Missouri came into this season with plenty to prove. The last time the Tigers had won more than six games in the regular season was 2018. The last time Mizzou finished the season ranked in the top 20 nationally was 2014. It’s been a frustrating last decade of Mizzou football.
Not any longer.
The team that came into the season with “STP” as the slogan has earned every ounce of respect it deserves. There is still one more game to play, sure, but we’ve learned everything there was to know about the 2023 Tigers.
Enough with the preamble. Let’s get to the takeaways.
1) Cody Schrader is more than a fun story
The broadcast mentioned countless times how great of a story Cody Schrader has become. That’s true. He might be the best story I’ve watched unfold in my time covering Mizzou football.
But he’s more than that. He’s one of the best running backs in the country, and he’s one of the best pure runners in the history of this program.
That is not an opinion. It is backed by fact.
Schrader’s 217-yard performance on the ground Saturday pushed his season rushing total to 1,493. The only players in the history of this program to rush for more yards in a single season were Tyler Badie and Devin West. Schrader will have an opportunity to pass both of them when the Tigers take the field for a New Year’s Six Bowl.
Mizzou’s All-Time Leading Rushers (Single Season):
- Tyler Badie - 1,604 (2021)
- Devin West - 1,578 (1998)
- Cody Schrader - 1,493 (2023)
- Brad Smith - 1,406 (2003)
- Joe Moore - 1,312 (1969)
Schrader rushed for more than 100 yards in six of his last seven games. He ran for more than 200 in two of his last three. He’s punched in a touchdown in each of his past nine games. He’s one of the most productive pure runners in the country. What a remarkable season.
2) There are two other pieces to the Schrader story that shouldn’t go overlooked
How ‘bout Missouri’s offensive line, folks? The Tigers’ front five found their groove midway through the season and paved some massive holes for Schrader to run through. That takes nothing away from Schrader. He got what was blocked and then some. But Missouri’s offensive line had been a liability in recent years. Not any longer.
That’s a credit to the staff for bringing in the right guys. It’s a credit to Connor Tollison for coming a longggg way from where he was this time last year. It’s a credit to new offensive line coach Brandon Jones for doing one hell of a job. This group is up for the Joe Moore award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive line in the country. They’re deserving of such a nomination. They’ve been that good.
But this is not just about the O-Line. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that two of the three best individual rushing seasons in program history have taken place in the past three years — both under Eli Drinkwitz.
There’s a reason for that. Drinkwitz lacked some creativity in the passing game. He might have left something to be desired when it came to sequencing with his play-calling. But his running game is as good as you’re going to find. Not much changed in that regard under new offensive coordinator Kirby Moore.
Beyond that, Drinkwitz is not afraid to ride one running back from start to finish. There was a time in which the unwillingness to spell the starting running back garnered some frustration among Mizzou fans. Larry Rountree III finished the 2020 season with 209 carries. Tyler Badie was second on the team with 48. The split was even wider in 2021, with Badie taking 268 carries and the second leading rusher, Elijah Young, finishing with 37. The split was closer last year because the Tigers couldn’t seem to decide if Schrader or Nathaniel Peat was the go-to guy for the first half of the season.
Drinkwitz got back to his roots this season. Schrader finished the regular season with 247 carries. Peat finished with 76.
The split among running backs is no longer a point of contention. Schrader earned those opportunities, just as Badie and Rountree did before him. The best back is going to get the bulk of the carries. It’s a feature of the offense, and one I’m going to guess the lead backs enjoy.
3) That was quite the turnaround for Mizzou’s defense
The game was 41-0 at the end of the third quarter. At that point, the Razorbacks had 87 yards of total offense. They were averaging 2.2 yards per play, and had more yardage in penalties (53) than they did passing yards (34). Sure, the Razorbacks were without KJ Jefforson for much of the day. I don’t care. The Tigers defense didn’t just take care of business. They dominated.
That’s the way you want to finish the season. Blake Baker’s unit seemed to get caught off guard last week by Florida’s offense. That can now be viewed as a one-off. That group was highly effective for the vast majority of the season. It might not be as good of a defense as we saw a year ago. It was more than enough to get the job done.
4) Hot damn was that an enjoyable game to watch
I’m not a big ‘Battle Line Rivalry’ guy. Not in football, at least. It’s hard to call it much of a rivalry when one team has won seven of the past eight meetings.
That being said, this game felt really good. The Tigers went up 10-0 and never looked back. The entire second half was an infomercial on what Mizzou has accomplished in 2023. It was a repeat of the Tennessee game in that regard, but this time it took place on the road and in even more dominant fashion.
The game was never in question. That’s quite a way to finish the season with an exclamation mark. These seniors deserved that kind of regular season send-off.
5) This will go down as an all-time regular season for Mizzou
Missouri won 83 percent of its regular season games this season. Only three times in the past 100 years did Missouri finish with a better winning percentage:
- 1960 - 10-1 (.909 win%)
- 2013 - 12-2 (.857 win%)
- 2007 - 12-2 (.857 win%)
Those are arguably the three best seasons in the history of the program. For this team to be mentioned in the same sentence with those is nothing short of remarkable.
I’m personally of the opinion that both 2007 and 2013 were better seasons — both teams went to their respective conference title games, and I think you can make a strong argument both were slightly better teams.
After that, though? I believe this is the third best Mizzou team of the past 20 years. I know the Tigers went to the SEC Championship in 2014. I don’t think many would argue that team was better than this group.
What a season it has been. A 10-2 record. Last-second wins against both Kansas State and Florida. Dominant performances against South Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. A flip of the switch on a fake punt touchdown against Kentucky. So many memorable moments. So many great storylines. Such a great team.
We have one more opportunity to watch this group together. It will be in a New Year’s Six bowl. The opponent will be someone good. You can’t ask for much more out of a season.
It’s been an absolute pleasure chronicling the past four years of Mizzou football. Thanks for reading and listening.