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Missouri’s methodical first-half offense leads to a 35-10 win over South Dakota

Big days from Luther Burden III, Cody Schrader, and Nathaniel Peat propel Mizzou to a week one win.

NCAA Football: South Dakota at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Football kicked off its 2023 campaign on a good note on Thursday night, completing a 35-10 win over South Dakota.

“It’s always great to be 1-0,” Eli Drinkwitz said. “That’s the mindset of what you want to do. I thought there was some really good moments in the game.”

By the time Missouri punted for a second time, it came with 10:08 to go in the fourth quarter. The offense didn’t gash the Coyotes with the explosion of long, jarring deep pass plays but instead opted for what would be more of what you would call a “conservative approach,” establishing the run game and hitting the quick, easy throws.

It paid dividends as Missouri out-gained South Dakota 295-62 in the first half, and once it gained a 28-3 lead, it was able to go on a bit of cruise control through the second half. South Dakota ate up the clock in the second half as Missouri only ran eight third-quarter plays.

But, the Tigers defense didn’t break, as expected against an FCS foe. Johnny Walker’s six tackles highlighted the stout collective performance, including four solos, a half-sack, and a tackle for loss.

Missouri’s offense also reinvigorated itself on its final scoring drive late in the fourth quarter with eight straight plays of either Cody Schrader or Nathaniel Peat. The duo combined for 247 total offensive yards on the night.

“Me and Nate’s relationship is a special one. Everybody wants there to be one guy, but I think me and Nate are really buying into the duo aspect because we know down the road, getting into the SEC games, and as the season generally goes, that it’s going to take both of use to be successful,” Schrader said. “There’s no selfishness between us.”

Schrader finished with 138 yards on 18 carries, equaling a 7.7-yard average, the most he’s rushed as a Tiger. More impressively, he didn’t record a single negative rush.

“My mindset is always just keep moving forward,” Schrader said. You never want to lose yards. You always want to at least get back to the line of scrimmage.”

Missouri’s last drive ended with Luther Burden III completing his career day of 96 yards on seven receptions on a screen pass from Sam Horn, who threw his first collegiate touchdown.

447-194 ended up being the final yardage disparity by the time the clock showed quadruple zeroes with the Tigers averaging 6.8 yards per play. That’s the type of game it was for Missouri. Efficient offensive play highlighted by its playmakers and a stingy defensive performance showing the wide margin of talent between the Tigers and Coyotes. More points would’ve been put on the scoreboard, but Harrison Mevis missed two field goals.

A heavy dose of Schrader was given to the South Dakota defense before the other Tiger skill players joined the party. Burden began his day with a short pass resulting in a 13-yard gain, moving the Tigers within the Coyotes 25. Two plays later, Brady Cook, who started the first quarter perfectly, going 10-10, found Mekhi Miller for his first collegiate touchdown, putting MU up six.

“I thought it went well in the first half. We got in a rhythm there,” Cook said. “I was impressed with the offensive line, impressed with the receivers, everybody was on their assignments.”

The lead doubled nearly four minutes later following a bad punt by South Dakota. Burden’s speed was utilized as he produced a big chunk play. One inside the 20-yard line, the offense returned to the ground game as Peat churned out hard-fought yardage with three straight runs, eventually punching it in for a yard out, making it 14-0.

Missouri appeared to be set to go up three scores in the second stanza. The Tigers’ defense, which held the Coyotes to just six yards through the first quarter, forced its third straight three-and-out, complemented by a Walker and Joe Moore III sack.

Utilizing the running game once more with Peat and Schrader, MU moved into Harrison Mevis range, but the senior hooked it right.

The brief momentum jolt woke South Dakota’s offense as Travis Theis crossed midfield on the ensuing play for the Coyotes 1st first down. On the next play, the strong-armed southpaw Aidan Bouman found Jack Martens by threading the needle. The Coyotes matriculated the ball downfield, aided by a Kris Abrams-Draine holding call.

But, from there, the defense stiffened. Kristian Williams was key, stuffing an RB option pass, effectively ending the drive and limiting the Coyotes to a field goal.

The offense avenged Mevis, with its opening drive formula meaning a lot of Schrader. The workhorse picked up 34 of his 75 first-half yards, including six straight carries that ended a two-yard scamper, putting Missouri up 21-3 with under two minutes to play in the first half, and the Tigers weren’t done for the first 30 minutes of play.

After another quick three-and-out by South Dakota, Cook found Peat for 15 and 18 yards through the air, while the big play on the drive came on a connection downfield to Burden, who topped his career high with 81 yards in the first half alone.

Cook called his own number on a quarterback draw, sending the Tigers into the locker room with a 28-3 lead.

“I thought the way we ended the first half with the offense scoring, and the defense going out and going three-and-out and using our timeouts and scoring again obviously was the difference in the game as we went on a run right there,” Drinkwitz said.

Cook finished the night efficiently. The junior quarterback started his third season as a Tiger by going 17-21, 172 yards, and a score.

“Brady just wants us to win,” Drinkwitz said. “And if he can help us do that by playing, man, he’s gonna be excited...that guy has so much much grit, so much determination. He puts his butt on the line for everybody in this organization.”

He only took off three times, but netted 17 yards in the process.

“I think Brady showed extreme toughness,” Schrader said. “He started 15 games and I think that’s starting to show I think more in his game. I think just the leader that he is on the sidelines as well, in the huddle, the way he just commands the offense, he did a fantastic job.”

The first half was enough for Eli Drinkwitz and his staff before inserting Sam Horn. The sophomore quarterback, who was guaranteed playing time heading into the game, showed his potential ceiling by threading a strong-armed pass to Mekhi Miller for a huge gain. That would be one of three passes completed by the sophomore.

“That’s my brother right there,” Cook said. “He’s a quarterback and we’re in the same room every day. (We’re) trying to do the same thing, working on the same goal, playing the same position, so I’m going to help him the best I can. It doesn’t hurt me to help him out at all, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Next Saturday, Missouri welcomes Middle Tennessee State back to Columbia for the first time since 2016, when the Blue Raiders stunned the Tigers 51-45 on Homecoming. The long-awaited rematch will be at 6 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.