On Saturday, the Missouri Tigers played host to the 2024 Black & Gold Spring Game at Faurot Field. The game was close throughout, but in the end, the Black team, coached by starting quarterback Brady Cook, had more players on the field and won, 10-9.

With 29 seconds remaining before halftime, the Black team took a 10-0 lead thanks to a 36-yard touchdown pass from Cook to wide receiver Joshua Manning in the second quarter. Cook, who had completed 14 of 23 passes for 125 yards (unofficially) and a touchdown before halftime, was largely ineffective the rest of the game. A 29-yard field goal by Blake Craig capped off a strong first-quarter drive for the Black team, giving them a 3-0 lead.

In the second half, the Gold team scored nine points in a row, with the help of a field goal by Nick Quadrini from 42 yards out and a trick play touchdown pass from WR Theo Wease Jr. to Mookie Cooper, which went for 82 yards. Cooper caught the ball despite covering after Wease received a swing pass behind the line of scrimmage from backup quarterback Tommy Lock and ran it downfield. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Gold coach D.J. Smith (who also coaches linebackers at Mizzou) decided to go for two points as his team pulled within one point, 10-9. Transfer running back Nate Noel had a run up the middle that was called down before he reached the end zone, though.

Even though Mizzou had a deep receiving corps to begin with, WR Joshua Manning had a great breakout game. Cook completed the 36-yard pass to the Lee’s Summit sophomore, who had four unofficial receptions for 74 yards. Nice receptions by Manning in traffic and in the middle proved he will be relied on this season. Legendary wide receiver Luther Burden III warmed up for Saturday’s game and played in the first two possessions for the Gold side, but he was benched after failing to catch a pass.
The Tigers’ spring training will officially conclude after three more private sessions. From now until the 2024 season opener on August 31st vs Murray State, be sure to check back with Rock M Nation for all the latest Tigers news throughout the summer.

1) It was refreshing to see some movement, even though we didn’t really learn much.

As is customary in the spring, the most important thing is that nobody gets hurt. We can cross that objective off the list because no injuries occurred during the game. Since ball carriers were disadvantaged on Saturday due to two-hand touch, it is helpful when live tackling is not an issue.

In the spring, coaches aim for a clean game so their squad may appear disciplined and well-coached. The Tigers looked well on paper because there were only two defensive holding flags and two false start penalties.

Otherwise, the game’s roster design is so open-ended that it’s difficult to draw any broad generalizations.

2) It’s possible the Tigers are fine with either running back situation.

Both sides’ backfields suffered significant losses from the previous season. Despite injuries to cornerbacks Ennis Rakestraw and Kris Abrams-Draine, the secondary saw promising performances from newcomer Toriano Pride and Dreyden Norwood on Saturday. Pride may have produced the game-winning defensive play in the second quarter by snatching an interception off starting quarterback Brady Cook, while Norwood had two pass breakups throughout the game. Pride had his receiver covered on the play, but he displayed impressive agility by circling back around as the ball came down, then leaped high to catch it in the air as he fell backwards.

Meanwhile, the national leader in running yards per game in 2023—RB Cody Schrader—is a major loss that everyone is aware of. In what may have been an attempt to replace Schrader by committee, the Tigers were active in the offseason transfer market and acquired Marcus Carroll from Georgia State and Nate Noel from Appalachian State. They demonstrated in Saturday’s short play that they may be a dangerous combination. No rushing back is going to have a particularly impressive spring game due to the lack of live tackles, but that’s just the way it is. When it came to appearances on Saturday, both transfers were convincing.

3) The addition of another defensive player from Florida might be a pivotal move.

Chris McClellan, a defensive lineman who joined the Tigers from the Florida Gators this spring, is 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, and he had a huge impact in his debut game. Even though we don’t have any defensive statistics, you can be confident that he contributed significantly to the Black team’s 10-9 victory. It is difficult to tell if McClellan has earned a starting spot due to the lack of a depth chart, but he should be there come August 31st.

Like former Mizzou LB Ty’Ron Hopper, McClellan will be a transfer if he can make an impact. Hopper, too, transferred from Florida and was a force for the Tigers for two years.

In 2024, it is crucial for the Tigers to maintain a healthy offensive line.
It should come as no surprise that the Tigers will only go as far as a healthy Brady Cook can lead them due to their severe lack of experienced depth at quarterback. The club appears to have depth at every skill position on offense and defense, but they could use some luck and health on the offensive line. Because of a healthy roster, the 2023 Tigers were able to use the same five offensive linemen throughout the whole season. That’s not often, so I’m hoping they won’t have to dive too deep into the depth chart when the fall bullets go off.

Still, we got a glimpse of transfer LT Cayden Green on Saturday, and he looked solid in his first game action. On Saturday, the St. Louis native—who had spent a year in purgatory in Norman, Oklahoma—started at left tackle and did an excellent job of protecting Brady Cook’s blind side. Cook had a lot of room to run during the first half of the game.

Connor Tollison’s snaps on Saturday were another positive indicator for the offensive line. If you remember (or perhaps you choose not to), Tollison had a few dubious snaps per game last year, which would ruin a play or drive until Cook came up with a spectacular play to save him. Even though it’s only one spring game, Tollison’s perfect snaps on Saturday should give Tigers fans reason to be optimistic about the future.

Five, in his attempt to take over the kicking duties, Blake Craig appears to be the part.
Mr. All-Everything Kicker Harrison Mevis, who aspires to kick on Sundays in the NFL this fall, is one of the more notable absences from the 2023 roster. The sophomore from Kansas City’s Liberty North High School, Blake Craig, looked great in the limited playing time he had on Saturday. To start the scoring, he kicked a field goal from 29 yards out, and the ball had a beautiful trajectory and split the middle. In a similar vein, he converted his lone extra point attempt of the day, which, after the Gold team’s failed two-point attempt later in the game, was technically the game-winning score.

Even though there was a good head wind from the north on a couple of kickoff attempts, Craig still managed to put them all into the endzone. It appears that Craig has an advantage in the kicking race, however we do not witness everything that goes on behind the scenes.

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