How Mizzou football survived Middle Tennessee upset scare
The Tigers survived a fright under the lights.
Mizzou football defeated Middle Tennessee State 23-19 on Saturday night in Columbia, giving the Tigers their first 2-0 start to a season since 2018.
It was seldom comfortable, as reflected in the postgame grade card. It often wasn’t all-too-pleasant viewing. But it was a win.
Here are three takeaways from the Tigers’ home victory:
Offense, QB underwhelming
Nathaniel Peat could have skipped home.
After sneaking out of the backfield to the right, the Missouri tailback got the ball from Brady Cook on a wheel route for a 49-yard touchdown. There wasn’t a defender in the area code.
On the drive before, Cook sent a shot over the middle 44 yards to star wideout Luther Burden III to set up an instant red-zone possession. A few plays later, he high-pointed Theo Wease Jr. to give the Tigers the lead for good.
That was about the extent of the positives on offense.
Cook looked for Burden over the middle on the third play of the game. The receiver had a step, and Cook had the time — but the ball was underthrown.
Try again. On the very next drive, Cook had Burden wide open again. That one, albeit under pressure, was an overthrow.
It was an uninspiring half from Cook, who went 7-of-10 passing in the first half for 67 yards.
Missouri’s starting QB finished the night 14-of-19 for 204 yards and two touchdowns to help Missouri inch over the finish line.
But he also contributed to their near disaster, as he was flattened midway through the fourth quarter as Sam Brumfield broke through the line. The ball came out of the QB’s hands and trundled out of the end zone for a safety. Suddenly the game was in jeopardy, but the Tigers survived.
Two important stops
Fourth down. Three minutes, 30 seconds to go. MTSU lurking and looking for an upset.
No good, as safety Joseph Charleston hurried the Middle Tennessee QB into a mistake.
Game, set, match.
When the Tigers needed their defense most, they came up clutch. It happened on both ends of the half in the game-saving effort.
Middle Tennessee running back Frank Peasant looked free at the beginning of the second half. He had time, he had space. On the first drive of the second half, MTSU nearly had a shocking lead.
But Missouri cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine got in his way, making a vital open-field tackle to prevent a score.
Then, Darius Robinson stuffed Peasant; Daylan Carnell sacked Nicholas Vattiato; Ty’Ron Hopper hunted the QB down and forced him to chuck it away.
Field goal. Game tied. And eventually, as the offense briefly woke up and responded with the go-ahead score, game over.
Missouri’s defense had a positive night when there weren’t many, holding MTSU to 285 total yards.
Cause for concern on O-Line
Missouri’s most promising drive of the first half didn’t leave the ground, as Peat took the Tigers from the Mizzou 45 to the MTSU 14 with five straight carries.
Then some old woes resurfaced.
Right guard Cam’Ron Johnson was called for holding. Connor Tollison immediately doubled the damage with a holding penalty. Suddenly, a red-zone trip became a long field-goal attempt.
That sounds quite a lot like last season.
You know what else does?
A horizontal QB.
Middle Tennessee got to Cook three times in the first half alone. The Blue Raiders had seven tackles for loss over the course of the game. There also was the forced fumble and safety.
With Kansas State coming, there’s plenty cause for concern.
The Star has partnered with the Columbia Daily Tribune for coverage of Missouri Tigers athletics.
This story was originally published September 9, 2023, 9:32 PM.
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