If you subscribe to the theory of “Lose big, lose close, win close, win big”, then this season has provided a lot of material. There are other dimensions where it’s possible Mizzou has three more wins this season, but that’s part of the growth process for a program, at least according to the expression.
So far this season it feels like Mizzou is about 60% there. Which makes sense since the Tigers were competitive against the Volunteers for about 60% of the game.
At 8:55 to play in the 3rd quarter, Mizzou was still hanging on. They pulled within 4 points at 28-24 on a well-placed 38 yard touchdown from Brady Cook to Dominic Lovett. The defense had been struggling to limit the Volunteers’ fast paced attack, but had forced two turnovers on downs and a punt to help the offense get a shot. Drinkwitz and his team took their shot. Drink’s play calling was creative, they made a multitude of necessary plays, and had found ways to manufacture yards to keep the game within reaching distance.
But once they got close, Hendon Hooker shut the door.
2 plays and 75 yards and a touchdown for the Vols. 6 plays and a punt for Mizzou. 3 plays, 69 yards and a touchdown for the Vols. 3 plays and a punt for Mizzou. Then 8 plays, 67 yards, and a touchdown and any hope of sticking with Tennessee was out. By that point it was 49-24, Nate wrote his Five Takeaways, and we were done. After getting to within 4 points, the Mizzou offense gained just 66 total yards, Tennessee gained 356.
Sure, some of that (ok, a lot of it) was on two final drives which felt less than sportsmanlike (The game was over, Mizzou’s offense was going nowhere — and while it should be up to the defense to get stops — Tennessee had two deep 40+ passing plays. Ok, UT).
So we know Mizzou isn’t a top 5 team; that much has been clear all season long. But Tennessee is. Keeping the score close was always going to be a difficult task. The way the Vols play offensively causes an accumulation of fatigue, and it sure looked like it was taking effect as the 3rd quarter wore on. But this game, and this season really, never were about winning a November game in Knoxville. It was about the continued advancement of the program under Drinkwitz. Not a leap forward, but a step forward. Especially after signing a contract extension which will up his pay to $6 million next season.
With a raise comes heightened expectations, especially next season. With the defense fixed, most recent results somewhat expunged, Drinkwitz needs to make the offense work next year. But the extension could also provide enough cover to let him draw it out more. Mizzou’s Administration seems like they’re happy with, and now tied to, Eli Drinkwitz. Whether or not you’re convinced he’s the guy is besides the fact because they believe he is. There are just two games left in the season to convince the doubters, or it’s going to be a long offseason waiting on the next chance.
Opinions can change quickly, and they can be white hot these days. Social media has amplified the best and the worst of those opinions. Patience for building a program has shortened, and Mizzou isn’t an exception to that rule.
Other SEC Scores:
- Georgia (1) 45, Mississippi State 19
- LSU (7) 13, Arkansas 10
- Alabama (9) 30, Ole Miss (11) 24
- Vanderbilt 24, Kentucky (24) 21
- Florida 38, South Carolina 6
- Auburn 13, Texas A&M 10