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Missouri Football: Week One Notebook

Notes and observations from the Missouri Tigers’ victory over the South Dakota Coyotes

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

Every week on these electronic pages I’ll be writing a “notebook” style piece. A lot of beat reporters do this, with miscellaneous quotes, injury notes, or other clubhouse observations from the day spent around the program. I am half the country away, so this will not be based on unbiased reporting built around access; it will be things that catch my attention as a fan watching on television and through the internet.

This week I’m not going to write about the quarterbacks. This situation has commandeered almost every bit of conversation around the football program, both in rational discussions and in toxic flame wars. So let’s talk about some other things from the Tigers’ 35-10 win over South Dakota.

  • Mizzou handled the Coyotes with ease, and that was refreshing after last season’s struggles with a peer FCS program in Abilene Christian. Remember, that was the game when it became clear the offensive line was going to be catastrophically bad. While this game didn’t teach us that the line is necessarily going to be good, it did show that they are not going to plumb the depths of last year’s efforts.
  • Did you hear the SEC Network broadcast talk about Eli Drinkwitz’s stated goal of having each player give out “3,000 daps a day?” A cornerstone of his program is the unity and brotherhood that comes with bonding with a teammate — both emotionally and physically — by sharing a dap, a handshake, a hug, or a high-five. It’s a fun goal, and according to the SEC, one borrowed from “the Mizzou basketball coach.” Put some respect on Dennis Gates’s name!
  • The defense was gnarly, even without a pair of starters in linebacker Chad Bailey and safety Jaylon Carlies. Johnny Walker answered if he could hang, and he did so in a resounding manner; he was everywhere. Nyles Gaddy was solid in support too, and played without gloves, which is always badass for a defensive lineman. True freshman Marvin Burks was a man on fire, and is going to see significant time in a crowded defensive back room. Ennis Rakestraw played an undersung game, making a few stuffs in run support. This unit is a treat to watch.
  • Luther Burden is ready for his close-up. Last season he alternated between flashes of brilliance mixed with freshman headaches, which is understandable. Last week, he showed a consistency and a physicality that had not yet developed last year. He was fiery. He’s a star.
  • While Mizzou was not perfect on offense, the efforts from their division peers was uninspiring as well. Transfer quarterbacks Graham Mertz and Devin Leary had flat efforts in their debuts at Florida and Kentucky, respectively. Spencer Rattler spent most of the night against North Carolina running for his life; the Gamecocks’ offensive line might be as bad as Missouri’s 2022 vintage. Arkansas’s formidable run game is almost certainly going to take a step back under the direction of pass-happy Dan Enos. Keep that in mind and remember Mizzou’s offense doesn’t need to look like 2007 in the Big 12 to be competitive in the division this season.
  • I am very glad Desiree Reed-Francois seems committed to keeping the season opener in the Thursday night spot. If you’re not going to play an important non-conference game, move it to Thursday night every time. The crowd is better, with an evening buzz and a full day of libations consumed. Keep the fans and the players out of the punishing midday heat. With the family-friendly pricing and a survivable climate, you create excitement on game day and cultivate a generation of the future Faurot faithful.
  • Are we concerned about kicker? It’s at least a little worrisome, right? I need to see a bounce back effort against Middle Tennessee this weekend coming up from Harrison Mevis. The Thiccer Kicker has already shown he can bounce back: he followed up his lowest moment (Auburn game-winning miss) with perhaps his best overall game seven days later against Georgia. Pull that trick off again, please. On the positive side, Thiccer did handle kickoffs for the first time at Mizzou and had five of his six go for touchbacks, and the other returned only to the 17. Good stuff.

Keep yelling about the quarterbacks, y’all. See you next week, hopefully after another win and hopefully after some clarity around the position. M-I-Z.