On his first career passing attempt late in the third quarter, Missouri freshman quarterback Tyler Macon found JJ Hester crossing from the right side of field. He hit his target, and Hester broke away from his defender up the middle for a 65-yard touchdown.
It was the longest reception of the game and the first career touchdown for both players.
Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said he was proud of Hester’s performance, and that it was clear he knew what he was doing on the field.
“He took that slant route and exploded through there,” Drinkwitz said. “He played with some confidence, which is what we’re really wanting to see out of him, so that was really good to see.”
Wide receivers D’ionte “Boo” Smith and Chance Luper also both recorded their first career touchdowns for Missouri during Saturday’s 59-28 win over Southeast Missouri State. Both scored on deep throws, Smith scoring on a 46-yard reception and Luper on a 52-yard one.
Luper celebrated with his father, running backs coach Curtis Luper, following his score. The redshirt freshman had one other catch in the game, closing the night with 60 yards.
Graduate wide receiver Keke Chism was happy for his younger teammates and said he still remembers his first touchdown. He also found value in knowing he was able to help create those scoring opportunities.
“Just being there for them, for those guys in that moment, like I told Chance, it was amazing to me that I was out there blocking for him when he scored his first touchdown,” Chism said. “Same with (Smith). He scored his first touchdown here. I was able to run my route and hold that safety so he could get behind him and make that play. That was good for me.”
Michael Cox was the last first-time scorer, breaking away down the middle late in the fourth quarter for a 55-yard touchdown, Missouri’s longest rush of the game.
Running back Tyler Badie set a career high for single-game touchdowns, earning three in the first half. His first two, a 49-yard rush and an 11-yard reception, came within the opening nine minutes of the game and occurred within six minutes of each other. Badie closed Missouri’s first half with a 1-yard TD run and did not return to the field in the second half.
“If (Badie) needs a hype man, just let me know,” Southeast Missouri State coach Tom Matukewicz said. “I’ll sign up and be his hype man for his NFL career. Big fan. The guy doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses. He’s tough, he pass-pros, he catches the ball. I hope he’s a great kid, too. I love watching him play.”
If Bazelak had played after halftime, he likely would have set new career highs in all his stat categories. Instead, he was just shy as Cook came in under center and took the offensive reins.
Bazelak set his career high for passing yards and passing touchdowns in Missouri’s third game of 2020 against LSU. He completed 29 of 34 attempts for 406 yards and four touchdowns playing the whole game.
In just one half against SEMO, the redshirt sophomore went 21 of 30 for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
Young players stand out on both sides of ball
More than 50 players appeared in Missouri’s win, as many of its starters exited the game at halftime with the Tigers leading 38-0.
Freshman Dominic Lovett and redshirt freshman Mookie Cooper were the two most-targeted wide receivers behind Chism, but both had more receiving yards.
Lovett finished with four catches for 79 yards, Cooper with four for 64.
“We got a lot of guys that can make plays,” Chism said. “No matter who’s out there, it’s a confidence that we have about our business that whenever we’re given opportunities that we’re able to make those plays. To see some of those young guys go out there and showcase some of the things we’ve been seeing in practice, it was good to see ‘cause it was good for them.”
Redshirt freshman QB Brady Cook entered the game to replace Bazelak to start the second half before being replaced by Macon on the following two drives. Cook finished with a 235 passer rating, completing all four of his pass attempts for 25 yards and a touchdown in one drive.
On the defensive side, redshirt freshman Johnny Walker Jr. had the game’s only sack when he tackled Southeast Missouri State quarterback CJ Ogbonna in the backfield for a loss of three yards. Sophomore Kris Abrams-Draine had the game’s only interception, though Allie Green IV also recorded one that was overturned due to a penalty.
Redshirt sophomore Jalani Williams led the team in tackles with five, three of which were solo.
Cook, Rakestraw both miss game
After offensive lineman Case Cook and defensive back Ennis Rakestraw Jr. were listed on Thursday’s injury report, they both spent Saturday on the sideline in street clothes.
Connor Wood started in Cook’s place, and Akayleb Evans filled in for Rakestraw.
“I think both of them probably could’ve gone today if we really wanted to push it,” Drinkwitz said. “I think it really hurt Case not to be able to play. But, we have to sometimes protect players from themselves.”
Their exact injuries are unknown. Drinkwitz said he expects to know more about their conditions following Tuesday’s practice.
Defensive lineman Darius Robinson left the game with an injury, but after the game Drinkwitz had no update on his condition.