Mizzou fans had been clamoring for more deep balls and explosive plays in the passing game after Kentucky limited them to six yards per completion last week. Connor Bazelak and this offense delivered on Saturday.
Try 16 yards per completion and eight different wide receivers catching a pass in the game for a bounce back. Bazelak was spreading the ball around and torching the Redhawks’ defense both vertically and horizontally, as the versatility of this group was on full display and everyone’s strengths seemed to shine.
“Its like we’re subbing in a hockey line with the WRs,” coach Eliah Drinkwitz joked after the game.
Mookie Cooper finally had the breakout game people were waiting on. He had 4 catches for 64 yards and proved that he can be a problem all over the field. The 46-yard post route he caught in double coverage showed he can be a deep threat, but he was also able to find more room to work in the short game, something that had eluded him in the first two weeks.
Dominic Lovett had a similar performance, excelling both downfield and with yards after the catch. He was second on the team with 79 receiving yards and averaged a whopping 20 yards per catch.
“Both had opportunities in space which was nice,” Drinkwitz stated. “They could have gotten in the end zone but we’ll get them there.”
He and Cooper both are clearly guys that Drinkwitz wants to get the ball as much as possible, as both are high-caliber athletes that can be game changers with the ball in their hands.
A surprise may have been Chance Luper’s 52-yard touchdown reception. Known as a big-bodied receiver, Luper showed off his wheels by gliding past defenders en route to his first ever collegiate touchdown. If he can consistently make people miss and flash his speed, he will join Cooper and Lovett in being the game-breakers for this team.
And then you have the reliable Keke Chism. After only catching one pass against Kentucky (albeit for a touchdown), Chism led the team with five receptions in this game and proved yet again why he is Bazelak’s security blanket. His size and jumping ability allow him to be open even when it does not look like he is, and he contrasts the styles of the guys mentioned above perfectly. Not to mention his continued leadership of this somewhat inexperienced group of wide receivers is invaluable.
“It was everything to me, I was happy for him,” Chism stated when asked about Luper’s first touchdown grab. “It was amazing to be out there blocking for Chance on his first TD.”
Potentially a new name to throw in the mix may be JJ Hester. The redshirt freshman out of Tulsa had a highlight-reel 65-yard catch and run for a touchdown, proving that he has the breakaway speed to compliment his nice hands. If he can build off of this performance, the youngster out of the athletically prestigious Booker T. Washington High School could enter the regular rotation and add some much needed depth to the wide receiver room.
“It was good for the future that we were able to get the ball to our young guys in space,” Bazelak explained.
440 passing yards and five touchdowns through the air sounds like a great bounce back game for an offense that had a tough time creating splash plays last week. The cause may just be Bazelak getting more comfortable with the younger targets.
“The more you play with someone the more you connect,” Bazelak said. “They know what I’m gonna do and I know what they’re gonna do.”
The playbook appears to be opening up for this offense, and the chemistry will only grow stronger between Bazelak and his group of pass-catchers.