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Tigers bounce back behind big days from Lovett, Burden

The former East St. Louis teammates combined for 3 touchdowns and over 200 yards of offense on the day.

Abilene Christian v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Tigers looked to bounce back from a disappointing defeat at the hands of K-State when they played another team of Wildcats on Saturday. Amidst so much negativity and question marks surrounding the program, Mizzou aimed to calm down the critics against an FCS opponent. Abilene Christian was in town for Family Weekend, and Mizzou put on a show for all of the visitors on campus.

The game started with some fireworks. After the Wildcats went 3-and-out on their opening drive, Luther Burden stepped back to field the ensuing punt. He got the corner thanks to some great blocking and scored untouched from 78-yards out, making his presence felt early on.

“That’s just what he do; he’s touchdown Luther,” said high school teammate Dominic Lovett. “I’m proud of him.”

The Tigers got the ball back, but their drive stalled at midfield. The Wildcats were pinned at their own one after a questionable fair catch, but they worked out of the hole. Running back Jermiah Dobbins led the way with nearly 40 yards on the drive, and it took a Kris Abrams-Draine leaping pass breakup to force ACU to hit a field goal. The Wildcats were hanging in the game at 7-3 with 5:54 left in the first quarter.

After a holding call pinned them deep, Brady Cook completed a deep ball to Lovett that he caught in stride. He scampered past two defenders for a 79-yard touchdown, and he finally gave the Tiger faithful the explosive passing play they were looking for.

“The young man (Lovett) is a competitor,” Eliah Drinkwitz said. “He wants to let everyone know that he is from East St. Louis, too.”

Abilene Christian continued to run the ball well, while the Tigers could not get any push up front. Mizzou had just 40 rushing yards in the first half compared to ACU’s 81, which kept them in the game. Those struggles caused the Tigers to opt to punt on two 4th and 1s during the first half instead of going for it.

However, it was a 4th and 1 stop by the Tiger defense that turned the tide of this game.

Brady Cook completed a 19-yard ball to Mookie Cooper and then a wheel route to Cody Schrader for 25 yards after taking over possession. The drive then stalled in the red zone, but Harrison Mevis capped it off with a 31-yard field goal.

The Tigers went into the half leading 17-3, but outside of a couple of explosive passing plays, the offense was largely stagnant. The defense, meanwhile, was hanging in there despite giving up some yards.

“We gotta go back and look and see who the best 5 guys are,” Drinkwitz said regarding the offensive line. “We gotta go figure that out, cause penalties and poor execution won’t win in this league.”

The second half opened up with a promising drive that stalled out near midfield. Cook nearly hit Lovett for another electric touchdown, but he overthrew him by about two yards.

The defense picked up the slack, and then some. Ennis Rakestraw tipped a screen pass to himself for an interception, a huge play for the veteran who missed almost all of last season with injury.

“The first thing I thought about was my mom, and thanking God for being able to be here,” Rakestraw said.

The offense would turn that turnover into points. A completion to Barrett Banister that set them up inside the 10-yard line was followed by Cook ducking a defender and firing to a wide-open Nathaniel Peat for a touchdown.

“The energy is always going to be there with this offense, the effort is always going to be there,” Cook said.

The defense seemed like they enjoyed that result, so they decided to get another turnover, this time Chad Bailey forcing and recovering a fumble.

“My linebacker coach likes to call that hustle stats,” Bailey said. “It wasn’t my play but Ennis made a good wrap-up and I got to clean it up.”

The offense chose to open with two Burden wildcat plays, one of which was a reverse pass from Cook to Lovett for 25-yards. “These are plays we’ve been repping, even if they don’t get called in games,” Cook said. However, the drive ended with a rare Harrison Mevis miss from 52-yards out.

The Tigers regained possession back deep in their own territory, and that spelled trouble. Cook was drilled in the end zone and lost the ball, resulting in a fumble recovery touchdown for the Wildcats. The lead was cut to 24-10 with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter.

A response was needed, and they got it. Cook led a drive down the field with his arm and legs, and finished it off with a hot-read to Lovett on a slant with a blitz coming, his second touchdown of the day.

Harrison Mevis did not have his best day on the field. In fact, it might have been one of his worst. He missed another field goal halfway through the fourth quarter, this one from 39-yards out. The scoreline remained 31-10 with eight minutes to go in the game.

The defense and rushing attack salted away the game, and Mevis got some redemption by hitting a 52-yard field goal. But Abilene Christian wasn’t done, and tacked on a late touchdown. The game finished with a scoreline of 34-17 in favor of the Tigers.

Cook responded well to a rough performance against K-State in this game. He had 292 yards and 3 TDs on the day, and he looked comfortable completing some downfield passes, despite a couple of misses. Burden and Lovett were the stars of the show offensively, as they were top two in receptions and yards for the day and had three touchdowns between them.

“Lu brought me out of my shell with emotions and energy,” Lovett said. “Everybody has helped me come out of my shell this season— my mom, dad, coaches.”

The running game struggled early on, but they wore down the Wildcat defense in the second half to finish with 195 yards. After being tested in the first half, the Tiger defense bowed up in the second and only allowed 111 rushing yards on the day.

“Offensively, we’re still a work in progress,” Drinkwitz said. “We can’t get behind the chains with penalties.” Penalties were a major issue for Mizzou today. The Tigers had 9 of them for 85 yards (mainly holding calls, while the Wildcats only had one.

Mizzou will travel to the plains to take on Auburn (2-0) at 11 a.m. next weekend. Catch the Tigers SEC opener on ESPN next Saturday.