How Mizzou football hopes to use SEMO victory as a springboard
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Throughout Missouri's first two games of the season, problems on both sides of the ball presented themselves.
There wasn't a "gimmie" game scheduled in the first pair of Tigers' matchups with a 10-point win over Central Michigan and a 7-point loss on the road against Kentucky, where a late MU rally fell short.
In Week 3, that mismatch was scheduled in the form of FCS-level Southeast Missouri State. Missouri's starters outscored SEMO 38-0 in the first half.
With Connor Bazelak, Tyler Badie and many of the Tigers' other prized figures on the sidelines for the second half, the Redhawks outscored the Tigers by a touchdown.
That difference didn't sound any alarms for Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz.
"I'm not concerned about it in the least,' Drinkwitz said. "Wouldn't even have known it if you hadn't told me. It was 38-0 at halftime."
The 59-28 victory gets Missouri back to 2-1 on the year before eight of its final nine games are against Power Five Conference competition, the lone exception being on Oct. 9, when MU hosts North Texas.
Did having the chance to work out some of the team's previous kinks against the Redhawks help MU?
One easy way to find out will be Missouri's next game, a trip to face Boston College, which beat Temple 28-3 on Saturday.
Yet, the opportunity to take a breather and get more experience for the entire roster should be beneficial.
"I think it is mainly our younger guys. They got their feet wet and they realize the game speed," Missouri defensive lineman Isaiah McGuire said. "That's one thing for me coming into college football, I didn't realize the game speed was much more fast compared to high school. ... They'll adjust and perform better next time."
To have that reprieve is a rare thing for a Southeastern Conference school. Of the last 20 FBS national championships, 16 have been won by league schools.
Only two from Clemson, one by Florida State and Ohio State's victory in the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff kept the SEC from the improbable sweep.
SEMO represents the first non-FBS school Drinkwitz has faced since taking the helm at Missouri. Facing an opponent from a lower classification didn't switch his approach at all.
"It didn't matter who our opponent is. We treated this week like it was the Super Bowl," Drinkwitz said. "So we tried to call our best stuff with the best plan possible, attack the defense ... use our strengths against their weaknesses, invest in who we are. And so opponent is irrelevant to us."
Missouri's reset of having its first seven drives all end in scores shouldn't be taken lightly. Not allowing the Redhawks to build momentum and stay within striking distance should be a credit to MU defensive coordinator Steve Wilks for fixing mistakes after taking responsibility for the defense's recent performances earlier this week.
"It was a good game for (SEMO) for them to be able to play good competition. But at the end of the day, our goal that's on the board in our team room is to win the SEC East," Badie said. "We got to realize that we're playing SEC teams. We're not going to play SEMO every week. So we got to be able to get that down the line and keep pushing forward.
"It's a great win for our team. At the end of the day, there is still things that we have to work and progress and be able to play an SEC and be dominant in the SEC."
There may be more challenges that come this season. But for at least one game, Missouri didn't let a drop in competition create even more troubles for the program.
The Tigers didn't add to the list of FBS teams to fall to lower-division foes this season. Instead, steps forward were taken, no matter how small, in building Missouri to the level Drinkwitz believes it's capable of reaching.
"You got to play to a standard and I thought we did a nice job of playing to the standard that we wanted to do and the way we wanted to play," Drinkwitz said. "You got to convert third downs, you got to stop the run and you got to get off the field and we were able to do all those things very effectively the first half.
"I take a lot of confidence away from what we were able to do and the improvements that we made and won the game."
Contact Eric Blum at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.