Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Thursday’s score won’t go in the Missouri football team’s record book, but it was a meaningful win for the Tigers nonetheless.
Half the Tigers, anyway.
Redshirt freshman Thomas Richard was mobbed by the Missouri offense after hauling in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Eddie Prinz to end the scrimmage, securing an 11-9 defeat of the defense.
“It meant a lot,” sophomore receiver Nate Brown said. “It’s always a constant battle, but at the same time it’s Mizzou versus Mizzou. We’ve got a lot of momentum going into the next practice, and we’re just trying to build on it.”
The offense recorded eight touchdowns in the situational scrimmage and did not turn the ball over. The defense won Missouri’s previous preseason scrimmage 17-9 and had held the upper hand for most of camp.
“I feel like that’s kind of how it always is,” said Brown, who had two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown. “It takes offense a little bit of time to get going, time to gel together, so it’s not a concern or anything like that. It’s just, defense keep doing what you’re doing. Offense, we’ve just got to keep picking it up.”
The offense went three-for-three on its 2-minute drills to close out the scrimmage and secure the win.
“We haven’t had that (for a while),” right tackle Nate Crawford said, “but when (the offense) comes on and we start clicking, we get to rolling.”
On the first two-minute drive, quarterback Maty Mauk went 4-for-5, including a 38-yard pass to DeSean Blair, to lead the first offense 65 yards to a touchdown against the second defense. Tailback Ish Witter punched in his second touchdown of the day from 2 yards out to complete the drive.
On the second, freshman quarterback Drew Lock and the third-string offense drove 65 yards in nine plays against the No. 3 defense. Lock hit 6-of-8 passes on the drive, including a 14-yard score to walk-on receiver Oke Akushe. Akushe, a recent addition to the team, pulled in three catches for 51 yards and a score before his name was even given to the media. His touchdown catch was rewarded with a brutal targeting hit from Ronnell Perkins, but he hung on for the score.
The final 2-minute drive consisted of two plays, beginning with a 52-yard connection from Eddie Prinz to Emanuel Hall. Prinz found Richard for 13 yards on the next play as the second-string offense made quick work of the first-string defense.
The offense’s numbers were encouraging, as was the case in the previous scrimmage. Mauk finished with 134 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-22 passing, though he had a few overthrows. Prinz was 7-of-13 with 101 yards and a score. Lock continued to impress, notching game highs in completion percentage (15-of-20, 75 percent), touchdown passes (two) and passing yards (168).
Though Lock showed his youth a bit more frequently than Saturday, he shined when he got a chance with the No. 2 offense. Taking on the first-string defense, Lock went 5-for-5, ending the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Raymond Wingo. Lock found Justin Smith for a 48-yard gain to set up the score when coverage broke down in the first-team secondary.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Marvin Zanders also continued his strong camp, leading the team in rushing yards with 75. He looked fluid running a zone-read option, something the Tigers could choose to create a specialty package for this season.
“That’s something we could probably use this year,” Mauk said. “There’ll be situations we can throw him in there and put him in and do the zone read. Because he’s got the speed. He’s just got to continue to get better and make sure he learns every guy and knows how to get the ball and where to get it in certain situations, and he’s going to be a great quarterback for us.”
Zanders completed 4-of-8 passes for 64 yards, including a 30-yard throw to Richard.
The young receiving corps continued to make strides. Jake Brents led the way with 80 yards — 55 of which came on a touchdown from Corbin Berkstresser. Blair had a scrimmage-high five catches. Emanuel Hall, who led Missouri with six catches last scrimmage, had four Thursday for 75 yards. Nine wide receivers had a reception, and each had a catch of at least 10 yards.
“We’re going to have to play well young,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “That’s what we’re going to have to do. That’s good. Why can’t young receivers play great? That’s our approach. … Those young guys are getting a lot of work, and I think they’re getting better.”
Wesley Leftwich, the only senior receiver, left the scrimmage with a sprained knee, though Pinkel didn’t think it was serious.
Though the defense faded late, the line succeeded in getting into the offensive backfield, notching nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Saturday, in a scrimmage that lasted 31 more plays, the defense had just six sacks.
“Today I think we did a lot better job of bringing enthusiasm, bringing more passion about the game,” defensive end Charles Harris said. “So far I can really say we need to work on containment … also as a secondary working on bumping receivers and things of that nature. But those are just really small things we need to work on.”
The defense has not yet recorded an interception in the two scrimmages, and the lone turnover was a fumble on a botched lateral throw.
Note: Kickers Andrew Baggett (back) and Nick Coffman (groin) missed the scrimmage, as did receivers J’Mon Moore (shoulder) and Johnathon Johnson (ankle).