We all know how the game against Auburn ended Saturday. There is no need to rehash it, other than to say that the football gods decided to have a sense of humor at our expense.
That being said, for how horribly painful that defeat was, there are plenty of silver linings to take from this game. I’m going to delve into them here and attempt to brighten up your Sunday afternoon.
Running Game Success
The Mizzou ground game had struggled for much of the 2022 season, as the offensive line failed to get much push up front and no running back seemed to emerge from a crowded backfield.
On Saturday, that changed. After being down 14-0 early, the Mizzou running game began to thrive right when they needed it most. They only ran for 103 yards as a team, but that was good enough to out-gain an Auburn team that prides themselves on running the football.
The stats are not what needs to be focused on, either. It was the way in which this team ran the ball that was so encouraging. The offensive line was getting great push and opening holes for the backs against an SEC defensive line, something they were rarely able to do against an FCS team, Abilene Christian, last week. At times, they were just whipping the Auburn front, and it led to their two lone scoring drives of the game.
On top of that, the running backs were running with an edge that got fans’ blood pumping. Nathaniel Peat carried the ball 20 times for 80 yards, and he had plenty of chunk yardage plays that were products of him just running through arm tackles and using his speed. Likewise, Cody Schrader was running with an anger about him, as he seemed to always fall forward and was nearly impossible to stop with just one defender.
Unfortunately, it seemed like once the game was tied, both offenses went into their shells and were content with it. The ground game showed flashes of potential in that first half; now it is just about building off of that.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, because nothing will help Brady Cook like an effective ground game that can balance the offense.
The first quarter was rough. Robby Ashford and Tank Bigsby looked like they had this Mizzou defense figured out, as the visiting side just could not contain either of Auburn’s elusive playmakers.
Then, Blake Baker’s defense figured it out. And that was all she wrote for Auburn offensively.
After their two early scoring drives, Auburn did not sniff a scoring opportunity until overtime hit. The Mizzou defense was suffocating for the rest of the game, only allowing Bigsby to run for 7 yards in the final three quarters. Ashford could not get anything going through the air, and the front seven adjusted to stop him from scrambling out of the pocket.
Even when the Missouri offense was seemingly punting the ball back as soon as they touched it, the defense stood tall and kept them in this game. Blake Baker has proven this season that he can make the necessary in-game adjustments in the never-ending chess match that is SEC football. Now, it is just about putting together a full 60 minutes for this defensive unit.
Throughout fall camp, Eliah Drinkwitz was arguably most concerned about the competition at punter to replace Grant McKinniss. No true replacement stood out among the rest, and the position remained iffy through weeks 1-3. On Saturday, those concerns may have been put to bed.
Redshirt freshman punter Jack Stonehouse had an overall great day on the Plains. A 61-yarder in the second half completely flipped the field, and he consistently pinned Auburn inside of their own 30-yard line throughout the game. Sure, there were still some bad ones here and there, but overall, it appears that Stonehouse has solidified himself as the punter of the future for Mizzou.