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Five Takeaways from Mizzou’s 27-17 loss against Wake Forest in the Gasparilla Bowl

Mizzou’s season comes to an end with a disappointing loss in Tampa and a final record of 6-7.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’m going to be honest with you guys, my hype of that game exceeded the game itself. I wondered how much the opt-outs would change the course game, and they certainly had a significant impact. More than that, it’s a low-level bowl and you never know how excited players or teams will be to participate.

In the end, it was a poor offensive performance and a mediocre defensive performance against a decent ACC opponent. We didn’t learn a ton about the Tigers we didn’t already know, and now the season has come to an end. Let’s get to the takeaways.

1) Missouri was a MASH unit by the end of that game

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Luther Burden III, Tauskie Dove, Connor Tollison and Connor Wood each got hurt at various points of this game. This was after Missouri came into the day without Dominic Lovett, Trajan Jeffcoat, Isaiah McGuire, DJ Coleman and Martez Manuel. There are only so many injuries and opt-outs a team can overcome.

That’s not exclusively why Missouri lost the game, but it’s certainly part of the story. It’s the part of the bowl game story nowadays. As much as teams want to sell that these games matter, they just don’t. Not games like the Gasparilla Bowl, at least. Maybe it’s different in the Cotton Bowl or the Citrus Bowl, and it’s certainly different in the CFP, but there’s a certain threshold that needs to be met and, well, this didn’t meet it. Does it feel better if you end the season 7-6 with a win over Wake than if you finish 6-7 with a 10-point loss? Of course. But this was never going to be some kind of referendum on the season, the players or the coach. Even less so after the opt-outs and injuries.

2) Missouri needed more from its offense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The disclaimer is obvious - the Tigers were without Lovett for the entire game and Burden for a good portion of the second half. But the offense simply give Missouri a chance. Brady Cook didn’t complete a pass that traveled more than 15 yards down the field. Missouri’s longest gain on a play that didn’t result in a Cook scramble was a 16-yard Cody Schrader run. The Tigers had drives stall out at he Wake Forest 43-yard line twice.

Moral of the story: The offense wasn’t efficient, the offense wasn’t explosive and the offense, more or less, wasn’t effective. They had two good drives on the day against a defense that finished the season ranked 104th nationally in SP+. This was Wake Forest’s best defensive performance of the season. This kind of performance was never going to give Missouri a chance.

3) One quarterback made more plays than the other

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl - Wake Forest v Missouri Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

I have been what I will call a “Brady Cook defender” for basically the second half of the season. I continue to believe Cook is better than most of his harshest critics. But I have to admit he is more a reflection of the talent around him than someone who elevates the pass-catchers around him. That works when Lovett is out there. I’m not sure what it looks like next year without him.

Cook’s legs were once again a weapon, but he missed on far too many out routes for my liking. Aaron Murray mentioned it multiple times on the broadcast. He lacks the necessary zip to whip the ball in there on the far hash to sideline throws. He also seemed to miss a few more open targets in this game than he did down the stretch, and I would have liked to see him tuck and run earlier on a few plays where he was waiting for something to open up down the field.

It was hard not to notice the difference in how the ball comes out for Sam Hartman. Wake Forest’s quarterback is expected to hit the transfer portal soon, and he’s exactly the type of quarterback who would present a clear and obvious upgrade at the position for Missouri. I have no idea if Hartman would be interested in transferring to Mizzou. He probably wouldn’t - he’s going to have countless options. But that’s the level of player Eli Drinkwitz should be targeting this offseason if he’s going to chase another quarterback in the portal. Don’t get someone just to say you added another player to the room. Target someone who comes in as he clear QB1 the moment they step on campus.

4) A few players did enough to get you excited for 2023

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Demariyon “Peanut” Houston saw his first extended action of the season and finished with six receptions for 39 yards and his first career touchdown. Chad Bailey had arguably his best game of the season after he announced his intentions to return for another season. Johnny Walker Jr. had a heck of a first half with some big-time plays behind the line of scrimmage. Daylan Carnell blew a couple coverages, but also made a couple plays on he ball. Burden made some impressive plays with the ball in his hand (again). Armand Membou was left on an island at times and held up well against the Wake Forest pas rush.

It wasn’t a game devoid of reasons for optimism. It was just limited to specific players.

5) This is a big offseason for Eli Drinkwitz

NCAA Football: Gasparilla Bowl-Wake Forest at Missouri Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 season has officially come to an end. There will be plenty of time to reflect on what to make of it, and we’ll do that in the days and weeks to come. But, for Drinkwitz, the offseason begins now. The transfer portal is already up and running. The coaching cycle has begun. It’s time for Mizzou to get (even more) involved.

The Tigers need multiple new starters along the offensive line. They could use an impact player at either wide receiver or tight end. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to add another running back. They need a couple impact players at defensive end and, depending on Ty’Ron Hopper’s decision, possibly another linebacker.

Some of those additions will take place in the next few weeks. Others might not happen until closer to the summer. Drinkwitz and his staff have done well in the transfer portal in the last couple seasons. That’s a trend that needs to continue.

Every bit as important, though, is this staff. Bush Hamdan left for Boise State, leaving Missouri with an quarterback coach opening. Drinkwitz has also made it clear he’s expecting to hire an offensive coordinator. Those jobs could be held by one person. There is plenty of money to shell out. It’s time to identify the best person for that job, not just someone who had a history with Drink at Auburn.

The season is over. It was, in my mind, a step forward even if it ended with a bit of a thud. There will be brighter days ahead. Thanks for reading and commenting throughout the season, and I hope all of you have a happy holiday season.