Key play: Take your pick, either the 44-yard or the 39-yard touchdown from sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk to senior wide receiver Darius White. So much for concerns about the Tigers’ ability to manufacture big plays in the passing game.
Key stat: Midway through the first half, senior strong safety Duron Singleton picked off a tipped Austin Sumner pass and returned it 19 yards to set up Missouri’s third touchdown. The interception also extended the Tigers’ streak of consecutive games with a turnover to 45, the longest in the nation.
Key play: Sophomore defensive end Harold Brantley was flagged for running into South Dakota State punter Ethan Sawyer. The resulting first down led to a Jackrabbits field goal and the quarter’s only points.
Key stat: South Dakota State senior running back Zach Zenner ripped off a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, but the Jackrabbits managed only 20 yards on nine carries in the quarter.
Key play: Mere moments after South Dakota State pulled within 21-18, senior Marcus Murphy restored breathing room with a weaving 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Key stat: Sophomore Zach Lujan, who took over for injured senior Austin Sumner at quarterback in the first quarter, went 10 of 13 for 140 yards with a two-point conversion and eight first downs. South Dakota State ran 22 plays compared with seven for Missouri, which had no passing yards.
Key play: Mauk rainbowed a 29-yard touchdown to senior Bud Sasser with 10:18 remaining, pumping Missouri’s lead to 35-18 and essentially ending any thought of a South Dakota State upset.
Key stat: Missouri junior tailback Russell Hansbrough had five carries for 43 yards in helping to ice the victory. He finished with a career-high 126 yards rushing on 20 carries, including a nifty 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Player of the game: Senior defensive end Markus Golden. Faced with the pressure of replacing consensus All-American and SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam, Golden opened the season with a monster game. He was credited with 10 tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks and 31/2 tackles for a loss.
Reason to hope: After Zach Zenner’s 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, Missouri’s defense allowed only 44 yards rushing on 31 carries. Zenner, who has topped 2,000 yards each of the last two seasons finished with 17 carries for 103 yards and two touchdowns, but only 28 yards on his last 16 totes.
Reason to mope: Quarterback Maty Mauk’s final numbers weren’t bad. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 178 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but the passing game still felt disjointed and Mauk seemed to bail from the pocket too early, creating chaos in the backfield. Inconsistency plagues the offense.
Looking ahead: Missouri moves on to its only road game of the non-conference slate Saturday at Toledo (11 a.m. on ESPN). It’s a homecoming for Gary Pinkel, who is the Rockets’ all-time leader in coaching victories. It also marks a return for assistant coaches Dave Steckel, Cornell Ford, Brian Jones and Craig Kuligowski.
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com
Tailback Russell Hansbrough’s career-best 126 yards headlined a strong performance by the run game, but Maty Mauk was scrambling around too much and the passing game remained inconsistent. On the plus side, the Tigers managed to avoid any turnovers.
Zach Zenner’s 75-yard touchdown on the first play hurt, and the Jackrabbits’ backup quarterback completed 21 of 28 for 239 yards. On the other hand, Missouri had two interceptions and snuffed out another drive with a fumble. The Tigers also racked up three sacks.
Senior Marcus Murphy’s 102-yard kickoff return touchdown was a difference-maker and senior Christian Brinser had a strong game. Andrew Baggett whiffed on a 34-yard field goal, but he also put five of six kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks.
Offensive coordinator Josh Henson managed to jump-start an offense that looked sluggish at the beginning of the last two scrimmages. Missouri scored 50 seconds into the game. Meanwhile, the defensive game plan was effective against the run.