3rd down stop to force a Vanderbilt punt.
After a good punt and a penalty, the Tigers would start their ensuing drive pinned on their own five yard line but big plays got the Tigers out to midfield quickly. Following a 27-yard Rountree run and 20-yard completion from Bazelak to Keke Chism, the Tigers offense would stall. Mizzou would be forced to settle for a 45-yard field goal but Harrison Mevis’ kick would bounce off the left upright leaving the Tigers empty handed.
The Commodores wouldn’t be able to make anything of it, however, as they would punt again. Likewise, Mizzou wouldn’t be able to get anything going on their following drive after an errant Connor Bazelak throw missed an open Barrett Banister on 4th down.
For Vanderbilt, it was more of the same, another punt. However, this time Bazelak and Co. would take advantage. Featuring a heavy of dose of Tauskie Dove and Larry Rountree the Tigers were able to take a 14-0 lead on another Larry Rountree 7-yard touchdown rush.
It looked like the Commodores might have found something on their next drive when they crossed midfield, but after a couple of penalties and a big Tre Williams sack, Vanderbilt would punt again as the Tiger defense remained unblemished.
Tthe following Mizzou drive became the Tyler Badie show: the versatile back had two receptions for 24 and 27 yards and added 12 yards of rushing. including the touchdown that capped the drive. On Badie’s explosion, Bazelak said, “It’s awesome for the quarterback… he’s a great running back running the ball and catching the ball… we found him this week and he just made plays.” That score would put the Tigers up 21-0 with 1:18 left to play in the first half.
The Tigers would receiver the second-half kick, but this kick was history making. On the kick, Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller became the first woman to ever play in a Power 5 college football game as she squibbed the kickoff to the right corner. The moment was exciting for all college football fans but, for Vandy, that excitement was short-lived as Mizzou quickly marched down the field and added a 21-yard Harrison Mevis field goal to pad their lead.
Vanderbilt finally seemed to respond well as they efficiently crossed midfield until Devin Nicholson forced a Keyon Henry-Brooks fumble that Jarvis Ware would recover and give the ball right back to Mizzou with a 24-0 lead. The Commodores would keep the Tigers out of the end zone yet again but not off the scoreboard: a Harrison Mevis field goal, this time for 44 yards, put Mizzou up 27 with 3:31 to play in the 3rd.
Looking for a spark, Derek Mason turned to true freshman QB Mike Wright to capitalize on Missouri’s cursed performances against backup quarterbacks but the defense stayed resolute, forcing a three-and-out. When the Tigers got the ball back, it would take just six plays for the offense to go 69 yards when Larry Rountree capped the drive off with a 25-yard rush for a touchdown, his third of the game. At this point the game all but over as the Tigers now led 34-0 early in the 4th quarter. After the game, Coach Drink said, “He’s gonna punish the defense and refuse to go down... that’s why he’s a captain,” regarding Larry’s big day.
Mike Wright finally delivered the spark Derek Mason was looking for on his next drive. After a fake punt extended the drive, the Commodores got down to the Mizzou 33, but their second fourth down attempt would not be successful and the Tigers would get the ball back as the defense neared a shutout.
When the Tigers returned to the field, Tiger fans got their first look at true freshman Brady Cook out of St. Louis’ Chaminade. Three plays after a 35-yard Elijah Young run Cook found Damon Hazelton in the end zone on a 25-yard pass for the first passing touchdown of his career and a 41 point Tiger lead.
The remainder of the game played out with a Vanderbilt punt and the Tigers running out the clock on a 41-0 victory. Mizzou dominated on both sides of the ball outgaining Vanderbilt 580 - 196. Tauskie Dove set a career high with 8 receptions, all in the first half, and Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie dominated with 183 and 120 yards from scrimmage, respectively. Connor Bazelak also threw for 318 yards, his second game with more than 300 yards this year.
A big credit to the offensive explosion was the return of Xavier Delgado and Larry Borom to the beleaguered offensive line. Larry Rountree confirmed what any onlooker could see, “It was great to have both of those guys back,” and Bazelak affirmed the same thing, “The offensive line did a great job this week... It showed in the stats.”
Borom wasn’t so complimentary of himself, however. He made sure that Larry’s 183 scrimmage yards didn’t go unnoticed, “Seeing him in front of me just gone, it’s a good feeling.” He also claimed to feel a breeze of wind every time Larry passed him.
The story today will always - and rightfully - be about Sarah Fuller’s debut and the first female college football player to play at the Power 5 level, but for the local folks it’s also a story of the Missouri Tigers making a statement. The defense was impenetrable and the offense was clicking on all cylinders as they dominated an opponent that was inferior in every aspect. That hasn’t always happened in Columbia over the past four years and is certainly refreshing to see that once again.