By: Mike Bauer, KCOU Sports
The Missouri Tigers began the 2014 season with a 38-18 victory over South Dakota State on Saturday at Faurot Field.
Maty Mauk threw three touchdown passes on the day, including two in the first quarter to Darius White. Russell Hansbrough led the way on the ground for the Tigers, finishing with 20 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown.
In addition to starting 1-0 for the 13th consecutive year under Gary Pinkel, Missouri forced a turnover for the 45th consecutive game, the longest such streak in the country by a wide margin. Safety Duron Singleton intercepted a tipped pass in the first quarter to keep the streak alive, and Mizzou would end the day with three forced turnovers. SDSU did not force a turnover all game.
Both Jackrabbit touchdowns came from running back Zach Zenner, who ended the day with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Zenner now needs 114 rushing yards to become the Missouri Valley Conference’s all-time leader in rushing yards.
SDSU quarterback Austin Sumner left the game in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury and did not return. Zach Lujan finished the game at quarterback for the Jackrabbits, going 21/28 for 238 yards and an interception.
A potential point of concern for the Tigers going forward could be the offense’s inability to convert on third downs. Missouri was just 3 for 11 on third down conversions Saturday, though the Tigers did manage to 2 for 2 on fourth down conversion attempts. Missouri also lost the time of possession battle by about 11 minutes, though that may be attributed to the no-huddle, up-tempo style of offense employed by offensive coordinator Josh Henson.
South Dakota State pulled within a field goal early in the third quarter following a Zach Zenner touchdown run, but MU would respond with a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Marcus Murphy, the fourth of his career. The Jackrabbits would fail to score for the remainder of the game.
With three more nonconference games remaining on Missouri’s schedule before Southeastern Conference play begins, the Tigers will be on the road next week to face the Toledo Rockets. The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Gary Pinkel, who served as the head coach at Toledo for nine years before accepting the Missouri job in 2001.