Missouri and Middle Tennessee State played a close one on Saturday, but the Tigers ultimately won 23-19 to improve to 2-0 on the season.

A week after a 35-10 victory over FCS South Dakota, the Tigers had their hands full with the Blue Raiders, with teams tied at 10 nearly 6-and-a-half minutes into the 3rd quarter. But Brady Cook led a pair of touchdown drives on successive possessions to open up a 23-10 lead for Mizzou, which it ultimately preserved.

Things don’t get much easier for the Tigers in Week 3 as No. 15 Kansas State pays a visit to Faurot Field.

Player of the Week: Wide receiver Luther Burden

Luther Burden didn’t find the end zone for the Tigers in this one, but he torched the Blue Raiders’ secondary for 8 receptions and 117 yards. It came a week after a 7-catch, 97-yard, 1-touchdown performance against South Dakota. The performance of the former 5-star recruit will be under the microscope during his 2nd year in Columbia, and so far, over the first 2 games, it’s been as good as expected.

Newcomer of the Week: Defensive lineman Nyles Gaddy

Nyles Gaddy, a former Tennessee recruit who played for Deion Sanders at Jackson State last season after 2 years in Knoxville, announced his return to the SEC in a big way on Saturday, totaling 2 sacks. The edge position was a major area of need for the Tigers in the offseason, and Gaddy was brought in to help solve that part of the equation. A pair of sacks is a nice day at the office.

Biggest surprise: Mizzou offensive line yielding 4 sacks

Brady Cook was taken to the ground 4 times by the MTSU defense, with Drew Francis credited with 2 of those sacks and Sam Brumfield and Quindarius Dunnigan being given 1 a piece. That’s fairly notable considering K-State has totaled 4 sacks in each of its first 2 games. Hopefully, this isn’t a trend that becomes the norm for the Tigers in 2023.

Biggest concern: Another slow start by the Tigers

Mizzou simply needs to assert itself from the opening whistle.

With respect to Middle Tennessee State, games like this are ones the Tigers need to be winning relatively easily if they’re to take the next step forward. After punting on their first 2 possessions, they eventually got on the board with a field goal, then punted again before Cook drove them down the field for a touchdown. But they were bailed out on that drive by an MTSU illegal substitution following an incomplete Cook pass on 3rd and 8 from the Blue Raiders’ 36 — otherwise, Harrison Mevis would have been left with a 53-yard field goal attempt.

Needless to say, K-State’s offense won’t be spinning its wheels the way MTSU’s was for much of the 1st half.

Developing trend: 71 rushing yards allowed

The Tigers’ defense held the Blue Raiders’ rushing attack in check, holding them to 71 yards on 29 carries (2.4 yards per attempt). However, take away Frank Peasant’s 25-yarder and a 17-yard run by quarterback Nicholas Vattiato, and that becomes 29 yards on 27 attempts.

Key stat: 12 tackles for a loss

After just 5 TFLs against South Dakota, the Tigers more than doubled up in that department against the Blue Raiders. Four of those were sacks: along with Nyles Gaddy’s pair, Daylan Carnell and Sidney Williams each had 1.

The run defense will get a stiff test against the Wildcats, who have run for 375 yards over their first 2 contests. Meanwhile, quarterback Will Howard was sacked just once against Troy after K-State yielded 0 in Week 1 against SEMO.

First impression about Week 3: Kansas State up next

Kansas State makes the trek down I-70 to Columbia to face Mizzou on Saturday. The Wildcats have blazed through the first 2 games of their schedule, pitching a shutout in their blowout win over SEMO before a 42-13 victory over Troy. Howard has made his way up the K-State record books during his time in Manhattan, while Treshaun Ward and DJ Giddens provide a 1-2 punch in the running game and will be a challenge for a Mizzou run defense that has been stout in the early going.

A loss won’t spell disaster for the Tigers, but a more competitive showing than the 40-12 defeat they absorbed in the Little Apple last year could provide a shot of confidence for a team looking to improve their fortunes from recent seasons.