By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Key play: Murray State scored first, but Missouri marched right down the field and scored. A big 44-yard completion to sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham stretched the defense and gave the Tigers’ running game room to operate the rest of the half.
Key stat: Missouri barely outgained Murray State in the quarter, 212-196.
Key play: An interception by senior cornerback E.J. Gaines gave the Tigers the ball in Racers territory and set up the go-ahead score, a 22-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback James Franklin to junior receiver Jimmie Hunt.
Key stat: Missouri’s defense firmed up, holding the Racers’ offense to 60 yards in the quarter.
Key play: After forcing a crucial three-and-out to start the half, Franklin hit junior receiver Darius White for a 37-yard touchdown that gave Missouri a 37-14 lead with 13 minutes, 11 seconds left.
Key stat: By the time the quarter ended, 10 different Missouri players had at least one reception.
Key play: Redshirt freshman running back Morgan Steward, a Staley graduate, scored the first rushing touchdown of his career from 1 yard out.
Key stat: Steward’s touchdown run capped a scoring drive that lasted 6 minutes, 21 seconds.
|A||Offense||Hard to complain too much here. Aside from an early fumble by receiver Bud Sasser, the offense looked good. James Franklin spread the ball around, the running backs looked shifty and the offensive line got some traction in the running game. Solid debut for new offensive coordinator Josh Henson, who followed through on his promise to push the tempo.|
|B||Defense||The group looked shaky early, as Murray State took a 14-13 lead into the second quarter. But the defense finally shut down Murray State’s dual-threat quarterback, Maikhail Miller, and cornerback E.J. Gaines had two interceptions while safety Braylon Webb had one.|
|D||Special teams||Kicker Andrew Baggett missed a 30-yard field goal and had an extra point blocked. He redeemed himself with a 43-yard field goal to close the first half, but blocked extra points are unacceptable.|
|B||Coaching||Henson had a solid game plan and defensive coordinator Dave Steckel figured out how to slow down Murray State’s offense after the first quarter. The Tigers played hard and didn’t get down after the Racers punched them in the mouth to open the game.|
Player of the game: Let’s give it to senior quarterback James Franklin, who opened the season in style by completing 26 of 38 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns.
Reason to hope: Missouri’s uptempo offense often looked competent, as Franklin made quick decisions while the Tigers pushed the tempo. The running backs looked strong, and the Tigers gained chunks of yardage on the ground behind a variety of quick-hit running plays.
Reason to mope: Missouri looked vulnerable at times against Miller, a scrambling quarterback, and sophomore kicker Andrew Baggett had an extra point blocked and missed a field goal.
Looking ahead: Missouri faces a Toledo team that hung tough with Florida on Saturday but came away with a 24-6 defeat. An afternoon at “The Swamp” could take a toll on any team, so it will be interesting to see if the Rockets are a bit beat up.
Terez A. Paylor, firstname.lastname@example.org