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The most important numbers from Mizzou’s week one victory

Yes, it’s against an FCS team, but let’s observe four statistics from Missouri’s performance last Thursday night

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

Stats aren’t everything, but they can help tell the story of a game.

Missouri took care of business last week, handling South Dakota 35-10. The Tigers punted just twice, while the Coyotes were no match for the Tigers’ defense.

As Missouri moves on to face a Middle Tennessee team who dropped their opener to Alabama 56-7 this past weekend, here are four notable numbers from the Tigers’ winning performance.

1.1 Yards per Carry

South Dakota and offensive coordinator Josh Davis decided not to consistently test Missouri’s NFL-caliber defense by trying to establish the ground. This didn’t produce successful results, as the “Death Row Defense” surrendered just 38 yards on 35 carries. That equals a 1.1 yards-per-carry average. The last time a Missouri defense held a team to a lower yards-per-carry average on a minimum of 30 attempts came against West Virginia on Sep. 7, 2019, where the Mountaineers squeaked out 30 yards on 32 carries, 0.93 yards per attempt.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG. 31 South Dakota at Missouri

The defense was highlighted by Johnny Walker Jr.’s outstanding performance. With his lone full tackle-for-loss, Ennis Rakestraw Jr. joined the party in the backfield with him. In all, Missouri registered five TFL on the night. With the absence of Chad Bailey and new faces at the edge position, it’s nice to see this defensive front carry on from last year. Currently, they have the No. 1 rush defense in the young season.

Seven receptions

On Aug. 18, Brady Cook was asked if Luther Burden III’s transition into the slot wide receiver position would increase productivity and get him the ball. To simplify Cook’s statement, the answer was yes. Against the Coyotes, Burden was the most productive wide receiver on the field between both teams and set personal highs of seven receptions for 96 yards in his 13th collegiate game.

When speaking about the slot position, there are two plays that stand out: 1) With 5:35 left in the first quarter, Cook hit Burden on a quick screen pass out of the slot position. With Mookie Cooper and Brett Norfleet out in front to block, Burden attacked the open space to the outside for a 14-yard gain. Three plays later, the Tigers scored their first touchdown of the season.

Notable play No. 2 came in the fourth quarter on Missouri’s last scoring drive. Once again lining up in the slot in a three-by-one receiver set, Sam Horn was quickly able to hit Burden on another screen pass. Burden then proceeded to do the rest of work himself reaching the end zone with the assistance of his offensive line (You gotta love when those big guys get out in space and get their hands on somebody).

56 Penalty yards

Seven would be a better number to use here, but I just used that above, so we will go with 56. This number is not positive at all. Against South Dakota, Missouri racked up seven penalties for 56 yards. Why is this concerning? Well, in 2022, Missouri was one of the most penalized teams in college football, and depending on who you ask, it did have a direct effect on certain games.

Now, luckily, the talent disparity between Missouri and South Dakota allowed the Tigers to overcome their mistakes. Burden gained 17 yards on a 2nd and 25, while also getting drilled in the process. Nathaniel Peat picked up 18 yards on a 2nd and 16, and the Coyotes offense stalled after a Kris Abrams-Draine holding penalty. But, as the season wears on, this team cannot afford to commit this many penalties and expect to pull away and win games.

66.8 QBR

That number you see is Brady Cook’s QBR. This ranked seventh among Southeastern Conference quarterbacks for week one of this season. Yes, I understand this is against an FCS team, but Carson Beck, Will Rogers, and A.J Swann posted lower QBRs, playing FCS opponents.

The bottom line is, Eli Drinkwitz won’t say straight up that “Brady Cook will be the starter going forward.” But, in the postgame, his comments about Cook indicated that he has a leg up in the competition. He wasn’t asked to do a whole lot, but was in control of the offense throughout. Unless Cook’s play goes completely off the rails in the coming week, I expect him to be the starter over Sam Horn going forward.