According to many prognosticators, Missouri was supposed to handle Illinois in the season opener in St. Louis. After some back and forth offensive drives, Mizzou did grab the victory in a closer than expected 23-13 victory.
From the very beginning it was apparent that Ron Zook and his players had a plan for this seasons rivalry game with the Tigers. Run the ball, run the ball some more and play "keep away" from Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, who torched the Fighting Illini defense in last year's matchup.
Zook's strategy almost worked. Illini starting tailback, Mikel Leshoure had 112 yards on 20 carries for while redshirt freshmen quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase was 9 for 23 for 81 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He also rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries in his first career start.
With Missouri trailing by 10 points at halftime, Gabbert was able to rally the Tigers for the victory
Gabbert ended up with decent stats, throwing for 281 yards on 34 of 48 pass attempts and no interceptions. 167 of these yards coming in the second half as Gabbert began to settle down and remain poised in the pocket.
T.J. Moe had 13 receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown and appeared to help settle Gabbert down and remain in the pocket by getting open quickly and running for valuable yards after the catch.
Tailbacks Lawrence and Moore did a decent job coming out of Missouri's backfield and should continue to ease the loss of Derrick Washington as the season progresses.
Lawrence did leave the game late in the second half, but I wasn't able to confirm the status of his injury prior to writing this story. He appeared to be favoring his shoulder, but it was difficult to see exactly what happened from the angle that I had.
Next up for the Tigers is McNeese State on Saturday September 11th at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time.