Blaze Alldredge and Tyler Badie were tasked with replacing Tiger legends Nick Bolton and Larry Rountree this year. Against Central Michigan on Saturday, they filled those big shoes admirably.
Alldredge’s 3.5 sacks were the most ever for a Tiger since 2006, and Badie set a career-high for carries, touches, and yards from scrimmage with 243 as the Tigers beat the Chippewas 34-24.
However, even with stellar performances from Alldredge, Badie, and others, the Tigers still had their hands full with a Central Michigan team that traveled to Columbia with every intention to spoil the Tigers home opener.
To open the game, Mizzou came out swinging with a 63-yard pass from Connor Bazelak to Boo Smith on the very first play of the game and followed it up with a Tyler Badie 12-YD TD run on the very next play.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, that quick lead wouldn’t stand up very long. After watching the Tigers go 75 yards, CMU returned the favor, going 75 yards of their own on 5 plays capped with a 7-yard TD pass from Jacob Sirmon to JaCorey Sullivan.
Following the two quick scores by each side, both defenses found their rhythm and 6 of the next 7 drives were punts by either team, with the lone outlier coming on an Akayleb Evans interception off Jacob Sirmon.
After 21:26 of scoreless football from both teams, Central Michigan finally broke through on a Lew Nichols 18-YD TD rush. After the made PAT, the underdog CMU led the Tigers 14-7 in the second quarter. Based on how the Tiger offense responded, trailing might have been just the wake-up call they needed.
A big third-and-long conversion from Barrett Bannister got the Tigers rolling, and then a defensive pass interference call when the Tigers were trying to convert on 4th and short set up a 39-YD Tyler Badie TD reception to tie the game back up at 14.
Even with the momentum building for the Tigers, it appeared as if CMU was going to punch the ball in once more before the half. However, the Tiger defense found a way to bend but not break and get Connor Bazelak the ball back with 0:54 left in the second. That bend-don’t-break mentality was evident throughout the game as the Tigers gave up 475 yards, but limited CMU to just 24 points.
When the Tiger offense got on the field, they knew they just had to find their way into Harrison Mevis’ range if they wanted to take a lead into halftime, and they did exactly that. A quick 6-play, 34-yard drive was just what the doctor ordered to set up a 53-yard Mevis field goal attempt. In an attempt to get in Mevis’ head, CMU called a timeout to ice him, but it didn’t affect Mevis.
“They iced me, that was kind of a dumb move,” Mevis said after the game, “I knew I was going to make it.”
And make it he did, splitting the uprights with a kick that would’ve been good from over 60 yards, but according to Mevis he has a lot more in the tank if needed: “Shoot, I didn’t even kick that 53 that hard. Put the ball in the ground, I’ll kick it, and I’ll make it. That’s my mentality.”
With a 17-14 lead at the half, the Tigers welcomed JC Carlies back to the secondary after he served his targeting suspension from last year’s Mississippi State game. They continued to stay hot defensively by forcing a three and out in their first series before Carlies picked off CMU QB Jacob Sirmon at the Mizzou 4-yard line in the second series.
After coming out sluggish in the second half, the Tiger offense looked like it was going to catch a major break when Kalil Pimpleton muffed Grant McKinnis’s punt at the Central Michigan 20-yard line and the Tigers recovered the ball. However, after a replay review, the call was overturned — Pimpleton was out of bounds when he touched the ball making it a dead ball.
Despite the bad break, a Blaze Alldredge tackle for loss and sack helped force another CMU punt. This time, the Tiger offense would capitalize. In just 2:32, Bazelak led his boys down the field, and Elijah Young found the end zone for this first time in his collegiate career on a 32-yard touchdown run that put the Tigers up 24-14.
But just like Central Michigan had done all game, they battled back. Trailing by 10 start the 4th quarter, the Chippewas did exactly what they needed to do. An 11-play, 73-yard drive capped off by a TD thrown by backup QB Daniel Richardson cut it back to a 3-point game, and it was Mizzou’s turn to respond.
What Eli Drinkwitz dialed up was a heavy dose of Tyler Badie.
“Tyler is an electric player, I’m really proud of him,” said Drinkwitz in his post-game presser. “He’s one of those guys that we know we gotta get him the ball.”
Of Badie’s 203 total rushing yards on the day, 50 came on this 75-yard drive that finished witha 2-yard Niko Hea TD. Just like that, the Tigers 10-point cushion was back.
Similarly to how Badie continued to deliver when the Tigers needed, so did the day’s other star, Blaze Alldredge. The Rice transfer led the Tiger defense out on the field on the next defensive series and continued to fill up the stat sheet with another tackle for loss and a sack.
“I wish I could give [my teammates] some of the sacks, but that’s not how stats work,” joked Alldredge after the game about his impressive box score. None of his teammates were complaining, however, as his impressive defensive efforts continued to force Chippewa punts.
Now the Tigers had the ball with about 6:54 remaining in the game and a chance to finish CMU once and for all, but the Chippewas refused to go away and force the Tigers to punt. Unfortunately, for Central Michigan, Tigers punter Grant McKinnis had other ideas, and pinned the Chippewas on their own 2-yard line. All 5 of McKinnis’ punts on the day were downed inside the CMU 20.
Even though Central Michigan did eventually drive down the field and add a 51-yard field goal, having to drive from their own 2-yard line hurt them in a big way. After the drive ended, just 1:30 was left on the clock when they kicked the ball back to Mizzou.
On the very first play of the drive that ensued, Tyler Badie all but put the game away with a 69-yard run that got the Tigers into field goal range. When asked after the game why he didn’t score the big run, Badie simply said, “I was tired. That’s one of those plays I’m going to regret for a long time.”
Even though he didn’t score, Badie did set another Mevis field goal, this time from 44-yards, to finalize the score at 34-24. Central Michigan did get the ball back, but their drive wouldn’t amount to anything before time ran out and the Tigers improved to 1-0.
After the game, Drinkwitz offered mixed reviews about he and his team’s performance, but he made it clear that fixing things is always more pleasant on the heels of a win.
“It’s much better to correct [mistakes] being 1-0 than 0-1.”