Posted: Aug 30, 2014 8:48 AM by Mark Kim, KOMU 8 Sports Columnist
Updated: Aug 31, 2014 5:30 AM
COLUMBIA - Winning is always nice, but the hardest thing about being successful is raising the bar afterwards. The Missouri football team had a taste of success last season when they won the Cotton Bowl and finished the season with a 12-2 record.
Now the Tigers begin their quest to raise their bar. They'll begin the season back to square one with a 0-0 record as they face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in their first game of the 2014-2015 college football season.
Missouri football fans got a glimpse of quarterback Maty Mauk when he started four games last season in relief of the injured James Franklin. Now Mauk has the keys to the team. He'll get to test-drive the offense against the porous South Dakota State pass defense.
The Jackrabbits gave up around 219 passing yards per game last year. That being said, the Tigers doesn't return any of its starting receivers. Bud Sasser, Darius White and Jimmie Hunt are the three guys Missouri will be counting on to step up.
That being said, these guys should be fine against South Dakota State, especially with a poised and experienced Mauk throwing them passes. Their flaws and weaknesses won't show against the Jackrabbits, but keep that fact in mind in future matchups against teams with formidable secondary units.
Mizzou players prepared themselves for the loss of Henry Josey as they spent the offseason grooming Morgan Steward to be his replacement. But Steward will not suit up against South Dakota State due to injury.
Luckily, this is why the Tigers utilize a three running back system. Even with Steward out, Missouri still has Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy. Expect the Tigers to lean towards these two veterans to carry the load, not just for the rushing game, but also for the offense, as the running game is one of the only proven commodities in this offense.
Markus Golden and Shane Ray have built up a lot of hype in this offseason. And they deserve it too. They are well coached and they possess the skills and physical attributes to make them successful. But they'll be put to the test right away, as the d-line duo will face off against one of the best running backs in the FCS in Zach Zenner, who has rushed for more than 2000 yards during the past two years.
While the rushing attack will be the focal point of the South Dakota State offense, that doesn't mean the passing game is lacking in any way. The Jackrabbits have senior Austin Sumner as the gunslinger for this squad. He's an experienced player as he's started 34 games in his college career.
To make matters worse, Missouri's secondary has a lot of uncertainty surrounding it, given the fact a lot of last year's starters aren't on the team anymore. But, once again, the holes in the Tiger's secondary shouldn't show too much in this game given this is an FCS team. Sumner should put up reasonable passing stats in this game. They'll be nothing too awful, but nothing too amazing as well.
Missouri usually has a hard time getting things going at the beginning of games, but once they find their footing, they are hard to stop. The Tigers will have to shake off their rust, but they should easily roll over this South Dakota State squad.
The Tigers simply have more talent than the Jackrabbits overall and South Dakota State is winless against FBS teams all-time. Not to mention the Missouri Tigers have dominated FCS teams during the Gary Pinkel era. Expect Pinkel and the Missouri Tigers to begin their season on a high note.