On the third snap of Missouri’s season, sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk fired away.
He slung the football 44 yards to senior Darius White.
“We came out fast and that showed,” Mauk said.
It was the first official weekend of the college football season and the excitement on the field matched the electricity in the air, as the game got off to an explosive start with two long touchdowns in the opening 63 seconds.
After Mauk’s toss to White, South Dakota State running back Zach Zenner scooped up a botched snap and took it up the middle to the house for a 75-yard touchdown run, his first of two on the day.
However, Zenner, who has a chance to finish the season as Division I’s all-time leading rusher, did not put up as big of numbers as he had against some opponents in his past two 2,000-plus-yard seasons.
Although he did crack the century mark on the ground, Zenner only managed to churn out 28 yards on 16 carries after his initial explosion. Head coach Gary Pinkel was pleased with how his defense was able to contain the dangerous and explosive back.
“(Zenner) has great quickness and explosiveness, he had a great burst,” Pinkel said. “We missed the point of attack but sometimes great athletes make great plays just because they are great athletes. And(the defense) did great after that, they did a lot of good things on defense.”
Limiting Zenner was key in Mizzou’s 38-18 victory over the visiting South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the first ever meeting between the two schools.
After Mauk and White hooked up again later in the first quarter for a 39-yard score to give the Tigers their second touchdown on the day, Missouri was mostly in control.
After the initial blunder on the opening drive, the Tigers’ defense played well the rest of the game.
Senior defensive end Markus Golden led the team with 10 total tackles, three for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Golden’s 10 tackles are more than any defensive lineman’s single game total from last season.
“There are a lot of leaders on this defense and there are a lot of guys who work hard,” Golden said. “I give a lot of credit to those guys, they really helped me out. I could not do what I do without them.”
Sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton also delivered in crunch time, racking up seven tackles and an interception in the endzone, extending the Tigers’ nation leading 45 game takeaway streak. Senior safeties Duron Singleton and Braylon Webb also added their own takeaways with an interception and fumble recovery respectively.
Offensively, running backs Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy shouldered most of the load for the Tigers. Hansbrough ground it out between the tackles all afternoon, rushing for 126 yards on 20 carries and added a touchdown of his own after reversing field and breaking three tackles on his way to the endzone.
“I really did not know what was going on,” Hansbrough said. “I was just moving, trying to get into the endzone. It was a fight the whole way.”
It took a little getting used to for Hansbrough, who is Mizzou’s feature back for the first time in his three seasons in Columbia.
“I really did not even know I had 20 carries today, I thought I only had about 15,” Hansbrough said. “I never even got 20 carries in high school, the last time I had 20 carries in a game was probably back in pee wee ball.”
Murphy, a self-described “playmaker,” made plays on the ground, through the air and in the return game. The senior posted 54 yards rushing and 20 more receiving, but his biggest play of the day came on special teams, when he weaved through flying defenders to go 100 yards for the score.
That score came after a Zenner touchdown and a South Dakota State two point conversion that had made it a 21-18 game early in the second half.
The return was the longest in school history since 1976.
With the victory, Missouri also extends its streak of opening game wins to 13 in a row. The Tigers take the field again on Saturday, September 6th when they visit Toledo.