COLUMBIA, Missouri – Two explosive plays early in the game got Missouri off to a good start, and they led the Tigers to a 34-17 win over the ACU Wildcats in front of 53,253 fans at Memorial Stadium.

The loss is the first of the season for the Wildcats (2-1), who, despite the loss, pushed the Tigers from the Southeastern Conference for four quarters. Missouri improved to 2-1 on the season before starting SEC play next week at Auburn.

Missouri scored on the fourth play of the game when Luther Burden took a punt 78 yards for a score and the Tigers led 7-0 just 1:17 into the contest. After ACU cut the lead to 7-3 on a 39-yard field goal by Blair Zepeda at the 5:54 mark of the first quarter, the Tigers answered with a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Brady Cook to Dominc Lovett to make it 14-3 with 4:47 left in the opening quarter.

That start was too much for the Wildcats to overcome, although they did get within 10 points late in the third quarter. Trailing 24-3, the Wildcats pinned the Tigers inside the 10-yard line with a punt, and on the first play of the drive, Cook was sacked by David Oke and fumbled into the end zone where it was recovered by Alexander Duke for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 24-10 with 4:02 left in the game.

That was as close as the Wildcats would get the rest of the way, although they would close out the scoring with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Maverick McIvor to Blayne Taylor.

ACU senior wide receiver Kobe Clark finished the day with three catches for 18 yards to give him 216 career catches and 2,331 yards. He is now second on the all-time receptions chart as he passed Taylor Gabriel (215 catches from 2010-13) and is seventh on the all-time yards receiving list, surpassing Josh Fink (2,323 yards from 2016-19) on that list.

McIvor finished 18 of 31 for 197 yards and one touchdown on the afternoon while running back Jermiah Dobbins carried the ball 18 times for 74 yards.

GAME SUMMARY

How They Scored

1Q (13:43) – On the game’s opening series, the Wildcats went three-and-out, sending Logan Burke out to punt. His 46-yard punt was fielded by Luther Burden at the 22-yard line, and he returned it 78 yards for a score and an early Missouri lead.

Drive: Logan Burden 78-yard punt return. Harrison Mevis PAT. ACU 0, Missouri 7

1Q (5:54) – Blair Zepeda capped a long drive with a 39-yard field goal, cutting Missouri’s lead to 7-3. ACU started the drive on its 1-yard line but got runs of 22 and 20 yards from Jermiah Dobbins on the march, and Maverick McIvor hit Tristan Golightly for 23 yards on the 77-yard drive.

Drive: 11 plays, 77 yards, 4:16. ACU 3, Missouri 7

1Q (4:47) – Missouri answered almost immediately as on the second play of the ensuing drive. Brady Cook hit Dominic Lovett for a 79-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

Drive: 2 plays, 75 yards, 1:07. Harrison Mevis PAT. ACU 3, Missouri 14

2Q (3:21) – Harrison Mevis hit his first field goal of the afternoon, capping a long drive by the Tigers. Missouri was able to overcome a second-and-19 situation early in the drive when Brady Cook hit Mookie Cooper up to the 50-yard line to keep the drive going.

Drive: 9 plays, 47 yards, 5:41. ACU 3, Missouri 17

3Q (10:47) – ACU’s defense forced a three-and-out on Missouri’s opening drive of the second half and took over on its 20-yard line. But on the second play of the drive, McIvor was intercepted, giving the ball back to the Tigers. Four plays later, Cook hooked up with Nathaniel Peat for a 6-yard scoring play.

Drive: 4 plays, 32 yards, 1:25. Harrison Mevis PAT. ACU 3, Missouri 24

3Q (3:55) – Late in the third quarter, ACU was forced to punt and Burke dropped the ball inside the 10-yard line. On the first play, Cook was sacked by David Oke, and he fumbled into the end zone where Alexander Duke recovered for an ACU touchdown.

Drive: Blair Zepeda PAT. ACU 10, Missouri 24

3Q (0:22) – Missouri closed out the third quarter with a long scoring drive that featured a Cody Schrader 20-yard run, a 14-yard completion from Cook to Burden, and another 29-yard run by Cook. The Missouri QB completed the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Lovettt.

Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 3:33. Harrison Mevis PAT. ACU 10, Missouri 31

4Q (3:11) – Missouri scored its final points of the day on a 52-yard field goal by Harrison Mevis, capping a 9-play drive that was keyed by Missouri overcoming a second-and-17 situation thanks to a 14-yard scramble by Cook and a four-yard pass from Cook to Barrett Banister on third-and-3.

Drive: 9 plays, 44 yards, 4:05. Harrison Mevis 52 FG. ACU 10, Missouri 34

4Q (1:33) – The Wildcats closed out the scoring as McIvor hit Blayne Taylor with a nice 49-yard touchdown pass with 93 seconds left in the game. The drive was kept alive on third-and-5 when Missouri’s Arden Walker was flagged for a late hit on McIvor, giving the Wildcats a first-and-10 on the Missouri 49. McIvor hit Taylor for the TD on the next play.

Drive: 4 plays, 75 yards, 1:38. Blair Zepeda PAT. ACU 17, Missouri 34

TURNING POINT

Missouri scored on two big plays in the first quarter – one early and one late – to build a 14-3 lead at the end of the opening 15 minutes of the game. ACU was never able to get closer than 14 points the rest of the way.

KEY STAT

ACU’s defense had nine tackles for loss in the game and now has 25 TFL’s in just three games.

QUOTING COACH PATTERSON

On ACU’s overall performance: “We’re disappointed in the outcome, but I’m proud of our effort; you can’t fault our effort. I liked our toughness; I thought we played tough and tackled tough. I can’t say enough about our kids, but we’re not into moral victories and we’ve got a lot of things to improve on. We have to keep looking at what we can do on both sides of the ball to continue to improve.”

On turnovers: “A couple of times in the third quarter, we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot with the fumble and the interception. The good thing I told the young men after the game is that most of the things that happened to us were self-inflicted. It wasn’t necessarily about what Missouri did to us; it’s what we did to ourselves.”

WHAT IT MEANS

The Wildcats are now 0-3 against SEC opponents: 0-1 vs. Arkansas (40-6 loss on Sept. 18, 1948, in the first game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark.), 0-1 vs. Mississippi State (45-7 loss in Starkville, Miss., in 2019), and 0-1 at Missouri.

POST-GAME NOTES

• Before Saturday, the last time the Wildcats allowed a punt return for a touchdown was Oct. 6, 2018, when Cyron Sutton from McNeese State scored on a 73-yard punt return in the Cowboys’ 24-21 win in Lake Charles, La.

• Late in the first half, Missouri’s offense cracked the ACU 20-yard line, the first time in three games that the Wildcats have allowed an opponent into the Red Zone. The first snap against the ACU defense in the red zone this season came with 3:32 left in the first half and resulted in an incomplete pass on third down.

• In the first two games of the season, ACU converted 16 of 32 third-down conversions (50 percent), but were limited to just 3 of 13 (23 percent) against the Tigers.

• With his three catches on Saturday, Clark is now second all-time in ACU history in receptions with 216. He needs just 20 over the Wildcats’ final eight games to surpass Jerale Badon (235 catches from 2004-07) as the program’s all-time leader in receptions. Badon is currently in his first season on staff as the Wildcats’ running backs coach.

• Blair Zepeda’s 39-yard field goal late in the first quarter was his first of the season after three misses in the first two games. Zepeda now has 32 career field goals, which is good for fifth in ACU history.

• Zepeda was also 2 for 2 on PATs, making him 93 of 95 for his career. He is two successful PATs away from passing Martin Perry (94 of 104 from 1978-81) for fifth place in terms of successful PAT tries in a career.

• Zepeda’s five career points on Saturday give him 188 for his career, leaving him 12 points shy of becoming the fifth kicker in ACU history to score 200 career points.

UP NEXT

The Wildcats will be back home for the third time in their first four games next Saturday when they host Western New Mexico at 7 p.m. as part of the university’s Family Weekend festivities. The Wildcats are 3-0 all-time against Western New Mexico with wins in 1977 (46-13), 1979 (45-6), and 1993 (24-10). The last time the teams met (Sept. 4, 1993, at Ratliff Stadium in Odessa) was Dr. Bob Strader’s first game as the Wildcats’ head coach. The game also marked the return of quarterback Rex Lamberti, who sat out from 1987-92 before returning for his final season, leading ACU to a 7-3 record.