Normally I have some long intro on what we just saw and why it matters. Let’s just get to the takeaways this time, shall we?
1) Eli Drinkwiz was out-coached
The explanation (excuse?) for Missouri’s performance in the SEC in recent years has been simple. They aren’t talented enough. They needed to add more top-end talent to compete with the big boys. That’s fair. I can listen to that argument.
But how does that apply to the K-State game? Klieman was hired at Kansas State in 2019. The team he inherited finished the previous season 5-7. His recruiting classes have ranked 58th, 49th, 60th and 50th, respectively. He’s pulled in a total of one blue chip recruit since his arrival at K-State. And, guess what, his team is on the cusp of being ranked among the top 25 and is considered a dark-horse contender in the Big 12.
How is that possible? Coaching.
"If you're going to blame people...just blame me"— Power Mizzou (@PowerMizzoucom) September 10, 2022
Drinkwitz has said - repeatedly - that he knows he needs to open up the playbook. Missouri had maybe two passes before the lightning delay that traveled more than five yards in the air. Cook never looked comfortable in the pocket and Drinkwitz did nothing to get him on the move. The outside zone looks were clearly not going to work against K-State’s defensive speed, but that didn’t stop Drinkwitz from calling them.
What happened to the wildcat? Where did the pre-snap motion go? Where are the adjustments? The gameplan appeared to be, once again, driven by horizontal calls and lacked any vertical element. K-State was not fooled.
Those are issues with the offensive gameplan. There were also issues of execution, both from the coaches and the players. Missouri had a false start on its first drive, the Tigers took a delay of game on a punt, Drinkwitz called a timeout prior to Missouri’s first play after back-to back TV timeouts surrounding K-State’s PAT and kickoff. That all took place in the first 20 minutes of the game. We could go on.
Eli Drinkwitz to Chris Gervino at the half: "We haven't done anything particularly well in any of the three phases."— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) September 10, 2022
Missouri was outplayed, out-coached and outclassed. This game had the potential to be a statement game for the Tigers. It certainly made a statement, but not the kind they were looking for.
2) I don’t even know what to say about Missouri’s quarterback play
Substandard. Poor. Inferior. Second-rate. Unsatisfactory. Inadequate. Unpleasant. Deficient. These are the words that pop up when you Google, “synonyms for bad.” Missouri’s quarterbacks finished they day with four interceptions. If you eliminate that strange end-of-half situation at the end of the first half, they finished with three first downs as a result of passing completions.
It was that bad.
Alright, some quick disclaimers, because I think it’s necessary. Missouri’s offensive line had a heck of a time attempting to block Kansas State’s 3-3-5. The wide receivers had a tough time creating separation. That certainly didn’t make the job any easier for the quarterbacks.
That said... Yeah. You watched the game. You saw what happened. It wasn’t good. By the middle of the first quarter, Brady Cook was bolting the pocket at the first sign of pressure. He made a couple nice throws, but he also under-threw Dominic Lovett on the deep shot from the end zone, overthrew Luther Burden III on a deep shot down the sideline that should have been a touchdown and overthrew Burden on another deep shot early in the game that also should have been a touchdown.
And then Jack Abraham came into the game. I thought it was the right call. It was clearly not Cook’s day. Well, Abraham attempted three passes and completed two to the team in purple while completing none to the team in white. That’s not what you want to see.
Last time Mizzou had 2 players throw 2 interceptions in a game was 1971 vs. Oklahoma State Roper & Johndrow— Tom Orf (@MU4124) September 10, 2022
Missouri finished with 128 passing yards for the day. It’s just the second time since the end of the 2016 season that Missouri finished with fewer than 130 passing yards in an individual game (2021 @ Arkansas).
So, now what? Good question. I don’t have that answer. My guess is they’ll stick with Brady Cook and he’ll look fine next week against Abilene Christian. But this passing offense is not good enough to get the job done against teams like Auburn, Georgia or Florida. Something has to change. And fast.
Drinkwitz: “Brady is our quarterback.”— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) September 10, 2022
3) Well, at least the defense eventually found its footing?
Missouri’s defense gave the offense every opportunity to get back into the game. After giving up 124 yards and back-to-back touchdowns on the Wildcats’ first two possessions, Missouri made some adjustments and found its groove. The Tigers forced four punts and allowed a total of three points on K-State’s next six possessions. Missouri’s offense repaid the defense in that stretch with three points and a total of three drives that lasted more than three plays.
Lost in all of this may be that #Mizzou's defense has held up remarkably well since the opening drive for a unit that keeps taking the field on the wrong side of the 50. K-State makes a 36-yard field goal to take a 26-6 lead with 35 seconds left in the 4th.— Power Mizzou (@PowerMizzoucom) September 10, 2022
It felt like watching the 2015 Missouri football team all over again. There’s only so much the defense can do, and eventually the floodgates opened back up against the defense.
I’m not going to oversell the defensive performance. K-State finished the game with more than 200 yards on the ground. They scored 40 points, 33 of which came offensively. I’m not trying to sell you beachfront property in Montana. But I do think, given the circumstances, the defense held up as well as could be expected.
4) Thank God for Harrison Mevis
On a day in which nobody on offense seemed to get the job done, Mevis did. He was his usual consistent self, even in the middle of the rain. He finished the game 2-for-2 on field goals with makes from 44 and 49 yards out. It’s nice to have a kicker you can depend on. It’s just unfortunate that he was the Tigers’ best offensive player on the day, and he doesn’t actually play on offense.
5) We said this game could change the season expectations, and it did
Unfortunately, it didn’t change Missouri’s expectations for the better. I don’t know how any can realistically look at the schedule with this offense and expect them to go on the road and beat Auburn, Florida, South Carolina or Tennessee. I have a hard time see them beating Georgia, Kentucky or Arkansas at home. That leaves potential wins against Abilene Christian, Vanderbilt and New Mexico State. Maybe they add an upset somewhere else. It’s an uphill battle to get to bowl eligibility. This was never a “win-now” type of season, but it should look better than this.
Missouri finished the day with 3.4 yards per play. The last time the Tigers were that bad against a non-conference opponent on a per-play basis was when Mizzou lost to Michigan State 55-7 in 2001. The Tigers’ four interceptions were the most by a Missouri team since their 2014 catastrophe at home against Georgia. This was the 10th time since Drinkwitz took over that Missouri lost a game by at least three scores (out of 25 total games).
I don’t mean to sound doom and gloom. I typically fall into the category of “it’s not as good or as bad as it feels in the moment,” but this one felt different. This one felt like a harbinger of losses to come. I hope I’m wrong. I hope Drinkwitz has the answers. I fear he does not.