Last season, the Missouri Tigers struggled to hold off the Missouri State Bears, only managing to win against their FCS foes 72-43.

Yes, it was quite the offensive performance, but star QB Drew Lock should not have had to remain in the game long enough to throw a school-record seven touchdown passes.

On Saturday, the Tigers opened their 2018 campaign, and things went much better in a 51-14 victory over Tennessee-Martin. Lock still threw for four touchdowns, completing 19 of his 25 pass attempts for 289 yards, but he was out of the game early in the third quarter.

Lock is working under a new offensive coordinator this year in Derek Dooley, the former Tennessee head coach and ex-Dallas Cowboys WR coach who has never called plays in his life. Heading into the season, not much was known about Dooley’s offensive scheme, but it’s safe to say it worked Saturday at Faurot Field.

The Tigers didn’t have the balance they’d like, with 394 of their 553 total yards coming through the air, but that’s acceptable for a team which has the deep threats Mizzou has.

Yes, this offense was supposed to slow things down a lot from former OC Josh Heupel’s system, and it did that. However, a team which has Lock and WR Emanuel Hall at its disposal has to let them do what they do best, and Dooley did.

Hall had only four catches, but they went for 171 yards and two scores. Freshman Kam Scott only made one catch, but it went for 70 yards and a touchdown, so the big-play capability is clearly still there under Dooley.

Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the defense allowed only 14 points. No, that’s not what coach Barry Odom probably would have liked against a lesser foe like the Skyhawks, but it was much better than the 43 the Tigers allowed to Missouri State last year.

It was a comfortable victory, and those are never taken for granted. However, it is hard to garner too much about Dooley’s offense from that performance.

What role will RBs Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III take when not every deep pass is going for a touchdown? Both had good games on Saturday, but neither got the workload they likely would during a normal game.

Can Dooley string together drives against tougher defenses? That also remains to be seen, but the fact that the Tigers won the possession battle 33:17-26:43 is also a great sign for Dooley’s unit.

Next week’s test against Wyoming promises to be slightly tougher, but Dooley’s debut in Columbia went well. He got Lock the work he needed, then rested him as the defense and the backups preserved the big lead.

The challenges will certainly get tougher for the Tigers, but there’s reason for optimism in Columbia. The Tigers seem to have the balance needed to have a great offense, and that offense seemingly is translating to more success on defense as well.

Wyoming lost at home 41-19 to Washington State on Saturday evening, so Dooley and the Tigers should be able to take advantage of the Josh Allen-less Cowboys to improve to 2-0 next weekend.

It’ll be interesting to see how Dooley’s offense evolves over the course of the season, but for now, it’s all good in Columbia.