Eli Drinkwitz opened his Missouri coaching career with a tough contest in Alabama. While the Tigers fell 38-19, there is plenty to build on after the loss.
No first-year SEC coach wants to begin their tenure in the conference with a game against Alabama. Especially after the strange and unprecedented offseason that everyone endured this summer.
All things considered, however, Missouri fared a lot better than some may have expected. No one came into this game thinking Missouri would win, but some might change their outlook on the Tigers moving forward.
Missouri shied away from it because they were losing, but their run game flashed potential all night. Larry Rountree III led the team with 14 carries and 47 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. The offensive line was horrendous all night, but Rountree continued to make defenders miss. If he can continue to run the ball like that, the entire offense will function better.
Jalen Knox also had himself a solid night. He caught all five of his targets for 63 yards. A couple of those catches came on quick throws and screens and he showed his playmaking ability. Damon Hazelton and Keke Chism will most likely play better moving on, which will only open up the field for Knox even more. Expect him to be a big-play machine in future games.
Speaking of big-play machines, Tyler Badie continues to find ways to impact every game he plays in. He couldn’t get anything going on the few touches he got from the backfield, but as soon as he caught a pass he took it 54 yards to the house. The weapons on the Missouri offense look dangerous, they just need the offensive line to improve in essentially every possible way.
The secondary looked solid, but not deep. Before Jarvis Ware went down with an apparent knee injury, they looked great. True freshman Ennis Rakestraw was locking down his side of the field, Ware broke up a pass, and Joshua Bledsoe chased down a deep ball to deny the Tide of a touchdown.
Once Ware went down, things changed. Ishmael Burdine came into the game and Alabama proceeded to attack his matchup.
Ware’s injury isn’t expected to be serious, and the Tigers will need him if they want their secondary to truly play at its highest level.
Things to work on:
As mentioned, the offensive line was completely overwhelmed. Neither Shawn Robinson or Connor Bazelak had any time to throw. Outside of Rountree, any attempted runner was brought down immediately. The line lacks experience and it shows. The bright side, however, is that Alabama’s defensive front will probably cause problems for everyone.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line got absolutely no pressure on Mac Jones. He had all day to throw, and when his targets are Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle… good luck. The Tigers did have some injuries on the line, but that doesn’t change that they lack a true pass rusher on the edge. Kobie Whiteside is great in the middle, but he’s going to need help against huge SEC linemen.
Lastly, the run defense could’ve been better. When the Tide went in-between the tackles, Mizzou did a decent enough job stopping the run. But as soon as Najee Harris got the edge on outside runs, he made plenty of defenders miss tackles. Tyree Gillespie laid a couple of big hits on Harris, but ultimately he had his way with 98 yards and three scores on the night.
The Silver Lining:
The positives really did outweigh the negatives. Missouri proved to be a tougher opponent than most expected. After this kind of offseason, any team in Mizzou’s position will most likely make the most mistakes in week one, and constantly improve from there.
Both Robinson and Bazelak looked solid. Robinson showed some panic throughout the game but eventually settled in. No matter who is running the offense, both seem to be quality passers if given time in the pocket.
Finally, shout out to true freshman Harrison Mevis. He wasn’t tasked with any tough kicks last night, but all of his kicks looked great.
Mizzou fans, you should be excited about what Drinkwitz is cooking up in Como.