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Mizzou Football: Five thoughts from Missouri's 35-10 win over South Dakota




 

The Missouri Tigers opened their 2023 season with a 35-10 win over FCS South Dakota in a game where Missouri controlled from start to finish. While the scoreboard doesn't indicate complete domination like some were expecting, the game was never in doubt and the offense very clearly played not to lose in the second half, handing off the ball to their running backs for a majority of the second half.


It's always positive to start the season off with a win, and Mizzou fans should be appreciative of the fact that the Tigers took care of business Thursday night, because we've seen plenty of times where these games didn't go the way they were supposed to.


That said, there was plenty to be both positive and negative about from Thursday night. Let's break it down with five thoughts from Missouri's week one victory over the Yotes.


Five thoughts on Missouri's 35-10 win over South Dakota


The defense is still elite

Sure, it was only an FCS opponent, but Missouri's defense absolutely dominated throughout the game, particularly at the line of scrimmage. South Dakota only mustered 38 rushing yards on 35 carries and they looked helpless trying to penetrate Missouri's defensive line. Missouri held the Yotes to just 2/13 on third down and just 194 yards of total offense.



We knew that Missouri returned a lot of production on their defense, but there was some concern about the defensive line after how much they lost from last season with the departures of Isaiah McGuire and D.J. Coleman. Well, defensive end Johnny Walker seemed to ease a lot of concerns with an explosive performance along with defensive tackle Kristian Williams and senior leader Darius Robinson. The coaches talked up Walker all offseason and it seems warranted. He looks primed for an All-Conference type of season.


Missouri also received some contribution from true freshman safety Marvin Burks who recorded a sack and was flying all over the field. The amount of talent and depth available across the board for defensive coordinator Blake Baker to incorporate into his defense is absurd.


There shouldn't be much concern that the defense can't replicate it's performance from last year. In fact, they have the potential to be even better.


The offensive line looks much improved

Besides quarterback, offensive line was the position that Missouri struggled the most at last season. They got pushed around in the run game and weren't much better in pass protection. Thursday night looked like a completely different unit.


The offensive line opened up massive holes all night for the running game and running back Cody Schraeder had a Mizzou career-high 138 rushing yards with an average of 7.7 yards per carry.


As far as holding up against the pass-rush, the offensive line looked solid only allowing 1 sack on 66 total plays. The only downside to Missouri's offensive line performance was the penalties. Too many holding penalties held the offense back a couple times and even wiped an early touchdown off the board. Hopefully, those are just early-season mistakes that will get ironed out as the season progresses.



Luther Burden looks the part

Sophomore receiver Luther Burden has high expectations attached to him this year. Last season we saw glimpses and we saw flashes of what Burden could be for the Missouri offense, but he was far from a complete receiver.


Most of his involvement in the offense was gadget plays and manufactured touches to get him the ball in space and utilizing his yards after the catch ability.


While Missouri still set Burden up with plays behind the line of scrimmage against South Dakota, Burden made multiple impressive catches down the field and showed progress he's made as a route runner and a receiver with 7 catches for 96 yards..


Burden's YAC ability will always be a big part of his game, but he looks to be a much bigger contributor this year and a potentially dominant slot receiver, which the Tigers will need him to be after the departure of Dominic Lovett.


Brady Cook is the starting quarterback

The highly-anticipated quarterback battle between Brady Cook and Sam Horn that head coach Eli Drinkwitz has stated he was going to take into the regular season, didn't seem to be all that much of a battle.


It had seemed like Cook was going to be the starter following the conclusion of fall camp, but Drinkwitz led everyone to believe that play on the field would prove who deserves to start. While you could make a case that's what happened, many feel like Horn didn't really get a fair shot to show why he deserves the spot.


Personally, I would agree with that, the manner in which the coaches were calling the plays for Sam Horn in the second half was different from the manner in which they were calling plays for Brady Cook in the first half. Cook had 21 pass attempts to Horn's 5 and Missouri pretty much played not to lose in the second half.


At this point, it seems like Drinkwitz has set up for Cook to be the starter and he probably had already decided that well before Missouri's first game. His postgame comments about who he thought was leading the battle seemed to indicate such.


Whether fans are happy about it or not, Cook appears to be the starter for 2023. While many of us are willing to welcome another quarterback that's better than Cook was last year, I don't think it's worth the time and energy to complain every game about which quarterback is starting. I'm far from a Cook advocate and I think the ceiling isn't super high with him, but let's not rule out the possibility he's improved over the offseason. He did lead the offense to 28 points in the first half after all.



There's just no sense in doing this song and dance every week. If Cook is the starter, then he's the starter and we're just going to have to accept that. We'll just have to see if Drinkwitz is right.


The offense might just be the same

Missouri's offense needs to improve this year in order for this season to be a step in the right direction. Missouri's defense simply did not deserve the offense it was playing for last year and the offense was frustrating to watch.


If the offense can simply have a pulse this year, then you have to feel good about Missouri's chances to win 8 games this season. However, I'm not sure we saw an offense that was definitively better than last year on Thursday night.


Sure, the offense looked decent in the first half, scoring 28 points. However, they stalled out for most of the second half, a common theme from last year. Though, that's what you risk when you carry a starting quarterback battle into the regular season. There's not a lot of consistency or continuity.


Typically, when you're going up against an FCS opponent, you should be dismantling them. Missouri didn't quite do that. There were a few big plays here and there, but not very many bombs coming from the passing game which is something many are hoping to see. If they aren't happening against an FCS opponent, it makes you question if they're capable of doing so.


Many have already tried with the excuse that they didn't want to open up the playbook against South Dakota, but you can still run vanilla concepts that result in big plays because of the sheer talent difference between Missouri and South Dakota. Other teams are doing it, so why aren't you?


Secondly, many are acting as if there's this super deep playbook that Missouri didn't want to reveal, and while I'm sure they didn't show everything they had, you can't say that as matter of fact given this is the offense we saw for the past two years under Drinkwitz. Maybe, this is just what their offense is.


It just looked like a typical offense from years past. A lot of underneath plays that take time to develop and long, methodical drives. It's reasonable to expect that offensive coordinator Kirby Moore will run an offense that is a blend of both his and Drinkwitz's philosophies, but people want to see elements from the guy who led Fresno State to an Mountain West championship with a top-25 passing offense and got a quarterback drafted to the NFL.


It's only week one, so it's not time to panic or anything, but the offense was a little underwhelming considering the optimism from fans following the offseason additions they made and the hope that the offense could be at least slightly above average this year. Maybe they will be, but the idea that this offense might just be the same one from last year is a possibility that fans should prepare themselves for.


Do you believe Missouri is a better team in 2023 than they were in 2022?

  • Yes

  • NO



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