COLUMBIA — At first it seemed precautionary. Evan Boehm, Missouri’s senior center, hopped toward midfield and a replacement ran on field. Tailback Russell Hansbrough made the same long, hobbled walk a series earlier.
The Tigers won their season opener against Southeast Missouri State 34-3, but not without a cost. Boehm and Hansbrough, two of Missouri’s (1-0) most important starters, were held out of the second half with right ankle sprains at the discretion of associate athletic director for sports medicine Rex Sharp.
Those losses hampered Missouri’s rushing attack, which tallied 98 yards in the game. Hansbrough had 23 of those. Ish Witter had another 33.
But the Tigers’ pass protection? That held. Junior quarterback Maty Mauk threw for 181 yards and two scores on 12-of-22 passing. Eight Tiger receivers — a position group shrouded in uncertainty after its top four targets graduated — made catches, including two for touchdowns.
Sophomore J’Mon Moore hauled in the first, high pointing a 27-yard lob at the front corner of the end zone. Nate Brown caught a 23-yarder seven minutes later.
Freshman quarterback Drew Lock led another two scoring drives: one for a field goal, another a 78-yard hurl to running back Tyler Hunt in the game’s waning moments.
Missouri’s defense wouldn’t need more than that.
Senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers made a game- and career-high 16 tackles. Sophomore defensive end Charles Harris forced a fumble and made three more tackles.
When Southeast Missouri drove 76 yards at the end of the second quarter, the Tigers’ pass rush stood tall. Brothers and senior safety Ian Simon made tackles on consecutive plays to force the Redhawks into a field goal.
Brothers blocked a pooch punt to end the third quarter and junior cornerback Aarion Penton returned it for a score. The Southeast Conference’s reputation for defense was alive and well.
But to end the game, two black boots loomed large: the ones around Hansbrough and Boehm’s right ankles. Hansbrough spent most of the second half on the training table visiting with teammates. Boehm, who could break Missouri’s school record for consecutive games started if he starts the first 11 games of this season, wobbled around the sideline doing the same. Both wore street clothes.
Yes, the Tigers won, but at what cost?
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.