It feels weird to say, but is this the first time in almost two years that Drink hasn’t been Up?
It certainly feels like there’s been a change in the atmosphere around the Mizzou Football program after last week’s drubbing. Drinkwitz started his press postgame presser by saying, “I didn’t do my job.” He fired his defensive line coach less than 24 hours later. Our beat writers (and others) noted the feeling of the midweek presser was, “somber.”
“When I took this job, I knew it was going to be a process to build,” Drinkwitz said... “Obviously, Saturday was not what we expected and was a step back for us. I am disappointed with how Saturday was played, performed, but I’m not discouraged. Any time you’re building something, there’s always going to be processes, it’s not a linear growth pattern, there’s always ebbs and flows.
“We’ve gotta work together to figure out what it is that needs to be fixed, and why that occurred, and how (we) fix it. And it starts with me and what I can control.”
It’s startling how different that feels from the swaggering, sneakerhead vibing, trash-talking Eli Drinkwitz we saw at SEC Media Days. But can you blame him? After almost 18 months of everything going his way — recruiting battles, facility upgrades, one-score games — the last month has been the first real case of adversity Drinkwitz has faced as Missouri’s football coach. And it’s been a real punch in the gut at that.
Obviously a win gets Missouri back on track, even if it won’t tell us much about how the Tigers will fare with their brutal second half schedule. But in order for, “Drink Up!” to become the prevailing aura once again, a win on Saturday is the first step. Certainly more will need to be done; the defensive line won’t fix itself and tensions are sure to be high unless the Tigers can somehow scratch their way to a bowl gam via a win over a ranked opponent. But it’s good to remind ourselves that the Drinkwitz plan was always a long-term one. The structural issues from the Barry Odom era weren’t going to resolve in one year. Hopefully the near and distant future of Mizzou Football is a lot more like the first 20 months of the Drinkwitz era and a lot less like the last 4 weeks.
Came Through Drippin’
Can I just be honest, y’all? OK cool.
I’m just not a fan of of the yellow helmets. I’m sorry, but Mizzou’s blisteringly bright gold doesn’t work well on the lid. I actually don’t mind it as a pant or even a jersey, but the helmet is a bridge too far.
That being said, the Block M does help mellow things out a little bit. Like Nate said in yesterday’s post poll, these helmets just make me miss “old gold.”
What the “Experts” are saying
- Lila Bromberg previewed the game earlier this week, noting that North Texas’ one hope might be in its stud running back.
- CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee doesn’t give this one much thought, thinking that Eli Drinkwitz’s staff shake up will make a difference on the defensive line.
- Underdog Dynasty previewed the Mean Green back in June by speaking with UNT beat writer Brett Vito. Fill your ears with some sweet, sweet C-USA podcast action!
- Speaking of Brett Vito, the writer predicts that North Texas won’t have the horses to keep up with Missouri with several of the Mean Green’s skill players out injured.
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Missouri Tigers, but there’s no time to be pessimistic on Homecoming weekend. So let’s spin this thing: What’s keeping you optimistic about this season and the program in general?
Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: Despite their poor showing last weekend, there’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic about the offense. They boast one of the SEC’s best running backs, a stable of talented (and mostly young) pass catchers and a quarterback who generally makes good decisions and operates efficiently. Could they be more explosive overall? Of course. But 34, 28, 59, 34 and 24 points is good enough for the Tigers to be 4-1. Unfortunately...
SPEAKING OF THAT STERLING DEFENSE! Mizzou’s defense is at best unbalanced and at worst an embarrassment and blight upon thy noble past... but that only means it can get better, right? The pass defense has been solid all season (though the loss of Ennis Rakestraw won’t help), and Eli Drinkwitz buzzed the staff tower with the firing of Jethro Franklin. I would hope that creates a sense of urgency in Steve Wilks to get things turned around and in the players to play with a little more pride. I have to imagine they’ll put together a better showing against North Texas if only because I believe they’re tired of being embarrassed.
Karen Steger, Madame Editor: I’m a Mizzou fan wholeheartedly and I always will cheer for the Tigers through good times and bad. After all, I went to games willingly during the KA era of Mizzou Hoops.
And come on… it’s not like the entire team is terrible. There are even some good parts about the defense! KAD made the MV3 last week after being, let’s be honest, one of the LVP earlier in the season. The Tigers have been forcing turnovers all season, and when you’re at rock bottom, you can only go up, right?
Also, I like the offense, and I’d hate to have fans tune out and waste what’s been a phenomenal season thus far for Tyler Badie and the Thiccer. And I’m a big fan of Coach Drink and believe in what he’s doing. So yeah… I’m still optimistic this ship will get turned around though they’ve hit some rough waters as of late.
Levi Hutmacher, Podcast Producer: While I am skeptical if Jethro was the ultimate issue with the defense, a change was needed to take a step back and into the correct direction. I am optimistic to see slight improvement in the defense, specifically in run stopping. Will it still be bad? Probably. But improvement from worst in D1 is what I am optimistic about.
Another thing I am hopeful in is the open competition in practices this week. Drink told us all why there is no depth chart, and I’m hopeful this is a lighting-shit-on-fire-in-the-team-meeting type of situation that ignites a spark of passion and determination in the guys. At this point, it can’t get much worse (knock on wood), so hey! I am just generally optimistic to see this team bounce back.
It’s Homecoming weekend, which always brings to mind a lot of memories for former Tigers. What’s one thing you miss about the Homecoming experience as a student/staff member/family member at Missouri?
Josh Matejka: I was never huge into the Homecoming festivities as a student, at least not of the traditional Mizzou-sanctioned variety. But as much as I complained about long waits at Mort’s or brutal traffic on Providence, I can’t help but miss the bustle that is created around CoMo during Homecoming weekend. Columbia is such a perfect size to accommodate events like Mizzou’s vaunted Homecoming — big enough to never feel crowded, but small enough to inherit the energy from a sudden wave of buzzing visitors. Even in my premature curmudgeonly state, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me as a student... I have pride in very few things, and my school is one of them. I moved to a small rural town in the years after graduation, and I’d give anything to go back for a weekend.
Karen Steger: When I was a student, I loved going to House Decs — yes, I was a member of the Greek system — so watching the skits and looking at the different designs the pairings came up with will always hold a special place in my heart. Pomping is hard work, guys!
And like Josh mentioned above, there’s just a great energy that surrounds CoMo this time of year. Yeah, the traffic sucks and everywhere is more crowded, but I’m used to it by now as a Columbia resident for the past 10 years and know which establishments to avoid. As an adult, I love getting the chance to catch up with old friends during Homecoming, and I look forward to doing that this weekend.
Levi Hutmacher: So, I was never a student or staff member at Mizzou. But both of my parents attended and I grew up in CoMo. My dad was a Farmer’s Insurance agent in Columbia and would always enter a car in the homecoming parade. So, I have fond memories of me, my three sisters, and my parents packed in a convertible riding through the homecoming parades. I definitely remember the fun, exciting atmosphere that created leading up to the games and am looking forward to a time when I can get back to town to experience the day with my family.
The Tigers desperately need to get back in the win column and a struggling North Texas team seems to be the perfect contestant to get them there. How do you expect the Tigers to respond against the Mean Green?
Josh Matejka: More often than not, the offense has been particularly strong, and I expect them to bounce back after such a weak showing against Tennessee. I’d particularly expect Bazelak and Badie to put together big performances after the two stars couldn’t get much going against the Vols.
As for the defense... we’ll see, won’t we? Given the way Eli Drinkwitz has spoken this week, I’d have to guess that he’s put the fear of god into everyone in that locker room. If pride won’t motivate you to play better, maybe fear will?
Karen Steger: I think we are much more likely to see a Central Michigan-type game than a Tennessee-type game, or even a Boston College-type game. Not just because the opponent is more in line with the former than the latter, but also because I really don’t think the Tigers are as bad as that Game That Shall Not Be Named indicated.
In my many years of coaching, I found that leading by fear was definitely not the way to get the most out of your team, but I also coached high school swimming, and I consider it to be a bit different. There typically weren’t endless possibilities of quality backups that could just be put in last minute to prove a point without sacrificing a win. Perhaps what these guys need is a (figurative) swift punch to the gut to get their asses back in gear. Might as well give it a try and see if it helps get some better results.
I really liked what Drinkwitz said this week about the team basically going back to fall camp and having to re-earn their spots. Show that you want it bad enough, and you’ll get a shot. Basically, I think this team comes out ready to go. They’re done getting embarrassed.
Levi Hutmacher: I’m expecting the offense to come out firing off some big, but safe, pass plays along with Badie running wild. I also expect to see some new fire in the defense. There’s been so much talk this season about the defense and now with a coaching change, I am expecting the line to be a little more motivated than what we have seen this year.
Pick ‘em! Missouri is currently a 19-point favorite over North Texas with an over/under of 69. Can the Tigers finally get a victory against the spread, and who’s helping the Tigers take home the HoCo victory?
Josh Matejka: I never thought I’d say this about the North Texas game, but Mizzou needs a big win on Saturday. They’ve yet to show out and put together a complete, winning effort against an FBS opponent this season and North Texas (while not as impressive as an SEC opponent) would at least be a start. This season is likely heading in the wrong direction with multiple Top 15 opponents coming down the line, so Mizzou needs to pile on all the good will it can garner. I’ll take Mizzou to cover and the under, with a score of 45-23. And now that Mookie Cooper is apparently back to full speed (we’ll see), I’ll take him to bust a touchdown or two.
Karen Steger: Win by 24 (I swear I wrote that before seeing Levi said the same thing). The defense gets a TO or two, and Trajan Jeffcoat reappears on the stat sheet— read BK’s piece about this very topic today! Players to watch— Tyler Baedie (sorry, couldn’t help myself), KeKe Chism rediscovers that his hands can catch a football, and if Mookie Cooper is now healthy - as Drink says he is - let’s see what that young man can do. Uhhh… 52-28 final score so that’s the over on points? Yeah, that sounds good.
Levi Hutmacher: I am going to say Mizzou FINALLY wins ATS with a 24-point victory. I am going to go out on a limb here and say the defense will come away with two takeaways and three sacks. All while Tyler Badie continues to show us he is one of the greatest backs in the SEC with a 100+ yard game and two touchdowns. Now, I am usually wrong with these things, and that’s why I am the podcast producer. But a guy can dream, right?