The Tigers showed marked improvement in many areas in the first half against UNT, but seemed to let up as the game wore on
Homecoming returned to Columbia after a two-year absence, and Missouri put on a show for the thousands of alumni that came back into town.
Missouri opened up with a 3-and-out, but Kris Abrams-Draine continued his stellar play as of late with an interception to set the Tigers up at the UNT 26-yard line.
Mizzou rode Tyler Badie into the end zone from there to open up the scoring with just over ten minutes left in the first quarter. The Tigers followed that up with a 3rd and 1 stop thanks to a tackle for loss from Akail Byers.
Badie again exploded for a big run to put the Tigers in Mean Green territory, continuing his hot start to the game. Barrett Banister drew a pass interference call that set the Tigers up inside the five yard line, and Bazelak connected with Tyler Badie for a toe tap touchdown grab. Badie again displayed his versatility throughout the first quarter of this game.
North Texas continued to stick to the ground game, likely hoping for similar success to what virtually every team has had against Mizzou this season. Running back DeAndre Torey was the workhorse, seemingly touching the ball on every play in the first half. However, the Mean Green brought in their goal-line back, freshman Isaiah Johnson, to cap off a lengthy drive that cut the Tiger lead in half to start the second quarter.
Freshman running back BJ Harris got a couple opportunities in this game to show what he was made of, and he started off the next Missouri drive with a first down run. Bazelak had looked slightly off to start this game, but JJ Hester broke free for a 56-yard touchdown catch that was perfectly placed by the veteran quarterback. When Badie got a break, Bazelak seamlessly took over the offense.
North Texas punted the ball right back, and after a couple of Bazelak first downs, Badie scampered for another touchdown, this time from 52 yards out.
Mookie Cooper started off the next Mizzou drive with two straight catches for first downs, but went down with what appeared to be a leg injury (would later return). BJ Harris proceeded to continue his solid start to the game, taking over for Badie on this drive. A false start on 4th and 1 prevented Mizzou from advancing further, but Harrison Mevis proved to yet again be automatic with a 48-yard field goal.
The first half would come to close with the score reading 31-7 in favor of the home team. Tyler Badie stole the show with a three touchdown first half, and the defense really showed some resilience as they stuffed the North Texas rushing attack after being reamed for struggling with it all season long.
“Really proud of the effort we started out with on defense,” Eli Drinkwitz said after the game. “There was just a response (to new defensive line coach Al Davis), making sure those guys know how to play for each other and with each other.”
UNT came out in the second half with a clear goal in mind: keep utilizing Austin Aune’s legs. He ran for two first downs, but a fumble recovery from, guess who, Kris Abrams-Draine, halted the drive. Abrams-Draine has been all over the place in recent weeks, making plays on both defense and in special teams.
Austin Aune responded on their next drive, as he and Torrey led a balanced drive that resulted in a throwback wheel route from one to another.
Missouri would go 3-and-out on their next drive. Trajan Jeffcoat and Isaiah McGuire each would secure sacks to help Mizzou stop another threatening North Texas drive.
After another stagnant Mizzou drive, North Texas again drove down the field and was in scoring position. However, a 4th down stop shifted momentum and field position back towards the Tigers.
Badie proceeded to be wrapped up by 3 defenders and miraculously break free for a 42-yard run, putting him at a career-high of 217 yards on the ground for the day.
“It’s just a credit to the O-line,” said Badie on his second 200 yard game of the season. “I get all the praise, but the O-line does all the hard work.”
“He’s probably the least talked about great player in the country right now,” Drinkwitz said of Badie.
Still, the Tigers had to settle for a field goal that Mevis knocked through from 40 yards out.
The pressure continued to increase on Aune as the game wore on, as Johnnie Walker, Jr. got into the mix with a sack on the next drive. A tipped pass by Jeffcoat resulted in a BIG MAN TOUCHDOWN from the 266 lb. Mekhi Wingo, as he glided past the North Texas offensive line for a score that will surely live with him forever.
“I’m a running back at heart,” Wingo claimed postgame.
Another throwback pass would cap off a touchdown drive for the Mean Green, as they cut the deficit to 20.
UNT would get the ball back, and some gutsy running from Aune and broken coverage from the Tigers resulted in another Mean Green touchdown. A scoreline of 41-28 would mean UNT would cover the spread (-18), and Mizzou would advance to 0-6 against it this season.
Psyche. Dawson Downing came in and housed one from 60 yards out to bring the scoreline back to 48-28.
Double psyche, North Texas completed a 77-yard touchdown pass to make it 48-35. The game would close at that scoreline.
Overall, Mizzou showed marked improved in the first half. The defense stood tall against the run forced three turnovers and made UNT go 5/15 on third downs. On offense, Badie had yet another sensational game to lead the unit.
“The difference was a commitment (to the run) by me,” Drinkwitz said. “We decided we were gonna stay committed to the run game this week.”
Still, Bazelak looked off at times, and the defense wore down and ended up letting up nearly 500 yards off offense to the Mean Green. Another game where the Tigers let a team make the game look more respectable than it was in the second half, and there will likely be mixed feelings about the result.
The Tigers will host Texas A&M next Saturday at 11 am on the SEC Network.