Five Takeaways: Missouri surpasses .500 during historic afternoon at Faurot Field.

The Tigers kept the good times rolling in a 41-0 win against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Missouri running back Larry Rountree III (34) celebrates one of his three touchdowns during Missouri's 41-0 win against Vanderbilt on Nov. 28, 2020. SEC Media Portal

As they like to say in New Orleans: “Laissez les bons temps rouler.”

In French, that translates to “let the good times roll,” and on Saturday morning, Missouri did just that in a convincing and well-rounded 41-0 win against Vanderbilt.

“It’s a big deal,” Missouri tackle Larry Borom said. “It’s a winning record; we need that. It’s good energy; it’s positive energy, and we take it one game at a time.”

Missouri is on its second two-game winning streak of the season. The Tigers are finally returning to full health. And for the first time all year, they are above .500.

Those at Faurot Field witnessed history

As Vanderbilt struggled to enter field goal range against the Tigers, angst continued to build.

Based on social media engagement alone, it seemed as if an unhealthy number of people had their televisions tuned to SEC Network at 11 a.m. Central to watch 0-7 Vanderbilt and 3-3 Missouri play football.

Really.

Those watching, both on television and in person, were all waiting for one thing: a chance to witness history.

Eventually, that moment came. When Vanderbilt jogged onto the field to start the second half, the Commodores’ kicker, Sarah Fuller, came out with them. She would be the one kicking off.

Vanderbilt schemed up a pooch kick, and Fuller executed it to perfection. With that one snap, Fuller –– who just a week ago won an SEC soccer championship as the Commodores’ starting goalkeeper –– became the first woman to log a snap in a Power Five football game. In the SEC, no less.

“Anytime you break a barrier or do something, it’s to be commended,” Missouri Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “It takes courage to do that, and for her to have the courage to come out Monday and be a part of a football team, knowing that it’s going to be a barrier broken: It’s awesome.”

Fuller never did get the opportunity to kick an extra point or field goal. Unfortunately, Vanderbilt proved incapable of threatening the Tigers at all. But make no mistake: Fuller made history on Saturday.

And all 11,053 fans at Faurot Field –– along with thousands watching on TV –– got to see it.

Bolton stands out once again

Nick Bolton had six solo tackles and a sack in the first quarter on Saturday.

Six.

By game seven, this shouldn’t be a surprise to those who watch Missouri each week, but that number is still incredible.

In some ways, you could argue it was a down game for Bolton. It’s one of just three games in which he didn’t secure double-digit tackles. Against Vanderbilt, he didn’t play for most of the second half. In one of the other two, Kentucky ran just 36 total offensive plays.

As the game went on, the Commodores began to call most plays away from the All-SEC linebacker’s side of the field.

“I saw the same zone plays, but instead of hitting the front side A gap, they tried hitting the backside C and D gap,” Bolton said. “They kind of switched it up after halftime — so hitting the ball backside instead of hitting it front side — but it didn’t work for long.”

Bolton is on track to make over 100 tackles in 2020, an impressive feat considering he would have played in just 10 SEC games.

A word of advice to Missouri fans: Enjoy every last minute you get to see Bolton suit up in a Tigers uniform.

With just three games remaining in the regular season, he will soon be terrorizing opposing quarterbacks on Sundays.

When Badie gets the ball, good things happen

Missouri running back Tyler Badie had some extra motivation when he stepped onto the field against Vanderbilt.

Like many others, he played in the Tigers’ embarrassing 21-14 loss to the Commodores in 2019, but this game felt more personal. When Drinkwitz placed newspaper headlines in every player's locker last week, Badie’s face was on all of them.

“I took it personal[ly] because it was my face up there in the whole team room,” Badie said. “Everyone looked around and looked at me, so I knew that I had to do something about it.”

Badie finished the afternoon with 122 total yards and a touchdown. But what may have been even more encouraging was how Drinkwitz utilized him in the offense. Most of Badie’s seven receptions came out of the backfield, and he turned those plays into lengthy gains.

On one play, he caught the ball on a wheel route out of the backfield for 24 yards. On another, he caught a screen tunnel pass and slalomed through the Vanderbilt defense before being taken down at the one-yard line.

“We thought we were going to get him into some good matchups, and I think we were able to do so,” Drinkwitz said. “I think he does a really good job of creating matchup issues. I wish he could have gotten in [to the endzone] on that tunnel screen, but he did an excellent job.”

Earlier in the season, the coach took the blame for not getting Badie enough touches. Now, he’s starting to figure out different and creative ways to get his pass-catching weapon the ball.

In many ways, Badie is the Swiss Army Knife of the Missouri offense, and it will be fun to see the role he plays in the coming weeks.

Missouri finally dominates a game from start to finish

Against South Carolina, Missouri nearly paid the price for allowing an arguably inferior opponent to stick around too long. They made no such mistake against Vanderbilt.

Right off the bat, the Commodores decided to go for it on fourth-and-one near midfield. They didn’t pick up a single yard. Six plays later, Missouri running back Larry Rountree III scored his first touchdown of the day, untouched, on a seven-yard jaunt. It set the tone for a dominant all-around performance.

“Thanksgiving week, no school; we could have came out real sluggish,” Bolton said. “But we came out there 100% focused and locked in. Everybody was flying around and having fun. We had great intensity and enthusiasm being out there.”

The Tigers played perhaps their cleanest game of the season. They drew just one penalty for five yards, converted over 50% (6-11) of their third downs and thoroughly outgained the Commodores 603 yards to 196.

For the first time since a 38-0 win against Arkansas in 2018, the Tigers kept their opponent off the scoreboard. They even played so well that last week's MVP didn’t log a single snap.

“Grant McKinniss is ticked off,” Drinkwitz said, unprompted, about Missouri’s punter. “He didn’t even get to play today.”

If the second half is any indication, Missouri’s future is bright

For the first time all season, Missouri fans got a lengthy look at what the future could look like under Drinkwitz. As the Tigers cruised in the second half, the team’s second unit received plenty of playing time at the end of the game.

Freshman quarterback Brady Cook stood out immediately during his first snaps under center. He finished with 62 passing yards and found Damon Hazelton, Jr. with a perfect throw to the left corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. During the game, Drinkwitz said that Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak even quipped over the headset that there could be a quarterback controversy.

Freshman running back Elijah Young also received a few touches and showed off his explosiveness. He finished with four carries for 52 yards, including a 35-yard run early in the fourth quarter, where Young found the edge and exhibited his breakneck speed.

A bevy of young receivers received some playing time as well. Kris Abrams-Draine made his first reception as a Tiger while Chance Luper and Jay Maclin saw the field.

“Experience is the best teacher,” Drinkwitz said. “Anytime you can play in a game, get in there and execute it just gives you confidence, so when your number is called, you can lean back on that experience.”

With a talented class of recruits coming in and a promising first season to build upon, the future looks bright for Drinkwitz and the Tigers.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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