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Five plays that defined Saturday’s 23-19 win over Middle Tennessee State

Mizzou almost got pillaged by the Blue Raiders (again), but the Tigers prevailed and move to 2-0. Here are five plays that told the story of Saturday’s nail-biter.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to “Five Plays” — yep, we’ve got a name now, and it’s super original — where I’ll break down the previous week’s football game in, you guessed it, five plays. Over the past ten seasons, the average college football team has run around 70-73 plays per game, but most of them don’t matter as much as others. Oftentimes, there’s a select few that can tell the story of an entire game, and I’m here to break them down. To the film room!

One meme recap of Saturday’s 23-19 victory over Middle Tennessee State:

Darius Robinson said it best after the game.


These darn Blue Raiders, man. What mosquitos are to humans is what Middle Tennessee State is to Missouri: they never go away! Ever! No matter how big of an underdog the fightin’ Rick Stockstills are, the Blue Raiders always seem to punch up to the Tigers.

It was far from the high-scoring firework show that the previous two matchups were, but MTSU made the game weird and wonky, which is how they’ve picked off Mizzou in the past. Heck, it’s how their basketball team took down Michigan State in 2016 and Florida State in 1989; they threw normalcy out the window. If not for an iffy pass-interference call on 3rd-and-21 late in the fourth quarter on Teldrick Ross that allowed Mizzou to run out the clock, MTSU could’ve walked out of Memorial Stadium with an upset victory once again.

I had a difficult time picking out just five plays that really told the story of Saturday, just because there were a handful that a) swung the game, or b) showed how impactful a certain player was (Luther Burden III’s monster game, Nick Vattatio’s surprising scrambles, Brady Cook’s disastrous fumble, etc.). Nevertheless, here are five that I think tell a pretty good story of Saturday. To the film room!

Play #1: The easiest 49-yard run of Nathaniel Peat’s career

We’re going to start on a positive note because, as Nathaniel Peat said after the game, “a win is a win”. For all there is to be understandably frustrated about, Mizzou is 2-0, and Nathaniel Peat was a big part of it. Despite only playing 11 snaps (???), Peat picked up 100 yards from scrimmage, including one of the most gorgeous touchdowns I’ve seen here in my short time covering Mizzou football. Kirby Moore put on his master chef hat and cooked up a beauty here for six.

(skip to 1:41)

In my column a few months ago detailing why Kirby Moore’s offense was so great, one of the things I emphasized was the copious amounts of pre-snap motion and his use of running backs as receivers out of the backfield. One play I highlighted saw Fresno State RB Jordan Mims run a wheel route out of the backfield, and the UTEP defense just kinda forgot about him. The play resulted in a Bulldog touchdown.

Here, we see pre-snap motion and a running back running a deep route out of the backfield. A double whammy! Since no Mizzou receiver was lined up outside on the right, that entire side of the field was vacated, and when no Blue Raider defender picked up Peat when he motioned, the hometown hero had nothing but green grass in front of him.

When Cook was asked how he felt seeing Peat so wide open, he kept his response short and punctual.


Happiness is correct, especially considering how well Peat has played during these first couple of games after a porous finish last season. Peat was sparsely involved in the offense over the final five games of 2022, as he received just 13 carries after the calendar turned to November. Why Peat played only 11 snaps, I have no idea, but he sure made the most of his opportunities.

And now, the unfortunate time has come. We must talk about the moment where one of Drinkwitz’s major coaching flaws resurfaced at a rather suboptimal time.

Play #2: A punt

SCORE: 23-10 Mizzou


TIME: 10:27

DOWN: 4th

DISTANCE: One yard



“Up 13, punt the ball, our defense had been playing pretty good defense,” Drinkwitz said after the game. “Up 13, if they’ve got to go 83 yards if they get the ball on the 17, which they did, their chances of scoring are a lot less than the 50, so I think that’s the right play every time.”

I get it. From a defensive perspective, forcing Middle Tennessee to drive 83 yards instead of 50 is the better choice because, uh, 83 > 50. Thankfully, the Tigers have a pretty good defense that, other than a handful of spurts from the Blue Raiders, did a good job of preventing explosive plays and keeping MTSU’s speedy receivers at bay.

But…ugh…agh…[breaks out in hives] really?! While the rushing attack wasn’t as potent as it was last week (the offensive line especially), IT’S ONE YARD! Cody Schrader is known for falling forwards, and there were a handful of runs on Saturday where Schrader got hit around the line of scrimmage, yet pushed the pile forward for an extra yard or two. While Schrader and Cook had a few runs of zero or negative yards, the Blue Raiders were far from a steel wall up front. And while both teams would’ve likely shown a jumbo formation on a hypothetical fourth down attempt, Mizzou would’ve still had the advantage in the trenches. Even if MTSU came up with a stop, 50+ yards is still a relatively long way to go against a very good Mizzou defense.

