The Missouri Tigers added to their flawless record against FCS opponents by notching the mark to 14 consecutive wins after a 38-18 victory over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The first quarter was fast pace and Mizzou led 21-7 after the first stanza, but the game slowed down then on and the Tigers offense was sluggish at times until a late surge.
"Offensively, we had trouble converting on third downs. On defense, we had trouble getting off the field," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. "A combination of both, that's not very good. We had to battle back and forth, and certainly hopeful we can learn and become a better football team"
Mizzou's biggest nuance may have been on defense and in the trenches handling the Jackrabbits senior running back Zach Zenner. The South Dakota State standout tailback can find hole and has some speed as well as maneuvers effectively in open space. Zenner finished the game with 103 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. The Jackrabbits star may be a sleeper to play on Sundays next year.
At a crucial mark early in the third quarter, Missouri senior tailback Marcus Murphy returned a kick off for 100 yards to put the Tigers up 28-18. It was the longest kick off return for Mizzou since 1976 against Nebraska. Murphy compiled 204 all-purpose yards to lead the day and is one of the most explosive playmakers on special teams in the nation.
Mizzou was also aided by the early game injury of South Dakota State starting quarterback, Austin Sumner, who was replaced by Zach Lujan (21-28 passes completed for 239 yards and one interception).
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk was decent, but not extraordinary in the victory. The sophomore Mauk can scramble good with the ball and push the offense down field with long throws. The two-headed rushing attack of the Murphy and junior Russell Hansbrough carried the Tigers to the 1-0 record as they combined for 189 run yards (135 by Hansbrough with a touchdown). Senior receiver Darius White also had 83 receiving yards and two touchdowns on two receptions.
"I think he (Mauk) was right on line out there with some protection issues that he had," said Pinkel. "Like I said, there's a lot of things to look at as a quarterback when he's throwing and we'll go back and analyze that."
The defense may have been the most disappointing aspect for the Tigers as they allowed 365 total yards while only garnering 393 of their own and lacked penetration early on defending the run. Mizzou did tally three sacks and two interceptions though to extend their streak of forcing turnovers to 45 straight games.
Missouri travels to Toledo for week two of the season. Pinkel is a former coach at Toledo and the Glass Bowl is notorious for upsets.
"They're a really good team (Toledo). In personnel, they're a really good team," Pinkel said. "They have a history of big wins in that stadium, upset wins. I know, I've been a part of them too. But again, it's going to be about us. There are only two way you get better - you practice better and you learn how to prepare better."