COLUMBIA — A long summer and a spirit-filled South Dakota State offense made the Missouri football team look rusty Saturday.
The Tigers won 38-18 against the Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA) team. It was the most points allowed by a Gary Pinkel-coached Missouri team to an FCS school.
"The continuity of what we want to be and playing like a wet, well-oiled machine, for lack of a better term ... we need work," Pinkel said.
The Tigers started off with a bang but so did the Jackrabbits. Missouri scored on its third play from scrimmage — a 44-yard Maty Mauk touchdown throw to Darius White. South Dakota bettered the Tigers by scoring on its first play from scrimmage when running back Zach Zenner went 75 yards to the opposite end zone.
The real bang, though, came late in the first quarter. Missouri's Andrew Baggett lined up for a 34-yard field goal. The ball went wide left, but "Little Joe," the MU Army ROTC cannon that fires 10-gauge blanks after a Missouri score, went off as if Baggett had made his first field goal of the season.
The cannon might have been poorly-timed.
Baggett's next field goal attempt, this one from 55 yards, didn't hit its mark either. The ball fell, a dud well right and short of the pylons.
Missouri's offense also looked like a dud for parts of the game. Quarterback Maty Mauk completed 13 of 21 passes, but the offense failed to score in the second and third quarters.
Missouri's only touchdown during that time came off a 102-yard kickoff return by Marcus Murphy. It was the longest kickoff return for a Missouri team since 1976.
"I've been envisioning a kick return for a long time," Murphy said. "It put points on the board and changed the momentum."
Murphy said he didn't even know until game time if he'd be returning kickoffs. The senior running back has been a key contributor on kickoffs since he was a freshman, but his coaches have experimented with playing him as a slot receiver during the preseason. Murphy rushed for 54 yards and caught for 20 while also returning punts and kickoffs for the Tigers — none bigger than the 102-yarder in the third quarter.
"Yeah, we needed that lift," Pinkel said.
Pinkel said he was also happy about a late lift for his kicker.
With 1:13 left in the game, Baggett lined up for a 44-yard field goal attempt. The Tigers had previously run the clock down with running backs Russell Hansbrough (one touchdown) and Ish Witter. Now, with the game in hand, it was Baggett's time to make some noise.
"I'm really glad at the end we had a chance to put him back in," Pinkel said.
The ball sailed through the uprights. The cannon sounded.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.