Running back Larry Rountree III had 77 yards on Missouri’s first possession. Linebacker Cale Garrett had a pick six on the first defensive drive. It was that kind of night for the Tigers, and one they will certainly take before SEC play starts next week.
Everything went according to plan as Missouri, which entered the game as a 33-point favorite, destroyed Southeast Missouri State 50-0.
It is what you’d expect from an SEC team playing an FCS school at home, in what ultimately was a tune-up before the schedule ramps up. It wasn’t a mistake-free performance, but it was a comfortable evening for the Tigers.
Against SEMO, Kelly Bryant got the chance to showcase his arm. Bryant hadn’t had many opportunities to throw downfield in Missouri’s first two games against Wyoming and West Virginia. But on the Tigers’ second drive against Southeast Missouri, he found Jalen Knox deep for 54 yards.
That was followed by the quarterback finding tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the end zone, the latter making a tremendous catch over his defender. That score made it 20-0, in just the first quarter. Bryant found Knox again late in first half for 50 yards, which was followed almost immediately by a Rountree 2-yard touchdown run.
“It felt good (to throw the deep ball),” Bryant said after the game. “The protection was great all night, receivers running great routes.”
Knox feels good about deep passes becoming a bigger part of the Tigers’ offense going forward.
“Kelly can throw the deep ball and we have the receivers that can go and get the deep ball,” Knox said. “Taking the top off the defense helps a lot.”
The second quarter, though, was decidedly more mediocre for the Tigers’ offense in which they put up only 10 points.
Bryant wasn’t perfect. Midway through the second quarter, he made an ill-advised throw to freshman receiver Maurice Massey in the back corner of the end zone. The throw was picked off, Bryant’s second interception this season.
Rountree, after his exceptional first drive, remained the workhorse for Missouri’s offense. He got the most touches and finished with 18 carries for 142 yards, the fourth-highest total of his career. The running back also grabbed three receptions for 16 yards.
“Runners did a really good job breaking tackles and a really, really good job of running hard,” said center Trystan Colon-Castillo. “O-line-wise, we did a better job of blocking our assignments.”
Rountree was measured in his assessment of his performance.
“I think I left some yards on the field, but for the most part ran the ball well,” Rountree said.
After Tyler Badie scored a touchdown to put Missouri up 47-0 with 4:42 left in the third quarter, both teams put in their backups.
For Missouri, that meant sightings of true freshmen, including safety Martez Manuel and cornerback Stacy Brown.
The fourth quarter saw Missouri freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak make his collegiate debut. He did not, however, attempt a pass.
Against West Virginia, Missouri committed 10 penalties for 100 yards. Once again, flags were a problem for the Tigers, who finished with eight for 74 yards against SEMO.
Missouri’s defense was on from the beginning. Garrett’s pick six was his first career touchdown, and it set the tone early. It was Missouri’s second straight game with a defensive touchdown.
The game was filled with huge hits given out by Missouri defenders to SEMO players, who had no answer up front.
“Defense played with urgency, made things happen,” head coach Barry Odom said.
On one play in the second quarter, SEMO quarterback Daniel Santacaterina threw to receiver Kristian Wilkerson. MU linebacker Nick Bolton reached the receiver just as the ball did, and unleashed a vicious hit that knocked the ball out for an incompletion.
SEMO finished with only 94 yards of total offense — 54 in the air and a measly 40 on the ground. The Redhawks were unable to score, much less move the ball, against the Tigers, who allowed just eight first downs.
After the game, SEMO head coach Tom Matukewicz did not make himself or his players available to the media.
Missouri’s second and third stringers on defense preserved the shutout, finishing off a game that was never in doubt.
Next up is South Carolina, a team Odom has never beaten.