I played on a competitive basketball team when I was growing up. I wasn’t particularly good, and neither was our team. We played in an AAU tournament one weekend against what appeared to be professional basketball players. We were working on a motion offense. They were lobbing alley-oops from mid-court. I don’t remember what the final score was. I remember the moment of the game was one of my teammates, who happened to be all of 5-foot-nothing, blocking the shot of what I remember as a 6-foot-6 mammoth of a man.
That’s what Mizzou vs. Southeast Missouri State felt like on Saturday morning. And that’s exactly what it should feel like when a solid power five program matches up against a clearly inferior FCS program.
It’s difficult to take much from a game like this. Much like when my middle school basketball team played against legitimate AAU programs, it’s really a “name your score” situation. But, any time the Tigers take the field, there’s something to be learned.
Let’s get to our five takeaways from the Tigers’ beatdown of SEMO.
1) Missouri did exactly what it was supposed to against an inferior opponent
I know the game wasn’t technically over in the first quarter, but it was realistically over after the Tigers went into the second quarter up 21-0.
Bazelak finished the first quarter 9-for-9 for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Tyler Badie posted 78 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the opening frame. The Tigers out-gained SEMO 258-42 in the first 15 minutes.
Tyler Badie to the house pic.twitter.com/VJC07CBd4n— Represent Mizzou (@RepresentMizzou) September 18, 2021
SEMO quarterback CJ Ogbonna was able to gain some yardage on the ground. Otherwise, it was a whole lot of nothin’ offensively for SEMO in the first quarter.
If there are any nits to be picked, it was the performance in the waning minutes of the second quarter. Bazelak lost his rhythm a bit. Receivers left a few yards on the field. The offensive line allowed more pressure than you would like to see.
So, no, it wasn’t perfect. But Missouri did everything it needed to. The game was over by halftime and that’s really all you can ask for in a game like this.
2) We learned a lot about how Eli Drinkwitz will handle pay-for games
Drinkwitz is ruthless. His talk leading into the game about which FCS teams have defeated FBS opponents in the past should’ve given us every bit of information we needed about how he would approach this matchup. On Saturday, we learned he’s going to keep the foot on the gas for at least the first half.
Connor Bazelak played the entire first half. Badie was in on the Tigers’ final play from scrimmage of the first half. Lovett was in on the Tigers’ final series. The starting offensive line (plus Connor Wood) played the entirety of the first half.
It’s not just playing time, though, it’s also approach and play-calling. Mizzou’s fourth drive started at the Tigers’ own one yard line. For most coaches in this situation, with their team up 21-0, that’s a spot where you run the ball and see where it gets you. If you punt, so be it. Not Drinkwitz. The first play from scrimmage was a play-action shot over the top that went for 46 yards to Mookie Cooper.
Three drives later with the Tigers up 31-0 and less than 30 seconds to play in the first half, Drinkwitz called a timeout to make a decision of whether or not to go for it on 4th and two from the SEMO 5-yard line. He decided to give Badie the ball on an outside zone run. He picked up the first down, of course, and the Tigers scored two plays later to go up 38-0 going into the half.
Call it running up the score, call it getting his guys experience in critical situations, call it whatever you want. Drinkwitz isn’t here to let the opponent get their work in. He’s doing what he believes is best for his team. On Saturday, that meant a whole lot of points and a whole lot of work for the starters for nearly the entire first half against SEMO.
3) Speed kills in games against FCS opponents
Take a look at the players who showed out against SEMO. It should come as no surprise it’s the speedsters: Dominic Lovett, Mookie Cooper, Chance Luper and Boo Smith combined for 9 receptions for 235 yards in the first half. Badie added 95 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on 11 total touches in the opening 30 minutes.
Bazelak dime to Boo Smith pic.twitter.com/Nqxoj0igEj— Represent Mizzou (@RepresentMizzou) September 18, 2021
These are the types of games that speed makes a big difference in. The Tigers’ offense is loaded with slot quick and shifty slot-type receivers who can eat up grass in a hurry against an opponent like SEMO. Hopefully some of what we saw against the Redhawks can translate next week against Boston College.
4) We learned a bit about which players are the “next man up”
Predictable blowouts don’t hold a whole lot of value. Mizzou fans knew before the season this should be a blowout, and that’s exactly what it was. So what can we learn? Which guys are the “next man up.”
The hope is this won’t matter at any point this season, but injuries happen and we’ll likely have to see the Tigers’ backups at certain position at some point this season.
The main backups to see playing time in the first half:
- RB - Elijah Young, Dawson Downing, BJ Harris
- WR - Chance Luper, JJ Hester
- TE - Messiah Swinson
- OL - Connor Wood
- DL - Johny Walker Jr., Jatorian Hansford, Arden Walker
- LB - Chad Bailey, Jamie Pettway
There aren’t many surprises in that group. That’s probably for the best. The players we expected to be called upon in times of need look like they’ve lived up to the billing.
Both Luper and Hester made big plays in the first half. Swinson was targeted on what should have been a touchdown in the red zone. Bailey and Pettway rotated in at linebacker early in the second quarter and both made some plays.
Other Tigers who saw playing time when Mizzou transitioned to the second unit in the third quarter:
- QB - Brady Cook, Tyler Macon
- OL - Luke Griffin, EJ Ndoma-Ogar, Connor Tollison
- TE - Ryan Hoerstkamp
- DL - Realus George, Daniel Robledo
- CB - DJ Jackson
- S - Stacy Brown
5) Dave Steckel was excellent on the broadcast
I totally get it if you were skeptical of Steckel as a broadcaster. The ice cold former Mizzou defensive coordinator didn’t show his personality often when he was answering questions from the assembled media throughout his time in Columbia. But anyone who has covered “Steck” for any amount of time knows the moment those cameras went off, his personality turned on. He has a dry sense of humor that plays well and he’s not afraid to take his shots.
He’s also one hell of a football mind who has plenty to give on a broadcast. Some of the college broadcasts leave a bit to be desired when it comes to actual breakdown of the game. Steckel gave you that in spades, even in a blowout. He explained decisions well, predicted plays based on formations and gave great insight into why Drinkwitz’s offense is difficult to defend from a defensive coordinator’s perspective.
I also loved Steck calling Drink, “Drink-a-witz.”
I don’t know if broadcasting is in Steck’s long-term plans, but I certainly hope it is. He was immediately one of the SEC Network’s best color commentators.