No. 9 Missouri went into Fayetteville, Arkansas, with one final goal to accomplish in the 2023 regular season. A win and 10-4 all-time advantage against Arkansas would once again bring bragging rights over the Razorbacks, but make a successful afternoon sweeter with the prestigious bowl bid that comes with it.
The dream of going to Dallas, or the taste of Orange, or perhaps even Peach was in the eyes of the Tigers in enemy territory, and not even an Arkansas team playing in what Sam Pittman called their bowl game, was going to stop Mizzou.
From start to finish Mizzou put its foot on the gas and didn’t stop until the scoreboard read 48-14. The Tigers have now sealed an appearance in the New Years Six while collecting their sixth double-digit winning season this millennium, the first in nine years.
“We’re America’s team,” Eli Drinkwitz said. “We’re a team built on underdogs. We’re a team built on young men with something to prove...we’re the story that people should be really proud to be behind and I’m just proud to coach this football team and it ain’t about me it’s about those brotherhood, those guys coming together, those coaches in there coaching their butts off for each other and that’s what America’s all about, people coming together.”
While possessing a high potent passing attack, offensive coordinator Kirby Moore elected to stay on the ground for most of the contest. Brady Cook threw for just 112 yards on 12 completions, but the rushing attack worked to perfection.
Cody Schrader, just like Tony Temple on Jan. 1, 2008, ripped the Razorback defense to shreds for a career high 217 rushing yards.
“Cody, another 200 yards. It’s time to start talking about him being the best player in the country,” Eli Drinkwitz said. “You can’t say enough good things about him.”
The outside zone, one of Missouri’s bread and butter plays that it has found success all season thrived as Schrader diced Arkansas for gains of 36, 43, and 49 yards in the first half on three separate drives. The trio of possessions alone resulted in three scoring trips, one by Schrader, one by Cook, and another by Mevis on a 22-yard field goal sending Missouri into the locker room in control with a 20-0 advantage.
Schrader alone in the first half was the entire offense for Missouri and that was all the Tigers needed. In his final regular season game, Schrader pounded the ball 22 times for 192 yards in the first half alone. Early in the game he surpassed a pair of Mizzou legends as he leaped Brad Smith’s and Joe Moore’s outstanding 2005 and 1969 seasons for the fourth most rushing yards by a Tiger in a single season.
Cody Schrader up to 1,319 rushing yards for the season. That passes Brad Smith's 2005 season & Joe Moore's 1969 season for No. 4 on Mizzou's single-season list.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) November 24, 2023
1. Tyler Badie (2021): 1,604
2. Devin West (1998): 1,578
3. Brad Smith (2003): 1,406
The stats are pretty, but the winning for his fellow brothers is the only thing on Schrader’s mind.
“I don’t ever really pay attention to it,” Schrader said. “It’s something that I’m not really worried about. I’m focused on winning football games, of course I see it and I hear about it from friends and family and stuff like that but man, it goes out to the o-line, and tight ends, and even receivers. I mean Mookie Cooper had a ton of blocks.”
Arkansas, with three ejections to Missouri’s one (Armand Membou), a half empty stadium and star senior quarterback K.J Jefferson leaving the game unfortunately due to injury on his second offensive drive, was lifeless throughout the third quarter allowing Missouri to pour on its second blowout victory in the month of November.
Capitalizing off a pair of turnovers, Missouri’s offense found more success in the red zone thanks to a true freshman from the St. Louis area. After J.C .Carlies strip-sacked backup quarterback Jacolby Criswell, it was recovered by Triston Newson (who had a heck of a game defensively) the Tigers made their way to the Razorback 16 where Cook found Brett Norfleet, he’s going to be really good, for a 16-yard strike. The special teams unit set up Norfleet’s second score as Marvin Burks recovered another fumble before the 6-foot-7 tight end was wide open off play action making it a 34-point game. No. 87 was the one of two Tigers to go over 20 yards receiving, due to Schrader taking most of the offensive production on the ground.
Norfleet finished with 32 yards on three receptions firmly establishing himself as the best receiving tight end on the roster while Luther Burden III led all receivers with 56 yards on six receptions including a 28-yard beauty from Cook in the first quarter.
In all, Missouri outgained the Razorbacks in their home stadium 371-230. The Tigers’ 263 yards on the ground is the most by the team all season. Schrader's distance traveled on the ground equaled 651 feet, which is 21 more than the height of the St. Louis Arch in his hometown.
Jay Jernigan scored on the defensive side for the Tigers midway through the third quarter while Nathaniel Peat got Missouri to 48 points later in the fourth stanza with his fourth touchdown of the season.
“Nate’s a special kid man,” Schrader said. “The season probably hasn’t gone the way he’s expected but the way he’s been a teammate to me, to the younger guys, to this whole team, he’s a leader.”
It will be a while before we exactly know where Missouri will be bowling. The bowl matchups will be revealed on Dec. 3. Drinkwitz and his team doesn’t have a preference on which New Year’s Six Bowl they will attend.
“Just as long as we’re going, I don’t care where we’ll go, we’ll show up,” Drinkwitz said.
But until then, the Tigers will be enjoying the Battle Line Trophy as it makes its way back to Columbia, Missouri.
“It’s the capstone of the year,” said Drinkwitz on defeating Arkansas. “And I know I’m going to enjoy my day off tomorrow I know that.”