5 biggest takeaways: Mizzou secondary needs work


Are you glass half full or glass half empty?

Your view of Saturday’s 38-18 win against South Dakota State probably depends on it.

The Tigers controlled the game throughout, but the Jackrabbits stayed within striking distance into the fourth quarter.

Missouri didn’t do anything, or at least many things, glaringly bad. There’s plenty to nitpick from the performance as well.

Here are five takeaways.

SECONDARY STRUGGLES IN COVERAGE: Jake Wieneke, a 6-foot-4 and 205-pound freshman, exposed Missouri in coverage. He found open seams, shielded defenders with his 6-foot-4 body and snagged some well-placed throws to average 17.8 yards on six receptions.

South Dakota State backup quarterback Zach Lujan was more accurate and threw for more yards than Maty Mauk. The Jackrabbits completed four passes of at least 25 yards.

The group was responsible for forcing all three turnovers, including safety Ian Simon’s strip of Jason Schneider.

Aarion Penton, who made one of those interceptions, said after the game that the team didn’t prepare for Lujan, a junior college transfer. That’s no knock on Missouri, as the team probably spent more time focusing inward than it did scouting South Dakota State backups, as it should’ve. But Lujan, after an initial drive or two of running around like a beheaded chicken, started placing some pretty back-shoulder throws. (Austin Sumner threw on a rope and with a different ball placement, Missouri said after the game.)

The Jackrabbits picked on Penton some during the middle portion of the contest, including five consecutive third-quarter completions to Penton’s man in the third quarter. The fifth was a two-point conversion that cut Missouri’s lead to 21-18, but Penton responded to intercept a pass soon after.

“In the first half, they (weren’t) really trying to go my way and they did put me to sleep with the run game,” Penton said, according to Rivals.com. “But a good corner finally realizes that he’s getting picked on and he has to focus up, snap out of it and eventually make a play.”

SILENT STAR: Marcus Murphy can change the game on any given play. Maty Mauk could make the coaching staff facepalm once or twice per game, mixing in Ben Franklin’s failed inventions with occasional Mozart. The receivers mostly were boom or bust Saturday.

Russell Hansbrough? Granted, his 10-yard touchdown belonged on a highlight reel with Murphy’s kickoff return and some of Todd Gurley’s runs against Clemson. He broke two tackles in the backfield and soared into the end zone. But mostly he gives the Tigers’ sometimes-finicky reliable consistency.

Hansbrough, if you’re keeping track, had five runs of at least 10 yards. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry on a career-high 20 rushes. If he stays healthy, he could be the MVP of this offense.

MATY BEING MATY: Mauk is an SEC quarterback, and a Missouri quarterback at that. Combined with his supreme confidence and penchant for improvising, he’s going to draw lots of attention.

As mentioned previously, he did have the inevitable baffling moment against the Jacks. Spun 180 degrees and in the clutches of a defender, Mauk chicken-winged the ball toward the sideline, barely getting it out of bounds. Only it went backward due to his orientation, counting as a fumble and a seven-yard loss.

On his touchdown pass to Bud Sasser, though, Mauk held the ball in the pocket for about five seconds, sliding and grappling for space before unloading.

His mistake didn’t amount to much of a consequence Saturday, while his “make something happen” play resulted in a touchdown. That won’t always be the case, but the hope for Missouri is that he continues to learn when to create and when to take a conservative result.

KICKING WOES: Andrew Baggett entered the season a respectable 32-of-45 for his career. But he started to show signs of inconsistency last season, which continued during fall camp. On Saturday, he missed what should be a near-automatic 34-yard attempt.

“A field goal he’s very capable of making,” coach Gary Pinkel said, according to the Columbia Tribune. “We had a good drive to get there. (There’s) nothing worse than being in that zone and not coming away with any points.”

Pinkel also had Baggett attempt a 55-yard field goal, which fell well short of the uprights, and a 44-yard field goal, which he drilled.

The team needs Baggett to make every kick inside of 35 yards, assuming a good snap, a good hold and no real penetration by the opposing special teams players. Will it start to affect game strategy if Pinkel loses confidence in Baggett?

RACE TO THE QB: Most of the talk about Missouri’s defense in the offseason centered around replacing defensive ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam.

Can Markus Golden and Shane Ray, standout backups, equal their production?

Golden played a strong game against an outmatched South Dakota State offensive line Saturday, finishing with 10 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Ray added a sack as well and, even more importantly, played well against the run.

The two combined for 2.5 sacks, putting them on pace for 30 this season.

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  • Pass coverage was better than I expected, last year the secondary was always out of position and making bad decisions. But much improvement is needed because conference foes will pick them to pieces. I didn’t see the year to year improvement in Mauk. I remain hopeful. I think Bagget’s issues are in his head and something needs done there. The left side of the o-line struggled. The d-line showed strength.

    • last year Baggets kicking technique was a perfect match for the results. This year his technique is better but here are the problems that still need work: placement of the supporting foot needs to allow the kicking foot to travel thru the ball in a straight line till the ball is gone. angle of approach needs to change and be appropriate for the direction of the ball travel (you cant kick around the corner and you seriously cant kick accurately around the corner. If a kicker likes follow thru, fine, but the follow thru has to obey line of the kick. rushing the hold will always result in deflections and short kicks. I could go on. (if you heard the tv guy talking about the seams on the ball?..well thats bs good kicking technique is totally unaffected by the seams on the football.

  • Apparently Toledo has its pass-catch people humming without a hitch. Mizzou will have to (1) pressure, hurry, hit, and sack the QB, and (2) communicate and not be out of position among the DBs. The Tigers had better practice well this week, because they’ll be up against a very dangerous team and a loud, hostile crowd next Saturday. This game could well tell us where Mizzou’s season goes this time around.