Today’s matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks proved to be one of the most entertaining Missouri Tiger football games of the last two decades.
Though the game got off to a slow start, a shootout quickly unfolded. The big Arkansas decision of the day was to start freshman, KJ Jefferson over Feleipe Franks at quarterback. Franks was dressed and participating in warmups, but he was sidelined due to an apparent rib injury after getting banged up in the game against LSU. Jefferson struggled to muster anything for the Razorbacks early as Eli Drinkwitz and the Tigers were first on the board, jumping out to a three point lead, and extending their lead to 10 with a healthy mixture of Larry Rountree III and precise passing from Connor Bazelak.
On the other side of the ball, Jefferson seemingly turned his controller to “ATTACK” mode on the second drive. He demonstrated a threat both on the deep ball and with his legs, and capped off the drive with a touchdown to tight end, Blake Kern. The extra point was missed, however so Missouri still led 10-6.
After another field goal for the Tigers, Arkansas tied the game on a 68 yard touchdown pass from Jefferson to Treylon Burks to tie the game at 13, and things were beginning to look shaky for the Tigers defense.
An exchange of Touchdowns left the game tied at 20, but on the ensuing drive the Missouri offense stalled as Grant McKinniss made his first appearance in two weeks for the Tigers and punted the ball back to Arkansas who pieced together another nice drive, putting them ahead 27-20. The drive was assisted by the ejection of Nick Bolton, who was thrown out for targeting following a controversial hit on an Arkansas receiver.
Sam Pittman knew Feleipe Franks would be unavailable but wanted to talk about the Quarterback who played, “Let’s talk about KJ Jefferson, he’s doing a hell of a job.”
Jefferson had three total touchdowns in the first half and threw for over a 100 yards. Both teams combined for a total of 532 yards of offense at the half.
Chad Bailey stepped in for Missouri at linebacker following the Nick Bolton ejection, but it didn’t stop the Razorbacks momentum. The Razorbacks outscored Mizzou 27-6 over a stretch including the last few minutes of the 2nd Quarter through the beginning of the fourth quarter to leave the Tigers with a deficit of 14 points, at 40-26.
Missouri needed a quick answer and that’s exactly what they did. A long passing play to Damon Hazelton followed by a 46 yard touchdown run by Tyler Badie put Missouri right back in the game, and with a new energy.
After forcing a punt and with plenty of time to go in the fourth, the Tigers had the ball and a chance to tie things up. Larry Rountree III started and finished another fast drive for the Tigers which evened the score at 40. Missouri’s defense remained disciplined in the fourth quarter. A sack followed by an incomplete pass forced on the Arkansas punt to come out team once more. Missouri received the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Rountree burst off the left edge on first play picking up 46 more yards on his longest run of the day. Just as quick as they were down 14, Missouri regained the lead as Badie’s speed burned the Arkansas secondary for 25 yards and in for his second touchdown of the game. Nick Bolton was noticeably fired up on the sideline. Missouri had answered the Hogs run with a big one of their own running off 21 straight points to lead 47-40 late in the fourth.
Jefferson was efficient running the offense for Arkansas all day, and managed the drive the Hogs needed with time running down, including converting a 4th and 1 on a shovel pass to Burks, who barely stretched the ball over for the conversion. An incredible effort from the Arkansas rusher gave them the first by a matter of inches.
After a touchdown one play later put the Razorbacks within a point, Sam Pittman was faced with a decision. Trust in his kicking team who had not converted two PATs in the game already, or go for the win? He elected to go for two points and the lead.
Jefferson took the snap and the initial read wasn’t there, he drifted back directing traffic, and made a desperation throw into the end zone, the ball was thrown in the direction of Missouri Linebacker Jamal Brooks, but he couldn’t reel in the interception and Arkansas’ Mike Woods was there to grab the deflection before it hit the ground.
Arkansas took the lead 48-47.
For Eli Drinkwitz and his Quarterback Connor Bazelak, 43 seconds and three timeouts should be enough time to try and win the game with how the offense had shown it could move the ball down the field.
After quick completion to Damon Hazelton, an offside penalty against Arkansas, and another first down to Banister, Bazelak had the ball at the Razorbacks 38 yard line with 26 seconds left to go. Bazelak managed to put the Tigers within field goal range in just 17 seconds of game clock. After another 10 yard completion to Bannister, and a short run by Badie, Mizzou was ready to turn the ball over to their kicker.
Harrison Mevis easily booted in the 32 yard Field Goal as time expired, clinching the Missouri win, and the largest fourth quarter comeback in team history. Missouri seniors were carried off the field after picking out a rock from the north hill as Missouri won this one 50-48. The Tigers finished with 653 total yards of offense. Connor Bazelak threw for 380 yards through the air, and Rountree led all rushers with 185 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Following the win, Eli Drinkwitz reflected on the Harrison Mevis game winning field goal. “He been nailing those in practice and nailing those all day... this was great win for our seniors.”
Mevis mentioned postgame that Drinkwitz didn’t say a word to him before the game-winning kick. “It’s just another kick,” Mevis explained.
Drinkwitz said he walked over to Bazelak before the game winning drive and said, “Lets go win the game.”
Keke Chism said Connor Bazelak was poised and confident all game. “To have a quarterback with that confidence, you believe he’s going to lead you to victory.”
Chism finished with 6 receptions for 113 yards.
Postgame, Connor Bazelak said that this win was for all of Missouri’s seniors. “We knew we had to win for them, and we knew we couldn’t let them lose to Coach Odom.”
Down 14 in the fourth quarter, Coach Drinkwitz said the mentality was lets go win the game.
“For our guys, it’s all about finding a way to win and that’s what our guys did today”, Drinkwitz explained.