Last year when Missouri faced Arkansas, offense ran rampant. There were 98 points scored, 1200 combined yards of offense by both teams, and defense almost seemed optional for both sides. The 2021 rendition of the Battle Line Rivalry was much different.
For much of the game, defense was the story. Both sides struggled to get offense going, and when the teams came out for the second half, only one showed up. Arkansas finally got their dangerous offense loose, and they were able to separate themselves from a Tigers offense that couldn’t stop from beating themselves.
“It was just a lot of penalties, we kinda backed ourselves up,” RB Tyler Badie said of the Tigers’ self-inflicted wounds after the game. “As a team, we have to be able to limit the penalties and just be able to stick to the script.”
Despite four crucial offensive penalties, the Tigers kept themselves in the game for quite a while. The score was deadlocked at 3-3 midway through the second quarter and neither team looked like they were going to break it. That was until Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson finally connected with his main man WR Treylon Burks.
Three Burks catches on one drive, including one for 43 yards, got the Hogs down to the Missouri 1-yard line and RB Raheim Sanders ran it in for the first touchdown of the game and a 10-3 Razorbacks lead.
The Tigers tried to find a response before intermission, but costly mistakes on key downs repeatedly set them back despite 117 first half rushing yards from Tyler Badie. Harrison Mevis, who nailed a 46-yard field goal earlier in the half, added another field goal before the teams went into their respective locker rooms with the Tigers trailing 10-6 despite outgaining the Razorbacks 187-167.
“It’s almost like taking a step forward and taking a step back,” Tyler Badie explained after the Tigers’ loss, frustrated. “At the end of the day, if we want to be a successful offense we have to limit our penalties. I’m not sure how many yards in penalties we had, but it definitely impacted the game when we got in the redzone and close to the redzone.”
When the teams returned from halftime, it seemed like defensive battle of the first half would continue into the second when the Tigers and Razorbacks exchanged three and outs, but that was short lived.
On the Razorback second drive of the half, Jefferson connected with De’Vion Warren on a quick screen pass, and Warren did the damage with his legs going 55 yards all the way to the Missouri 6 yard line. A couple plays later, Trelon Smith found the endzone to push the Razorback lead to 17-6.
In desperate need of a response, the Tiger offense was never able to provide one.
A suspect passing game was detrimental to the Tigers no matter how hard Tyler Badie ran. Missouri QB Connor Bazelak was just 10-26 for 65 yards and one interception before he was pulled late in the fourth quarter.
Despite Bazelak’s less than stellar statline, the Arkansas defense’s pressure didn’t put him in the best situations to succeed. “They put a lot of pressure on us, zero blitzes and things like that, so it makes it hard to effectively push the ball down the field when they’re bringing 7 guys,” WR Keke Chism said, regarding the offense’s struggles.
After another unsuccessful offensive drive for Bazelak the Tigers, the Razorbacks continued to pile it on. KJ Jefferson found Treylon Burks, again, for a 52-yard touchdown pass when a Missouri blitz couldn’t get home. Burks finished with 7 catches for 129 yards, giving him a 1000 yard receiving season and his sixth 100 yard receiving game of the year.
Trailing 24-6, Missouri got some points back in the form of another Harrison Mevis field goal, but kicking field goals was never going to be enough to defeat this Arkansas team who refused to let their foot of the gas.
The Razorbacks added a field goal of their own before really sealing the deal when Treylon Burks took a reverse and ran the speed option with Raheim Sanders who took Burks’ pitch for a 6-yard touchdown.
According to Missouri LB Blaze Alldredge the creative second half play calling from the Razorbacks, including the Burks speed option play, was what changed the tide in the second half.
“I think they brought out just about every trick play in the playbook except for the fumblerooski,” Alldredge explained. “And the thing about that is, it’s hard as a defense to really practice against every trick play in the book over the course of the week, so you really just have to be disciplined and stick to your rules, and we got out of that a couple times and they took advantage and hit big plays.”
The Tigers got a consolation prize on their last drive when backup QB led the Tigers down the field for their first touchdown drive thanks to a heavy dose of Tyler Badie. On the drive, Badie finished with a TD, broke the single season rushing record for a Missouri runningback, and eclipsed 200 yards for 5th time this season, something no other SEC runningback has done this millenium.
Despite all those individual accolades, Badie couldn’t carry this Tigers’ team to another victory, and the Battle Line trophy will now officially reside in Fayetteville for the first time since 2015 thanks to the Razorbacks 34-17 victory over the Tigers.