Missouri football: Grading the Tigers after a much-needed win
Missouri’s 48-35 win over North Texas on Saturday was much needed on several fronts.
First, it stopped the bleeding after consecutive losses to Boston College and Tennessee. But the biggest things were the play of running back Tyler Badie and the Tigers’ defense.
Badie hadn’t had a 100-yard rushing game since Week 1 until he changed that by rushing for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Mean Green.
Badie needed this as a confidence booster, and so did the Mizzou offense. Badie is one of the best running backs in the SEC, and he and the offense had no problem sticking it to the Mean Green. Quarterback Connor Bazelak also had a nice game, with zero turnovers.
The win also gave a confidence boost to the Mizzou defense, whose struggles against the run have been well-documented. While last week it gave up major chunks of real estate on the ground to Tennessee, it pretty much held the Mean Green in check, at least in the 1st half. North Texas running back DeAndre Torrey, who went into the game with almost 600 yards rushing, didn’t have a chance to do much.
The Mean Green didn’t go away quietly, scoring 28 points in the 2nd half. But unlike the 2 previous games, the Mizzou defense created its own opportunities by forcing turnovers and putting pressure on UNT’s quarterback. You could see the defense tackling a little better and having more confidence as the game went along.
But the star of the game was definitely Badie. The UNT defense had no answer for him. This victory had to please head coach Eli Drinkwitz, who wanted to see what his team was made of.
Mizzou came out looking refreshed and revitalized. Its defense made plays at times, and Badie got back on track.
Missouri fans have to be encouraged to know that this team hasn’t given up and will continue to fight the rest of the way. Yes, it was North Texas, a lesser opponent that is struggling. Still, this team could have come out of the Tennessee game unmotivated and unexcited about playing a team like this, and it didn’t.
Maybe Drinkwitz making changes on his defensive staff made a difference to these players. It sure looked like it did.
Players played with more confidence and a little pep in their step because, for them, it was a new beginning also.
Now the question is, can this performance be transferred to the Tigers’ game against Texas A&M? Beating the Aggies won’t be an easy task. Although A&M has struggled at times on offense, its defense has basically been its bread and butter all season.
The Mizzou defense has yet to play a full 60 minutes. Although it did a fairly decent job of keeping the Mean Green in check, there were moments — especially in the 2nd half — when it reverted back to its bad habits of poor tackling and not being able to close out the game.
Luckily, Missouri was so far ahead that late scores by the Mean Green didn’t make a difference — unless you had a few dollars on this game.
The bottom line is that the Tigers ended their losing streak and played better on both sides of the ball. That hopefully will build their confidence going into next week’s game with the Aggies.