After a tough loss to Tennessee last week, Missouri rebounded strongly on Saturday against New Mexico State. The Tigers earned a 45-14 win over the Aggies, to no one’s surprise.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s non-conference matchup at Faurot Field.
Saturday was full of college football chaos. Texas Christian nearly lost, Michigan came close and perennial SEC doormat Vanderbilt scored his second straight conference win over Florida.
There was none of that at Memorial Stadium. The Tigers did exactly what they had to do to walk away with a win.
MU head coach Eli Drinkwitz has stressed the Tigers need to stop self-inflicted wounds. Aside from a fumble from Cody Schrader, which Missouri immediately jumped on, there was none of that in the first half.
The first three times, MU got the ball, marched down the field and scored a touchdown against a New Mexico State defense that mismatched at most positions. The Tigers scored their first touchdown from a Brady Cook pass to Luther Burden, who overcame an aggie to get into the end zone.
Then, after a 17-play drive, Cody Schrader dived for a touchdown from a yard to make it 14-0. Finally, Cook hit the tight end from Ryan Hoerstkamp, who got a block and took his first catch 32 yards home.
The Tigers couldn’t rush down the field on their final drive of the half, but a Cody Schrader strike on the first possession of the third quarter gave them four touchdowns.
Back to the form
Last week, Missouri’s defense looked terrible late in the game during a 66-24 loss in Tennessee. Defensive coordinator Blake Baker stressed that the Tigers needed to prove the performance was a fluke and not representative of the unit’s abilities.
MU faced the same problem earlier in the season after a disappointing performance against Kansas State. After that game, the Tigers returned to keep Auburn on the road to 17.
Saturday was a similar effort as Missouri returned to their usual tough defensive play. The Tigers were put to the test a little in the first half, but the Aggies never prevailed.
New Mexico State had some offensive talent, notably quarterback Diaego Pavia, who made several plays with his legs. Still, Missouri held without much trouble, completely shutting out the Aggies in the first.
On the first drive of the second half, NMSU drove downfield and took 10 plays to drive 75 yards. Possession was ended with a 10-yard run by Star Thomas.
Then, right on the next drive, Daylan Carnell got a pick six for the Tigers.
So it wasn’t a shutout. Most games are not.
Still, the Tigers returned to their form, which Missouri fans will applaud as they head into an all-important game against Arkansas next week.
Battle for the bowl ahead
Over the years, it has been questioned whether the “Battle Line” rivalry between Missouri and Arkansas is actually a rivalry. Given the lack of history between the two teams, some say any animosity is manufactured to generate interest.
On Friday the game will have some actual stakes for the Tigers. If they win, they are eligible for a bowl game.
If they don’t, that means the end of the 2022 season barring a lack of suitable SEC teams that could still get the Tigers an offer. Arkansas faced Ole Miss on Saturday.
The Razorbacks are led by sophomore head coach Sam Pittman, who addressed whether he views Missouri as a rival at the SEC Media Days in July.
“Missouri is obviously our crossover game that we’re trying to make into a rivalry,” Pittman said. “We hadn’t won the games enough times to make it a rivalry game. But we’re trying.”
Arkansas won last year’s game in Fayetteville with a final score of 34-17. When the two teams last faced off in Columbia, the Tigers, who lead the all-time series 9-4, won 50-48.
Next week’s Black Friday Tilt is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. and air on CBS.