From what Drinkwitz has said about these decisions in the past (including on Saturday), it seems like it’s more about his belief in the defense rather than a lack of trust in the offense. Even so, the lack of aggression can be understandably frustrating. As PowerMizzou pointed out, Drinkwitz’s aggressive coaching mindset has inexplicably disappeared over the past couple of seasons. Mizzou has face fourth-and-three or less five times at or beyond their own 40-yard line; they've punted each time. They haven’t attempted a fourth-down conversion; MTSU, meanwhile, converted two on the night.

Especially in an era of football where taking risks is both the norm and the right call most of the time, these kinds of decisions become a tad infuriating. Drinkwitz doesn’t seem like he’s going to change his stance on these situations; the only hope is that the Tigers can avert them altogether in the future.

Play #3: Theo Wease Jr. finds the end zone

Something that always baffles me is when a team does one thing that works, then completely abandons it without explanation. I understand that gameplans change week-by-week (and even in the middle of games), but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

A perfect example has to do with Theo Wease Jr. Against South Dakota, there were a couple of times where Wease (on the outside) and another receiver (in the slot) would be lined up on one side. The slot receiver would motion to the other side of the formation, leaving Wease on an island with a physically inferior defensive back who had no safety help behind him. Wease would run an out route, and it was an easy pitch and catch. While Wease only finished with three catches for 17 yards, seeing the 6’2”, 192-pound Wease get proactively isolated on the outside was encouraging.

This week, Wease somehow saw even less volume than the week prior. Despite matching up against undersized corners once again, his large frame was sparsely utilized, only registering one catch all game. That catch, however, proved to be a pretty important one. It was a fantastic end to an awesome drive that featured a variety of players getting the ball in a variety of ways.

“I thought Theo Wease’s catch was unbelievable on the goal line,” Drinkwitz said. “ I thought he really played big and we’ve got to get him more opportunities to play big for us.”

This is a huge part of what makes Wease a valuable asset to the Tigers: a legitimate jump-ball savant on the outside. It’s a fantastic option to have around the goal-line; the hope is that Wease can be used more frequently in those situations.

Play #4: Frustrating passiveness (defensive edition)

In 2021, the Detroit Lions were pretty terrible. They didn’t win their first game until Week 13, when they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 29-27 on a buzzer-beating, straight-out-of-a-movie touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Watch that play again, but this time, take note of Minnesota’s defensive formation. Out of the 11 (not 12, for some reason) white jerseys on the field, eight of them are at or behind the goal line. The Vikings only chose to send three rushers at Goff, who’s known to struggle when facing pressure in the pocket. When Goff zips the ball towards St. Brown, there’s not a single Viking defender in front of him; Brown just sat down in front of all of them.

A similar thing happened in Saturday’s game, only less consequential. Facing a fourth-and-goal at the Mizzou 13-yard line with under seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Blue Raiders desperately needed a touchdown. Look at Mizzou’s defensive formation; you might notice a similar formation to MInnesota’s ill-fated one from two years ago.

It’s not a horrendous call, but why not bring some pressure? Mizzou found success when they sent extra bodies at Vattiato, and it’s not like blitzing is foreign to Blake Baker. Combined with Abrams-Draine, Rakestraw and the rest of Mizzou’s secondary proving to be above-average cover corners, the decision to stand back and let MTSU run out into space undeterred was a tad baffling.

Now, this was just one play. As stated previously, Mizzou’s defense played pretty well on Saturday; 11 different players combined for 12 TFLs. Kris Abrams-Draine, Ennis Rakestraw Jr. and Daylan Carnell did a solid job of preventing MTSU’s speedy outside receivers from breaking any humongous gains like they did seven years ago. Even when the Blue Raiders generated chunk gains through the air (which happened a handful of times), it was usually Justin Olson becoming an in-air contortionist to bring down a pass. Dameon Wilson, Chuck Hicks and Triston Newson stepped up in the wake of Chad Bailey’s continued absence.

This one play, however, summed up Mizzou’s night: unnecessary passiveness against lesser competition.

Play #5: Extra point troubles, for some reason

Last week, Mizzou’s kicking operation was about as smooth as a pile of rocks. A blocked field goal and a bad hold caused a lot of concern, and somehow, that concern grew with another blocked kick against MTSU.

This time around, it was a blocked extra point. Harrison Mevis entered Saturday having not missed a single XP in his entire college career.

“I’m really concerned,” Drinkwitz said. “That’s devastating to have a poor hold and a leakage up the middle (of the field goal unit), and that’s uncharacteristic, especially for as much as we practice it. And again, it’s got to get fixed.”

A lot of the mistakes made by Mizzou on Saturday were ones that most Power 5 teams shouldn’t be making; it was the little things that plagued the Tigers for most of the evening. If they aren’t cleaned up by next Saturday, it’ll be a long afternoon against Kansas State, a team known for doing the little things right.