COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)Tyler Badie ran for 185 yards with touchdowns on the ground and through the air, and Connor Bazelak threw for 257 yards and two scores, helping Missouri hold off Central Michigan 34-24 on Saturday.
Elijah Young also had a touchdown run for the Tigers, who found themselves in a 14-14 tussle late in the first half before eventually pulling away. Bazelak clinched the win with a TD pass to Niko Hea that made it 31-21 in the final minutes.
Washington transfer Jacob Sirmon threw for 292 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Central Michigan. Lew Nichols III, the reigning Mid-American Conference freshman of the year, finished with 135 yards rushing and a score.
The game probably felt a bit strange for Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, who didn’t have the benefit of a full stadium – or even a nonconference game – during his first season in Columbia. In fact, Drinkwitz was given the unsavory task of facing Alabama to open a Southeastern Conference-only schedule in his first year after leaving Appalachian State.
It was probably even more bizarre for Jim McElwain.
The Central Michigan coach, no stranger to the SEC from his time in Florida, underwent an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday. His doctors told him not to make the trip Saturday, leaving him to watch from afar as longtime assistant and newly minted associate head coach Tim Skipper handled game day.
The Tigers opened with a 63-yard pass to Boo Smith before Badie’s 12-yard touchdown run on the very next play, but the Chippewas countered by going 75 yards in just five plays before JaCorey Sullivan’s tying touchdown catch.
Just when it appeared the defenses were showing up, Central Michigan put together a 88-yard drive that Nichols capped with an 18-yard run. And the Tigers promptly answered when Bazelak found Badie from 30 yards out for a score.
Both teams squandered scoring opportunities early in the second half – the Tigers turned it over on downs in the Central Michigan red zone, and Sirmon threw a pick in the opposite red zone. But the Tigers finally were able to establish breathing room late in the third quarter, when Young scooted 32 yards to give them a 24-14 lead.
Sirmon, who was sacked nine times, was briefly knocked from the game on a hard hit by Missouri’s Jaylon Carlies early in the fourth quarter. His understudy, Daniel Richardson, promptly threw a touchdown pass to Sullivan to pull the Chippewas within a field goal again, but Bazelak’s second TD toss with 7:58 left effectively put the game away.
ROUGH DAY FOR REFS
Alex Moore’s officiating crew twice overturned important calls after review. The first came when Central Michigan muffed a punt in the third quarter but recovered it while laying out of bounds; the original call gave Missouri the recovery. The other came in the fourth quarter, when Sullivan’s toe-tapping touchdown catch was initially ruled incomplete.
Central Michigan struggled to protect Sirmon all game, and penalties became a problem in the second half. The Chippewas were flagged 10 times for 80 yards, including three penalties in a span of six plays over consecutive drives.
Missouri wasn’t sharp with its downfield passing game, but opportunities were there. Bazelak barely missed on a couple of deep throws that could have turned into touchdowns that put the game away much earlier.
Central Michigan plays its home opener against Robert Morris next Saturday.
Missouri heads to Kentucky next Saturday to begin conference play.
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