COLUMBIA, Mon. — Freezing temperatures couldn’t cool Missouri on Saturday night.
Brady Cook threw three touchdown passes, Luther Burden and Cody Schrader both scored twice and the Tigers rolled to a 45-14 win over New Mexico State.
The Aggies (4-6) showed sparks on their opening drive, with quarterback Diego Pavia completing his first three passes for 30 yards and running back Jamoni Jones who hit the ground for 9 yards. But the New Mexico State Drive faltered at the Missouri 36 as the Tigers’ defense began to have their way, forcing seven consecutive incompletes before Pavia completed his next pass.
The Tigers’ offense clicked from the first drive for a change. Cook led an 11-play scoring drive that was completed with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Burden. The freshman receiver took the tunnel screen from Cook and overcame a defender as he reached the end zone, putting the Tigers (5-6) 7-0 ahead.
Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said he feels Cook has delivered two of his best performances of the season in his last two games.
“I thought he made some great decisions,” Drinkwitz said. “We were very aggressive early on and tried to throw the ball across the field to take the lead.
“I thought he did a great job of not forcing it, doing his checkdowns and then obviously doing a good job with his feet when he ran, whether it was for a zone read or quarterback -Draw. It was another fine performance. He needs to build on that.”
Cook and the offense were more methodical on the team’s next possession, starting a 17-play, 81-yard drive that ended with Cody Schrader’s 2-yard touchdown streak. Schrader, a senior transfer from Division II Truman State, rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries and caught four passes for 47 yards.
Cook connected with tight end Ryan Hoerstkamp for a 32-yard touchdown with 4:28 in the second quarter and the Tigers led 21-0.
“Things are just starting to click, offense has started clicking and some of these plays are starting to hit,” Cook said. “I think we’ve been pretty consistent attacking in the last few weeks. Obviously there’s still room for improvement and we’ll get to that tomorrow.”
The Aggies scored one goal in the third quarter thanks to a big play from backup quarterback Gavin Frakes. After an injury briefly knocked Pavia out of the game, Frakes found Eric Marsh for 21 yards at number four and two from the Missouri 40-yard line. Pavia returned to the game and two games later he threw a pitch at an option to jam Star Thomas for a 10-yard touchdown run.
Burden scored his second touchdown late in the third quarter, taking a pop pass to a jet sweep by Cook and weaving 14 yards into the end zone to put the Tigers 35-7 ahead. Cook contributed three catches for 35 yards and two points. He also ran three times for 12 yards.
“(Burden’s) has a knack with the ball in his hands to make a few plays,” Drinkwitz said. “I don’t think we blocked them exactly like they should. When his shoulders are going downhill, he’s really difficult to manage.”
Receiver Barrett Banister beat the Tigers with seven catches for 91 yards, both career bests for the senior in his sixth season with Missouri. Cook completed 19 of 27 passes for 251 yards with three touchdowns while leading the Tigers on 71 yards and seven carries.
Bannister has played in 55 games for the Tigers, and Drinkwitz said he left his mark as an unsung hero.
“Barrett was a really altruistic player for us,” said Drinkwitz. “[He]watches other guys go out and have a lot of plays drafted for them and he just shows up and makes big catches on third downs and gets a lot of things right.”
The Missouri defense even got caught up in scoring action when second defender Daylan Carnell intercepted a pass from Pavia and returned him 40 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 42-7.
A fumble by Tigers freshman running back Tavorus Jones set up a short field for New Mexico State in the fourth, and the Aggies capitalized. Frakes led a 44-yard scoring drive that he finished with a 13-yard touchdown run. Frakes completed 2 of 4 passes for 39 yards and also rushed for 22 yards for relief. Pavia was 6-of-17 passes for 76 yards and led his team with 50 yards rushing on nine carries.
The Tigers kept their bowl hopes alive with the win. There are scenarios where the Tigers can secure a bowl bid with five wins, but a win over Arkansas in their regular-season finals would ensure a postseason appearance.
VIEW IN THE FUTURE
Tigers fans perhaps caught a glimpse of the 2023 season late in the competition when announced freshman quarterback Sam Horn saw his first action with the Tigers. Horn’s first pass went to Bannister for 29 yards, but a penalty against Missouri ended the game. Horn officially finished without a finish on two tries and a 10-yard rush in his only drive.
Hoerstkamp’s touchdown catch was the first goal and reception by the redshirt newcomer. Jones had his first collegiate catch for a 32-yard gain. Drinkwitz said he learned a lot from how some of his young players got their first significant action of the season.
“I think it’s a real opportunity for them to evolve and see what it’s like to play in a college football environment, how fast the game moves, and manage their nerves,” Drinkwitz said. “I thought some of these guys handled it really well, I thought some of them didn’t, to be honest.”
THE TAKE AWAY
Missouri proved too much speed, strength and size for New Mexico State, amassing 443 offensive yards while holding the Aggies to just 257 total yards.
However, it wasn’t a perfect night for the Tigers, especially on their third down defense that allowed eight conversions from 16 tries.
“I thought they played well,” said Drinkwitz. “I didn’t think it was as clean as we wanted. I’m not sure we had a three-and-out all night. All I know is that just wearing the headsets we weren’t happy with some things we let out. I didn’t think our zone coverage was very good tonight.
“There’s a lot of things that need to be cleaned up before Friday, I know that.”
Missouri: The Tigers host Arkansas in the Battle Line Rivalry game next Friday.
State of New Mexico: The Aggies are heading to Liberty next Saturday for their season finale.