COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Brady Cook overcame a slow start to complete 14 of 19 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another touchdown to help Missouri beat Middle Tennessee State 23-19 Saturday night.
Missouri’s Luther Burden III caught eight passes for career-best 117 yards as the Tigers (2-0) opened the season with two wins for the first time since 2018.
“I’d definitely say it gives us a little boost of confidence,” Missouri running back Nathaniel Peat said about Burden. “Seeing Luther make plays is definitely exciting but my competitive nature is like, ‘Oh, he made that play, now I want to make a play, too.’ And so I love seeing the move there. I like having the ball in his hands because he always makes something special out of whatever it is.”
Nick Vattiato completed 22 of 36 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns for Middle Tennessee State (0-2).
“I thought Nick played with great toughness,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. “I thought he competed and played really hard. Their defense is really good. Their defense was really good last year, and it’s really good this year. We knew that coming in.”
Peat hauled in a 49 yard touchdown pass from Cook on the first play of the fourth quarter to put Missouri on top 23-10.
Middle Tennessee narrowed its deficit to 23-17 after Vattiato led the Blue Raiders 84 yards in a drive that culminated with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Justin Olson on fourth-and-goal.
On Missouri’s ensuing drive, Cook fumbled out of the end zone for a safety after Sam Brumfield sacked him at the two yard line.
“I got pushed out, and I was trying to throw it away,” Cook said. “I just didn’t throw it away soon enough. I was trying to put it in the cylinder where Cody Schrader was. I wasn’t sure if I was out of the tackle box. The guy made a good play.
Vattiato completed five of six passes for 62 yards to march the Blue Raiders to the Missouri 3 on the first drive of the second half before Zeke Rankin kicked a 25 yard field goal with 8:39 remaining to tie the game at 10-10.
Missouri answered as Cook completed a 44 yard pass to Burden before Theo Wease Jr. hauled in his first touchdown with the Tigers to put Missouri on top 16-10.
“We come out and do a really really nice job coming out of the half,” Stockstill said. “We get down to the two and we just couldn’t cash it in. To me that was the difference in the game as much as anything. You’re not going to be an SEC team on field goals.”
Middle Tennessee safety Jakope Thomas was ejected for targeting with 55 seconds remaining in the first half after making contact with Brett Norfleet’s helmet at the MTSU 5.
Cook scored his second rushing touchdown of the season on a sneak from inside the 1 after a previous apparent touchdown was reversed upon video review.
Frank Peasant rushed 25 yards to the 3 before Vattiato completed a screen pass to Kalani Norris to put Middle Tennessee up 7-3 with 8:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Harrison Mevis hit a 39 yard field goal with 5:21 remaining in the first quarter to give the Tigers an early 3-0 lead.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders have now dropped six straight contests against SEC opponents since beating Missouri 51-45 in Columbia on Oct. 22, 2016.
Missouri: The Tigers offensive line struggled to protect Cook, surrendering six sacks for a loss of 68 yards.
“There’s a good probability there’s going to be some personnel changes,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “We’re not going to stick with status quo. We’ve had two games to figure it out. If production is still not where it needs to be, we’re going to compete for jobs. We’re not going to continue to give up four sacks and run the same five guys out there.”
Missouri beat Middle Tennessee State in regulation for the first time in three matchups, all at home.
Middle Tennessee State hosts Murray State on Saturday night in its home opener.
Missouri hosts former Big 12-foe No. 15 Kansas State on Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll