COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Connor Bazelak squeezed a full day of production into one half Saturday as he led Missouri to a 59-28 victory over Southeast Missouri.
Bazelak completed 21 of 30 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns for the Tigers (2-1).
“You hope within two quarters that you play well enough and put enough points on the board,” Bazelak said. “We did. I’m kind of glad I got to sit out the second half.”
He spread the ball to 10 receivers. The big plays included a 46-yard touchdown pass on a deep post route to D’onte Smith and a tunnel screen to Chance Luper that the freshman took down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown.
After Missouri built a 38-0 halftime lead, Bazelak handed the keys to backups Brady Cook and Tyler Macon.
“You’ve got to play to a standard, and I thought we did a nice job of playing to a standard,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “You’ve got to convert third downs, you’ve got to stop the run, you’ve got to get off the field. We were able to do all those things effectively in the first half.”
The Missouri offense continued that trend in the second half. Cook threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Young on his only drive, and Macon connected on a 65-yard touchdown pass to JJ Hester on his first career pass attempt.
Missouri’s defensive reserves had less success against SEMO (0-3). Redhawks quarterback CJ Ogbonna carried 12 times for 96 yards. Shamenski Rucker scored two rushing touchdowns, and Q’Nairies Anderson sprinted up the middle untouched for a 75-yard touchdown on his only carry. The Redhawks outscored Missouri in the second half and finished with 294 rushing yards.
“I loved how we finished,” SEMO coach Tom Matukewicz said. “We felt pretty good about our O-line, that eventually we’re going to be OK, and to have that many yards rushing tells you might be OK.”
BADIE’S BIG FAN
Missouri running back Tyler Badie entered the game as the national leader in yards from scrimmage with 392. He played sparingly Saturday against an overmatched FCS opponent, but he made the most of his limited chances, rushing nine times for 81 yards and two touchdowns and catching two passes for 14 yards and another score.
“If he needs a hype man, just let me know,” 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 protects, he catches the ball.”
WELCOME TO THE END ZONE
Four Missouri players scored their first career touchdowns Saturday. Freshman running back Michael Cox rushed for a 55-yard score on a third-and-15 play. Smith, Luper and Hester caught long touchdown passes.
Hester, a redshirt freshman, caught Drinkwitz’s eye when he separated from SEMO defenders after catching a pass in traffic.
“He took that slant route and exploded,” Drinkwitz said. “He played with some confidence, which is what we really wanted to see out of him.”
Southeast Missouri: The Redhawks lost leading receiver Aaron Alston when he was called for targeting in the first quarter. Alston hit Missouri punt returner Smith with the crown of his helmet. The SEMO passing game, which had struggled against FCS opponents the first two weeks of the season, couldn’t afford to lose its best weapon against an FBS opponent.
Missouri: After allowing a combined 604 rushing yards to Central Michigan and Kentucky in the first two games of the season, the Tigers’ defense needed a confidence-builder — if not a hug — against SEMO. Missouri gave up just 56 rushing yards in the first half while the starters were playing. The Tigers still have reason for concern, though, as their backup defenders were gashed throughout the second half.
Southeast Missouri: The Redhawks open Ohio Valley Conference play at home against Tennessee State next Saturday.
Missouri: The Tigers visit Boston College next Saturday.
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