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A Fan’s Notes: Cooking in the Music City

Notes, thoughts, and observations from halfway across the country on an offensive explosion in Nashville

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

What a month it was for Missouri football. The vibes were bad after the nip-and-tuck win against Middle Tennessee State. Eli Drinkwitz seemed as conservative as ever, the defense struggled to get off the field, and the passing game was as anemic and uncreative as the worst outings of 2022.

And then the switch was flipped. The team actually was playing possum. These last three weeks have been joyful as a fan again – something that Drink’s program had only generated off the field. Sure, it is fun to land top recruits, to see NIL alignment, to bring back nine defensive starters, etc. — but none of those feelings compare to winning a ballgame comfortably with a dominant effort.

Yesterday’s game just made you want to jump off your couch and swing your little hips, didn’t it?

I know you’re a Missouri fan, so you got a queasy feeling when it was announced that backup quarterback Ken Seals would be starting. You felt weird when Vanderbilt drove fairly easily down the field on the scripted drive. Your panic rose a little bit when they strung together a few big plays to Will Sheppard to close the gap in the second half.

But this game was never in doubt. Missouri’s post-game win expectancy was 100% according to College Football Data. For once they went to Nashville as a favorite and handled their business in a comfortable manner, and even covered the spread. That’s what good teams do. This Missouri team is good – and next week we find out exactly how good.

Some other notes….

  • One reason the game was never in doubt was because of the team’s ability to bounce back on a drive-to-drive basis. This was something missing last year, and something we saw starting in the Kansas State game. Kris Abrams-Draine’s interception ended a chippy Vanderbilt drive that included a preposterous fourth down conversion – that’s bouncing back. The offense responded to multiple drives with touchdowns of their own. That’s bouncing back. Not letting mistakes or bad luck or good plays by your opponent snowball into an avalanche is a hallmark of a confident, veteran squad.
  • Holy, Luther Burden III. I mean, what can you even say? He’s a dominant force himself, obviously: he is currently second in the country in receptions and first (!) in receiving yards. He also brings gravity to the offense, which is something only the best and most well-rounded receivers bring to the table. The way he can stretch the field horizontally and vertically, and his ability to create space before the catch and gain yards after it, stresses defenses so much that it creates easy pitch-and-catch opportunities for Cook to Mookie Cooper, Theo Wease, Marquis Johnson, etc.
  • Marquis Johnson is greased lightning. He has made the most of his opportunities with Mekhi Miller nursing injuries. The ability to send Johnson on a go route puts the fear of God into a secondary.
  • How bad was Derek Mason in the booth? Man.
  • Not sure what’s going on with Joseph Charleston, but his play has regressed significantly from last year. He got burned on a catch-and-run on a play where last season he would have made a sound tackle. According to PFF charting he has missed six tackles already this season; the same outlet had him responsible for missing only four all of last season.
  • I love this little video posted by the team account from the locker room tent. Many in the fanbase gave up on Brady Cook, but I think it’s clear that nobody inside the program ever did. That’s a credit to Cook’s leadership, and to the team’s strong culture of brotherhood.
  • My confidence in beating Florida and Arkansas has never been higher. Those teams don’t look sound at all. That Kentucky game in Lexington looks tougher than ever, however.
  • My favorite underrated play of the game might have been the third-and-medium that Brady Cook picked up with about a minute left in the third quarter. He stepped up into the pocket, faced down a blitz, took a wallop, and delivered a strike over the middle of the field to Mookie Cooper to move the chains. Straight up, that was not a play he could make last year. He either didn’t see it develop in the pattern or took the sack. Cook’s decision making, confidence, and timing are all light years better than last season.