Mizzou football: West Virginia win was impressive, but Tigers can be even better
After losing at Wyoming in Week 1, the Missouri Tigers bounced back in a big way Saturday afternoon against West Virginia.
The Mountaineers didn’t score until the 4th quarter in Mizzou’s 38-7 victory and the Tigers seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Was it as simple as not playing at altitude, or were there other factors at work in the Tigers’ big-time rebound win?
Coaching with his back against the wall, Barry Odom once again got the most out of his team, but moving forward, there are definitely areas where the Tigers can improve. Let’s take a look at 3 areas where Mizzou impressed and 3 areas where they can be even better in the coming weeks.
Good thing No. 1: Kelly Bryant’s escapability
Kelly Bryant took much better care of the ball this week, and that ball security was reflected on the scoreboard. Yes, he only threw for 150 yards, but he had 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
He also showcased an ability to keep plays alive and make huge downfield throws when needed. On one drive in the 2nd quarter, he found TEs Daniel Parker Jr. and Albert Okwuegbunam for big plays.
Here’s a throw to Parker for a first down:
Nice play by Kelly Bryant… Escapes the sack and hits his receiver for the first down! pic.twitter.com/3IZ5bSYXJT
— #BOOMIN (@ftbeard_17) September 7, 2019
And here’s the ensuing touchdown pass to Albert O:
Kelly Bryant side steps the pass rusher & finds Albert Okwuegbunam for the TD. pic.twitter.com/c33OhvjsA8
— Joe (@JDec89) September 7, 2019
Those are the kinds of plays where Bryant is at his most dangerous. Mizzou fans will hope to see a lot more of that moving forward.
Good thing No. 2: Winning the turnover battle
In the opener, the Tigers lost 2 fumbles and threw an interception, losing the turnover battle 3-0 to the Cowboys. In Saturday’s home opener, that was flipped on its head, as Mizzou snagged 3 picks and didn’t cough up the ball at all.
LB Nick Bolton had a great game, snagging 2 of those interceptions, including 1 that he returned for a touchdown. Here are the highlights of his big day:
Watch: Nick Bolton had a huge day for #Mizzou.
He ended the day with two tackles for loss and two interceptions, one of which turned into a pick six. pic.twitter.com/aPLaYniwCa
— Nathalie Jones (@NathalieJonesTV) September 7, 2019
Football is a simple game. More often than not, if you take the ball away from your opponent and don’t give it away, you’re going to be in a position to win. If the Tigers can continue to get opportune turnovers, they should continue to put together solid performances.
Good thing No. 3: Better rushing attack
After getting outrushed 297-114 vs. Wyoming, the Tigers got going on the ground against the Mountaineers. Larry Rountree III got back on track, going for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, it was a better effort, as the Tigers outrushed West Virginia by an impressive 232-30 margin. Give the defense a ton of credit for stifling the Mountaineers’ ground game at every turn, but also give plenty of credit to the offense for putting together a much better effort Saturday at Faurot Field.
Area for improvement No. 1: Quit with the penalties
In the first half, the Tigers were flagged for 100 penalty yards. That’s significant, especially when you consider the fact that West Virginia only managed 78 yards of total offense in that span.
On 2 of those plays, the Tigers were flagged twice on the same down — once for offsides and once for a personal foul. That’s obviously the sort of thing that extends drives for the offense and makes life rough on defenders. Fortunately for Mizzou, West Virginia wasn’t able to capitalize on either of those drives.
Mizzou played a much cleaner game in the second half, not committing any additional infractions. If the Tigers can continue to build on that second half, good things should happen moving forward.
Area for improvement No. 2: Get the receivers going
The Tigers only threw for 150 total yards. While they still won handily, it would be nice to see some bigger numbers in that area. Mizzou has yet to have a 100-yard receiver in 2019.
Some of that has to do with the fact that Bryant has done a good job of spreading the ball around, but the passing game can still be taken to another level. We saw some life out of Albert O, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares moving forward.
Getting Jalen Knox going on the outside (along with potentially Kam Scott as well) will only open up more room for guys like Johnathon Johnson and Jonathan Nance to do their work.
Area for improvement No. 3: Get more out of the punting game
Tucker McCann has been handling kicking and punting this year. His kicking is most important, and he has been crushing it in that regard. Through 2 games, he’s 2-for-2 on field goals and 9-for-9 on extra points.
However, against West Virginia, McCann punted 5 times, averaging a paltry 35.4 yards per punt. He didn’t pin any inside the 20 either, so that average wasn’t a product of where he was punting from.
The Tigers clearly don’t have any better options, or they’d be using them. Still, if McCann doesn’t get that average up a bit, it’ll hurt against teams better than West Virginia.
Can the Tigers improve to 2-1 on the season this weekend? FCS Southeast Missouri State comes to town on Saturday night. The game kicks off at Faurot Field at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time and can be seen on the SEC Network.