Team-adopted slogans and rallying cries don’t always end up matching the performance of the team in question. This year’s Missouri team has adopted “Something to Prove,” and they have lived it all season. Saturday afternoon against Tennessee was the strongest evidence yet of that mantra.
The Tigers have now captured three revenge victories over teams that defeated them last year, each in successively growing margins.
- Kansas State by three broke the seal; it was a breath of fresh air that proved to fans they could believe in the Drinkwitz era, and in the roster construction and staff building.
- Kentucky by 17 was the magic trick, a thumping in the first quarter felt so familiar to Mizzou fans, before the team proved how resilient and mature they were and owned the final three frames.
- Tennessee by 29 was the statement game, when the team proved they belonged among the national elites.
They dominated a good Tennessee team from start to finish, in all three facets. When the Volunteers trotted out to take the field for the garbage time drive, down 36-7 with three minutes left, the total yardage in the game was Tennessee 297, Cody Schrader 321.
The Tigers physically overwhelmed Tennessee. They were meaner and hit harder. They had better gameplay and they executed better. That kind of resilience after a tough and physical loss in Georgia must be praised. The ability to rally after a tough loss — or a tough quarter — is proof of this team’s maturity.
Now they must put the celebration behind them and prove something again. It will be senior night in Faurot, with many long-time Tigers suiting up one last time. It’s the last check box on the revenge tour, as well.
Some other notes….
- The backup linebackers, Chuck Hicks and Tristan Newson, played well in emergency relief. Baker’s game plan was brilliant and worked to a “T.” His three-man big front with extra safeties on the back end caused coverage issues for Tennessee. He used the backers largely to support against the run, rather than overmatched in coverage. Hicks and Newson could play instinctively in the box, rather than getting roasted in space, and I thought overall the safeties played their best coverage game of the season. Great game plan by Baker, and great execution by his team.
- One more note for the coordinators: Kirby Moore called a whale of a game. His little swing to Burden was dialed up perfectly, and a perfect way to use a player that was mostly a decoy because of his inability to cut. Involving Schrader in the receiving game slowed down a hellacious pass rush. And his little misdirection calls in the deep red zone have been a revelation for this team, after last year’s goal-to-go struggles.
- Darius Robinson has been hell on wheels the last few weeks, now that he is fully healthy. He is second in the SEC in sacks amongst linemen (most of the leaders are OLB), and has a real chance to earn first team all-conference. His play was MEAN yesterday and he helped set the tone.
- In my preview for this game, I wrote about how Tennessee struggled to finish drives. I thought Mizzou might be able to force a few drives to turn into field goal attempts instead of touchdowns, and that might make the difference. Turns out the defense was even better than that: they stiffened up repeatedly and forced Tennessee to punt multiple times even after crossing the 50 but before getting into true scoring range. Impressive job.
- Ennis Rakestraw was a man possessed. Tennessee barely looked his way, and he made some really nice sticks to prevent YAC the few times they targeted him. He also comes up strong in run support. PFF charting has yet to assign him a missed tackle on the season.
- Two of my favorite plays of the game were Brady Cook runs to convert third and long from out of the shadow of his own end zone. Both drives where he did it ended in punts, but they both gave Missouri room and Bauer never had to punt from in his own end zone.
- Something I noticed for the first time this week: Faurot has had a low camera angle on television for as long as I can remember. CBS used a much higher camera for a lot of this game, something in between the typical broadcast angle and a true overhead. Did anyone else notice this?
- Oh boy, Gary Danielson loves Cody Schrader. It’s nice when Mizzou has one of the favored children for once.