Missouri needed a win in its away matchup against a struggling Vanderbilt team, and Tyler Badie quickly answered the call. He touched the ball on all but one play on the Tigers’ first touchdown drive, giving them an early 10-0 advantage. The ensuing Commodore drive ended with a blocked punt by Dawson Downing, giving the Tigers a starting field position inside the red zone and a chance to take a three-possession lead.
Mizzou failed to pull away though, as Connor Bazelak threw an interception over the middle of the field to hand the ball back to Vandy. The Commodores proceeded to score two consecutive touchdowns, earning a 14-10 lead as both offenses began to stall in the second quarter.
Jaylon Carlies gave the Tigers a chance to retake the lead right before halftime when he shut down Vanderbilt’s fake field goal attempt to regain possession with just 15 seconds left in the first half. Two quick passes set up a Hail Mary attempt from the Vanderbilt 45, and the biggest guy in the crowd was in position to make a game-changing play. Keke Chism hauled in the 45-yard pass for Bazelak’s sole passing touchdown of the game to give the Tigers a lead that they never lost.
That’s not to say that things didn’t get testy. The Tigers couldn’t go ahead by more than ten points, leading by two with just three minutes remaining in the game. But when it mattered most, the guy who the Tigers leaned on all day came up big yet again.
In his tenth first-down play of the day, Tyler Badie took the Tigers from their own 25-yard-line down to the Vanderbilt 2; a 73-yard gain. Tyler Macon, who came in for the injured Connor Bazelak, ran in a touchdown on the next play to put the game away.
“For them to go down and score to make it a two point game, our quarterback is out, for (Tyler) Badie to put it on his shoulders and to give us that … 254 yards,” Missouri head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz said, “just really proud of him.”
Badie’s run was the longest of the day, surpassing Mike Wright’s 69-yard and 70-yard runs in the first and third quarter. The FBS-worst Tiger run defense yet again struggled to stop Wright and third-string running back Patrick Smith, conceding 258 of Vanderbilt’s 380 total yards on the ground.
But, the Tigers managed to outdo the Commodores’ run game, thanks to a career-high 254 rushing yards from Badie. It’s the most rushing yards in a single game by a Tiger since Henry Josey ran for 264 yards against Western Illinois in 2011.
Here’s the key takeaways from Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt.
Tyler Badie is the man
Badie has picked up more than 20 touches in all but two games this season, including a season-high of 39 against Vanderbilt.
“He’s a great player,” Drinkwitz said. “I’ve been saying it for a long time, he’s probably the best player that nobody is talking about. He’s really the engine that drives us and he’s just got a big heart and he’s a competitor and showed it tonight.”
Badie is second in the country in yards from scrimmage per game, and he’s one of only six position players with at least 15 touchdowns this season. With such a high touch volume, his ability to stay productive is impressive and immense for the Tigers’ success.
“It’s the biggest thing I tell my teammates,” Badie said after the game. “Whenever they need me, they know they can count on me.”
The future at quarterback is undecided
Connor Bazelak had one of his most efficient outings of the season in Nashville, completing 22 of 28 passes for 218 yards. But after exiting the game with what Drinkwitz described as a soft tissue injury, it’s unclear as to whether or not he will miss extended time.
His decision to put in Macon surprised some, considering Brady Cook previously came in before Macon in blowout games earlier in the year and appeared above Macon on depth charts released at the start of the season.
“It was really situational,” Drinkwitz said. “We’ve been practicing Macon in some four minute offense stuff and on that down and distance, I didn’t want to try to force the ball, was trying to make it into a manageable field goal range. That was the play that Macon had been practicing and executed well. So that’s what we went with. But Brady is right there too. If it had been a different situation, I probably would’ve went with Brady. But that was a situation we knew Macon was great at executing.”
Macon didn’t throw a pass, instead running twice for eight yards that both set up or put up Tiger points. It was good to see him look comfortable in a late-game situation, but if Bazelak is unable to play in Athens this Saturday, it’s unknown as to who will be the guy to replace him. Keep an eye on Thursday’s injury report to see his updated status.
Red zone defense haunts Tigers
Mizzou’s struggles to defend the run have been well-pronounced all season, but another aspect that’s really given the Tigers struggles has been their red zone defense. Vanderbilt scored a touchdown on all four of their red zone trips.
The Tigers are one of the most efficient offenses in the country in red zone situations. They’ve scored a touchdown on 21 of their 27 red zone appearances (77.8%), good for second-most efficient in the FBS. On the defensive side, the Tigers have allowed 28 touchdowns on their opponents’ 34 trips to the red zone (82.3%), which marks second-to-last in the FBS.
The dichotomy between the two has been the tale all season, as an offense capable of putting up points has been pushed to its limits when the defense hasn’t performed. Both units will need to be on their A-game this Saturday when the Tigers face the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium.