The holidays are supposed to be about being appreciative for the things you have and the people you love. Sometimes I very much do not love sports, though. Wednesday was one of those nights. It started with the basketball team getting run off the court in the Braggin’ Rights game... But I’ll leave that one for the basketball coverage. It continued with the frustrating loss by the football team in the Armed Forces Bowl.
That was a game I won’t soon forget. The storylines were endless. From the injuries and the opt-outs to the new starting quarterback, this had the makings of an intriguing game from the start. As many storylines as there were going into this one, it had that many more coming out.
Let’s get to the five biggest takeaways from Mizzou’s 24-22 loss against Army.
1) That game didn’t quiet the critics who wanted to see more of Brady Cook
I know, it’s low-hanging fruit at this point. But did you really think I was going to start with anything else? What was that, guys? Yes, it’s Army. No, they’re not the same caliber of team Bazelak faced this season. But does anyone honestly believe Bazelak would have performed as well against Army as Cook did? I certainly don’t.
The young man from Chaminade finished the game completing nearly 80 percent of his passes for 240 yards (7 yards per attempt), one touchdown and zero turnovers (!!!!). He added another nine carries for 53 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The Tigers offense looked completely different with the threat of the quarterback taking off to run. He looked comfortable in the pocket, and when things collapsed he had the mobility to roll out and extend the play. He wasn’t perfect. There were a couple deep balls that were just... off. There was, well, whatever that two point play was (I personally think that had more to do with Downing’s timing on his jump, but I digress). But, overall, Cook was damn good in that game. He did nothing to quiet the noise that he should be the favorite to start in 2022.
What’s most frustrating about it is how predictable it all was. Why did it take until the bowl game to make the switch? The Tigers could have given themselves more wiggle rom against south Carolina and Florida with Cook under center. They might have had a fighting chance against Arkansas.
I don’t think the Tigers’ record looks a whole lot different if Cook started the second half of the season, but I think the optimism about 2022 might be a little more pronounced. Six games of quality quarterback play goes a long way in igniting optimism around a program that needed some down the stretch. Alas, that wasn’t the decision. I will always believe Eli Drinkwitz was late to the draw on the switch, but at least he got there eventually.
In my opinion, Cook should now be viewed as the favorite to start opening night in 2022, barring something unforeseen.
2) That was a really entertaining football game, even if Mizzou came out on the losing side
I know it’s probably not what you want to hear right now because if you’re reading this, you’re probably a Mizzou fan. But can we take a moment to sit back and talk about how awesome that game was?
We all knew Mizzou came into the game undermanned. The Tigers had two tight ends, two cornerbacks and an edge defender enter the transfer portal. Tyler Badie and Akayleb Evans opted out of the game. Martez Manuel, Akial Byers, Niko Hea, Bobby Lawrence, Martez Manuel, Zeke Powell, Kobie Whiteside were all out with injuries. Mizzou was playing a few kids I’ve never heard of. That’s no shot at the players, but it’s the reality of where this roster was heading into the game.
I say that to say this - that was one hell of an effort to be in position to win with less than a minute to play. Mizzou finished the game with more than 430 yards of total offense. The Tigers averaged more than six yards per play and held onto the ball for 29 minutes against a service academy. A defense without seemingly half of its starters and even more backups held Army to 3.8 yards per carry and a total of 24 points.
So, yeah, I was pretty impressed by the Tigers’ fight in that game. I know I’m supposed to be mad. I can’t be. That was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. It didn’t go Mizzou’s way. In the end, Missouri couldn’t capitalize on its opportunity on its 2-point conversion and Army was able to come up with the big play when it mattered most. Thus is life in a bowl game against a service academy. You tip your cap and move on to next year.
Brady Cook was very critical of his performance.— Eric Blum (@ByEricBlum) December 23, 2021
"I did some good things ... missed the throw when it mattered most."
I didn’t have high expectations for that game going in. I left thinking it was one more the more enjoyable games to watch on Mizzou’s schedule this season.
3) A few players gave you hope for what they could be in 2022
We’ve already talked extensively about why fans should be excited about what Cook could be for next year. He wasn’t alone, though, in giving Mizzou fans something to be excited about.
So, I guess Elijah Young is still a thing? Who would’ve known?! I don’t want to go overboard here because I did that coming into this season and it resulted in a a total of 30 touches prior to the bowl game. But, man, he looked EXPLOSIVE, didn’t he? That’s a player I would like to see more of next year.
Nice blocking up front and Elijah Young picks up 21 yards pic.twitter.com/V8sOcy2sd5— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) December 23, 2021
It was also nice to see guys like Jalani Williams, DJ Jackson and Ryan Hoerstkamp take on more sizable roles due to injuries at their positions. All three should factor into the rotation at their respective positions next year.
4) I hope nobody is questioning the decision to sit Tyler Badie
Does Missouri win the game with Badie in the game? Yeah, I think they do. But did you see how many players went down with injuries in that game? Imagine if one of them was Badie, and imagine it was something serious. Maybe something that either limited his training the next three months and dropped him in the draft or something that prevented him from working out at all for teams prior to the draft and left him as an undrafted free agent.
It’s a risk that wasn’t worth taking. Drinkwitz and his staff got it right on this decision. Badie’s father gave a quote to Dave Matter that this was in their best interest. Yes, Badie would have been helpful on the field. But at what cost? The juice, as they say, wasn’t worth the squeeze. It’s the Armed Forces Bowl, folks. Let’s try to keep this stuff in perspective.
5) That was the last time we’ll see a number of Tigers perform
It’s so hard to know which players will or won’t be back given the Covid rules, but that was the last time we’ll see a number of Mizzou players in a Tigers uniform. Michael Maietti, Dawson Downing, Blaze Alldredge, Allie Green IV, Keke Chism and Micah Wilson have all exhausted their college eligibility. Hyrin White, Shawn Robinson, Barrett Banister and Boo Smith will have the opportunity to be finished playing football or go elsewhere as grad transfers. Many others will likely be headed for the transfer portal before the start of next season.
"When we win the SEC East, it's going to be because of the (outgoing seniors)," Harrison Mevis said.— Eric Blum (@ByEricBlum) December 23, 2021
This season has been full of ups and downs, but this senior class has seen a whole lot of change in its time at Mizzou. It’s worth thanking them for righting the ship to get things back on track.