Burden shines as Mizzou rolls past Louisiana Tech, 52-24
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Heralded recruit Luther Burden III reached the end zone twice in his debut, Missouri’s new-look defense…
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Heralded recruit Luther Burden III reached the end zone twice in his debut, Missouri’s new-look defense showed progress against Louisiana Tech, and the Tigers rolled to a 52-24 victory over the Bulldogs on Thursday night at Faurot Field.
Joseph Charleston returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown, and Brady Cook, who won the starting job early in fall camp for Missouri, threw for 196 yards with an interception and a touchdown run.
Cody Schrader, Nathaniel Peat and BJ Harris also had touchdown runs for the Tigers.
Yet it was Burden, the five-star prospect from St. Louis, who delivered on the hype. He caught a swing pass from Cook before making one defender miss and splitting two more for his first score, then he took a direct snap and ran for another.
Burden’s only real gaffe came on a sharp throw that bounced off his hands for an interception.
Louisiana Tech’s Matthew Downing threw for 184 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in new coach Sonny Cumbie’s version of the Air Raid offense. Downing didn’t get much help from the Bulldogs’ ground game, though, which ran 22 times for 11 yards against what was one of the worst rush defenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season.
Indeed, most of the focus around Missouri has been on the defense, which was rebuilt for new coordinator Blake Baker around a slew of Division I transfers. And they got into the act right away: Florida arrival Ty’Ron Hopper and Charleston, a newcomer from Clemson, had two of the Tigers’ three first-half interceptions.
It was the first time Missouri picked three passes in a first half since Sept. 4, 1982, against Colorado State.
Charleston’s pick-six early in the second quarter came two plays after Schrader, who transferred in after leading Division II in rushing last season for Truman State, had catapulted into the end zone to give Missouri an early 7-3 lead.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means for the Tigers, who nonetheless led 24-10 at the break.
They were on the move after Charleston’s score when tight end Tyler Stephens fumbled the ball away inside the Louisiana Tech 10. The Tigers also blew coverage on a simple slant that Griffin Herbert turned into a 75-yard TD reception, and twice spanning halftime the Tigers were stuffed on fourth-and-short conversions.
Burden’s short TD run and Cook’s 20-yard scoring scamper late in the third quarter put the game away.
Louisiana Tech kept slinging the ball, even when the game was out of reach, and backup QB Parker McNeil was rewarded with a pair of late touchdown passes. It was a positive sign for the future of an offense designed around the pass.
Missouri will need much better offensive line play beginning with next week’s trip to Kansas State. Along with failing to push the pile on fourth-and-short, the Tigers’ front struggled to protect Cook and committed far too many penalties.
Louisiana Tech plays its home opener against Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 10.
Missouri visits the former Big 12-rival Wildcats the same day.
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