I hate playing Conference USA opponents. It’s a better conference than it’s given credit for. If you win, you did what you were supposed to. If you lose, it’s a potential low point for the season. That was the prism through which I viewed Missouri’s game against North Texas.
Thankfully, they got the job done.
If ever there was a “ho-hum” game, this was it. The Tigers got out to an early 14-0 lead, and essentially coasted from there. The offense, outside of Tyler Badie, was... fine. The defense was opportunistic and the special teams were pure.
For about 35 minutes, it looked like it should when a solid SEC team goes up against a bottom tier C-USA opponent. Then the final 25 minutes took place and Missouri looked completely disinterested in playing football.
With that in mind, let’s get to some more specific takeaways from the Tigers’ third win of the season.
1) Tyler Badie posted another career day
The difference in that game was pretty simple: One team had Tyler Badie and the other team didn’t.
The Tigers offense wasn’t particularly effective on Saturday. Connor Bazelak threw for five yards per attempt. The Mean Green posted 11 tackles for loss in the game. Mizzou finished with seven accepted penalties which accounted for 65 total yards.
And all of that was washed away because Badie was an absolute beast.
Eli Drinkwitz calls Tyler Badie "the least talked-about great player in the country."— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) October 9, 2021
His 217 rushing yards were a new career-high and his three total touchdowns matched a career-high. His 42-yard run near the end of the third quarter is one of the most impressive feats of his career. He was stopped in the hole for a 5-yard gain, then ran into another defender before ultimately breaking both tackles, stiff arming a third would-be tackler and sprinted down the sideline for another 30+ yards. What an incredible effort by a tremendous football player.
We’ve been blessed as Mizzou fans to watch some fantastic runners over the last 20+ years, and Badie is up there with the best of them. His all-around skillset is going to get him drafted higher than some would expect in next year’s draft, and I can’t wait to see what he’s able to do at the next level.
In the here and now, I’m just glad we get to watch him in a Missouri uniform because he seems to do something special on a weekly basis.
2) Missouri’s defense is still very much not fixed
This was a tale of two halves for the Tigers’ defense. North Texas finished the first half with zero net passing yards, one third down conversion and an average of fewer than 3.5 yards per carry. The result was a 31-7 first half score. It looked like Mizzou’s defense had figured some things out and started making some plays against a clearly overmatched opponent.
And then the second half happened.
Disclaimer: Missouri put that game on ice a heck of a lot earlier than it did against SEMO. Badie saw a significant reduction in reps in the second half. There was a healthy rotation of players on defense, especially in the fourth quarter.
Still, Missouri’s defensive performance left a lot to be desired.
The Mean Green actually outscored the Tigers 28-17 in the second half. It posted 380 yards in the second half. North Texas averaged 8.6 yards per play in the second half with six passes of 20+ yards and eight rushes of 10+ yards.
It was ugly. It wasn’t particularly fun to watch. And it makes you wonder what this defense will be capable of keeping Missouri in the game next week against Texas A&M.
3) Missouri made some changes to its depth chart after last week’s debacle
The most notable shifts on the depth chart were B.J. Harris’ emergence as the clear-cut backup at running back and Chad Bailey starting at linebacker as opposed to Blaze Alldredge. Dominic Lovett and Mookie Cooper technically started, but the rotation at receiver wasn’t a whole lot different than it has been in recent weeks. Mekhi Wingo appeared to get more playing time on the interior, too.
Overall, the “no depth chart” talk appears to have been a bit overblown. The Tigers made some changes, sure, but it’s not as if the Tigers went with a hockey style line shift with the defense.
It’s worth noting Bailey seemed to make the most of his opportunity. He wasn’t perfect on the day but he made some plays and appeared to have more sideline-to-sideline speed than Alldredge. Wingo also made the most of his expanded role with a pick six, a tackle-for-loss and at least one QB pressure.
4) It’s fair to be wonder if this passing game has reached its ceiling
Connor Bazelak’s had a perfectly fine season. His only truly “bad” game came against Tennessee. He’s kept Missouri’s offense on time more often than not.
Bazelak hasn’t had much of a deep passing game all season. Saturday was different. He completed one pass of 15+ yards all day. He did so against a North Texas defense which came into the game allowing an average of 9.5 yards per pass attempt, the fifth worst mark in the country.
According to StatBroadcast, Bazelak finished the day with 10 pass attempts at or behind the line of scrimmage, 10 more pass attempts fewer than five yards down the field, six pass attempts between 5-15 yards and he completed zero of his four attempts which traveled at least 15 yards in the air.
The Tigers’ passing game was sluggish. Everything was at or near the line of scrimmage. There was no real threat deep outside of JJ Hester’s long touchdown. Bazelak isn’t a bad college quarterback. He’s more than capable. But the Tigers defense gives them such a small margin for error that the deep passing game is eventually going to have to come around for this team to reach it’s full potential.
5) Harrison Mevis: Still really, really good
You didn’t think I was going to write five takeaways with no mention of Harrison Mevis, did you? Of course not.
Mevis was, once again, perfect on the day. He was 2-for-2 on field goals with makes from 40 and 48 yards away. He was also 6-for-6 on PAT’s. Mevis is now 8-for-8 on field goals and 29-for-29 on PAT’s on the season.
It feels like you don’t even have to watch anymore when Mevis comes into the game. Go to the fridge to grab yourself another beer, take a bathroom break, do whatever you need to do. It’s automatic.
So many teams have zero trust in their kickers. Not the Tigers. Thiccer Kicker is a weapon, and he was in his bag once again against North Texas.