The Missouri Tigers gave us a lot to ponder over in their opening game win as they took care South Dakota State 38-18 on Saturday in Columbia.
Although coming out on top, Missouri didn’t exactly do so in the sleek style many were expecting, playing a team that they should have handled easily. While South Dakota State is a formidable FCS team, its program just isn’t on par with Missouri in any respect.
Still, while the Jacks gave Mizzou a scare, I think Mizzou is in good shape going forward. As with any college football team, and especially one with so much youth scattered through out, it’s going to take a little time to get its barrings straight.
So what can we take away from this game? Here four things to note as we watch this Tigers season unfold after the season opener win.
Mizzou’s Coaching has to be better.
The Tigers should have walked all over this team. So why did this game remain close until the fourth quarter? One reason was that the coaching staff did not do a good enough job at preparing for this game.
There are couple of things to note. First of all, the Tigers looked out of touch on their game plan, specifically on the offensive side of the ball.
With all of the inexperience in the receiving core– and it showed it at times– Missouri came out much too pass-happy. Establishing a running game with these talented backs and strong offensive line should be the first priority.
The Tigers looked as though they didn’t have any kind of plan, as if they were drawing plays out of a hat, haphazardly with no rhyme or reason. Mizzou must become more structured moving forward.
Offensive Coordinator Josh Henson is owed a lot of credit for the 2013 team’s success. But he must be better than he was on Saturday.
Decision making must be better too. Head coach Gary Pinkel showed flashes of old at times during this game, not managing the game properly.
They passed when they should have run, ran when they should have passed; they went for it on fourth down when they should have attempted a field goal; they attempted a field goal when they should have punted. It was frustrating to watch at times.
One gets a feeling they were using the opportunity of playing an FCS team to experiment, but the cushion on the scoreboard was not enough for my taste.
The team must show more discipline
Speaking of game preparation, Pinkel must instill better discipline in the team, and the players must respond. That was evidenced when the Jackrabbits scored on their first play from scrimmage a 75-yard run on what started out as a broken play.
Missouri buckled down as the game moved forward. But it had a few more brain lapses throughout the game, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The team is young, particularly in the secondary. These young corners and safeties are going to have to grow up a little sooner. Corner back Aarion Penton was targeted in Saturday’s game, as he will likely be in future contests given his lack of experience and size.
He was a liability several times in this game, letting route runners gun past him and beat him to the ball. But he did show some skill at times, making 8 tackles and an interception in the end zone.
This sort of coming of age must be more omnipresent throughout the defense if it is to survive the Southeastern Conference.
Maty Mauk showed flashes of brilliance
The first-year starter already has an impressive wrap sheet. But he showed everyone that he was more than capable to captain this ship. He was 13 of 21 for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win. He was hot and cold through this one, most of the cold due to decision making; understandable considering his age.
Where he was off was holding the ball too long and getting chased around and he threw a couple of payers up when he should have taken sacks. But where he was on, he was really on.
He threw a bomb for a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage for a touchdown and threw two more like it. He was accurate and he threw vertically, a welcomed sight considering the former quarterback James Franklin’s tendency to only throw short quick passes.
Mauk was pretty good for the most part and he didn’t turn the ball over. Mostly, I think he received a boost to his confidence. I think Tiger fans should have a lot of faith in him as this season marches on.
The running game is as good as it gets.
If there’s one thing to be extremely confident in, it’s the Tigers running game. The duo of Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough may be the most exciting aspect of this squad.
Hansbrough had a wonderfully awesome run for a touchdown after breaking three tackles, reversing field then vaulting into the end zone near the sideline for a 10-yard score. Murphy had some big first down runs and he returned a kickoff for a touchdown thanks to some picture perfect running behind blocking and use of his impeccable vision.
I think its safe to say, the running game is in tip-top shape.
So, with these things in mind, hopefully Missouri will take the opportunity to learn from some of the flaws in this game. The next one won’t quite be as easy. The team travels to Pinkel’s former team, Toledo, as he faces them for the first time on their turf. The Rockets like to pass. Missouri must come better prepared for that game.
Still, I think there’s plenty of reason for faith in this team.