Well, Missouri played football for the first time in 2023. You probably left the game feeling like you didn’t learn a whole lot about the team. That’s natural. The only things we could really learn about Mizzou against South Dakota were bad. So, the fact that we didn’t learn much is kind of a good thing.
That being said, the game counted in the standings and there were things worth taking away. Let’s get right to it.
1) Missouri’s handling of the quarterback situation raised more questions than it answered
Were you surprised to see Brady Cook play the entire first half? Were you surprised to see Sam Horn throw a total of five passes? Yeah, you’re not alone. Regardless of where you stand on Missouri’s quarterback situation — if you’re a Cook defender or a Horn supporter — you probably came away from the game wondering what the playing time means.
I felt the same way. Missouri expected to be up big at the end of the first half. So, yeah, I think it’s okay to read into the fact that the game plan was to play Cook while the game was in the balance, and Horn after things were mostly decided. The game script was going to force Missouri to run more than it threw in the second half. That means the Tigers willingly came into the game expecting to limit Horn’s exposure. Maybe that’s because they didn’t want Kansas State to get film on Horn. More likely, it’s because the team views Cook as its starting quarterback. You don’t have to like it. You can disagree with it. But that’s what I took from the way they handled the quarterback snaps in the opener.
I also want to say I think the criticism of Cook’s first half was a bit unfair. No, he didn’t push the ball down the field. He also didn’t need to. This offense will rely heavily on crossers and check downs. The end result in the first half was six drives that scored four touchdowns, a punt and a field goal miss from the 30-yard line. Overall, a fine day. Not great, but fine.
2) Luther Burden III looked more comfortable in his natural position
How did you like seeing Burden playing out of the slot? Looked a little more comfortable, eh? I love seeing the way Eli Drinkwitz and Kirby Moore got Burden involved in the offense. He was lining up in the slot, he was coming across the formation for some jet sweeps and he was running crossers all day long. That’s how he wins. Get him the ball in space and let him make plays.
That’s exactly what he did on Thursday. He finished with three explosive plays. His stat line reads seven receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. He did so on eight targets. He had 79 yards after catch. That’ll play.
3) Missouri’s defense did exactly what it should against South Dakota
I don’t really know what to say. The Tigers forced six punts and a turnover on downs out of 11 South Dakota drives. The only touchdown drive traveled 29 yards, and it came after an interception. The “best” drive of the game for South Dakota was a 17-play, 41-yard drive that resulted in a turnover on downs.
All of this was expected. Missouri had a massive talent advantage. The Tigers did what they they were supposed to do. On to Middle Tennessee State.
4) Does Missouri have a kicking issue?
Harrison Mevis missed both of his field goal attempts, one from 48 (understandable) and another from 34. The broadcast mentioned that Mevis was also struggling pre-game. This is a Thiccer Kicker appreciation website, but he has to start becoming a more reliable option. He finished the season 22-for-28 last year. He’s already 0-for-2 in 2023. If this continues, it should pressure Drinkwitz into becoming more aggressive in fourth down situations.
5) We have one more of these games before the season really begins
This game looked a lot like the Abilene Christian game a year ago. The Tigers came out with a vanilla gameplan on both sides of the ball and got the job done. Burden looked great, the running game was efficient and the defense got the job done. That’s all good. The team is 1-0. It should be 2-0 after next week, and then the real season begins on September 16th against Kansas State.