Missouri football: 3 takeaways from the Tigers' 34-17 win over Abilene Christian
Missouri was able to bounce back from last week’s tough loss to Kansas State with a 34-17 home win over Abilene Christian on Saturday.
This was an opportunity for the Tigers to tweak some things and get back on the right track after a rough second week of action. And they did that in a variety of ways, though it was obvious there is still much work to be done, especially ahead of SEC play.
Here are 3 takeaways from the victory that improved Missouri to 2-1:
1. Luther Burden will help in a variety of ways
This offense and several players within it have flashed at times. But they have also faltered, which showed in a huge way in the complete collapse against Kansas State. The play-calling looked better on Saturday as the Tigers re-introduced trick plays, something that didn’t show up against the Wildcats but worked so well in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.
Five-star wide receiver Luther Burden, who has already made a huge impact as a freshman, was used in the Wildcat formation in the opener against Louisiana Tech, and we saw more of that with some success on Saturday. At one point, Burden was in the Wildcat on back-to-back plays.
Burden finished with 6 receptions for 58 yards. Wide receiver Dominic Lovett also continued to be a force, reeling in 7 receptions for 132 yards with 2 touchdowns. Between the versatility of Burden, Lovett’s effectiveness and the efforts of running backs like Nathaniel Peat, there are things to be optimistic about with this offense.
2. Brady Cook shows some improvement
Cook still isn’t perfect, but he has made strides — even if this was against an FCS opponent. There were some moments in the first half when Cook would have been better served keeping the ball and running it himself, but he instead chose to hand it off. He did keep the ball on the zone-read on the drive in the last 2 minutes of the third quarter.
He looked better reading the defense and taking what it gave him as the game progressed, especially as the second half marched on. This is a quarterback who still has some strides to make, as younger signal-callers almost always do. But he took a step forward on Saturday.
Cook finished 21-of-30 passing for 292 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He was also the team’s second-leading rusher with 42 yards on 6 carries, using his legs to evade pressure and make plays on his own. If Cook can continue on this trajectory, he can erase some of the questions surrounding him and continue developing toward being a legitimate SEC quarterback to contend with.
3. Defense continues to show positive signs
The Mizzou defense was listed here as an “in between” early in the week when looking into what’s going right, what’s going wrong and what’s still kind of in the middle. But the unit showed progress on Saturday. The Tigers’ tackling was suspect at times but got better as the game continued. Linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper led the way on that front, finishing with 5 total tackles, 4 of which were solo.
Defensive back Ennis Rakestraw Jr. was also among the bright spots for the defense, with an interception at around the 12-minute mark of the third quarter in which he showed solid effort going inside the shoulder of the ACU receiver. Mizzou capitalized on the turnover, getting its first touchdown since the 1st quarter as Cook hit Peat in the flat for a score after wide receiver Barrett Banister recorded his 150th career reception.
Rakestraw finished with 3 total tackles, all of which were solo. Looking at this unit, there are still some explosive plays being given up from time to time. That’s something that also showed in the loss to Kansas State, though its collective performance was impressive in that game considering it was on the field so often because of the lacking offense. But the defense does still need to be cleaned up moving forward.