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What Mizzou players had to say 10 days out from the Cotton Bowl

With Mizzou’s New Year’s Six Bowl in a little over a week, here are the thoughts from four Mizzou seniors, Brady Cook, Jayden Jernigan, Kris Abrams-Draine, and Theo Wease, ahead of their matchup against Ohio State. 

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After a 10-2 season, where Missouri exceeded every external expectations, the job is still yet to be finished. On Friday, Dec. 29, the ninth-ranked Tigers will face No. 7 Ohio State, one of college football’s most prestigious programs, in the 88th Cotton Bowl Classic, one of College Football’s most historic bowl games. Mizzou has played in the Cotton Bowl three previous times in program history, 1945, 2008, and 2014, winning two of three matchups. This group of Tigers will have an opportunity to cap off a great season by winning it’s first New Year’s Six bowl game (the term given to the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Peach, Rose, and Sugar Bowl when the College Football Playoff was created in 2014). Brady Cook, Jayden Jernigan, Kris Abrams-Draine, and Theo Wease were made available to the media of Tuesday afternoon and here’s what they had to say.

Quarterback Brady Cook

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

On the level of excitement of playing in the Cotton Bowl: “All my focus is on this game. I’m super excited. I know how big of an opportunity this is, and you know everyone around the building is taking it really seriously, and there’s a lot of excitement behind it.”

How different this December has been compared to the previous ones: “I’d say the vibe and the vibe around the programs and the vibe around Como is a lot better than compared to a year ago today. It’s been a great month, especially for our team, and obviously we’re very grateful for all the awards that have come our way, and it’s just a testament to what we did this year, and the awards have been great for everybody.”

What to takeaway from the regular season: “Looking back on the year, I think we’re just proud of number one, just how we stuck together, and we accomplished the goals we set out. We knew what we wanted to do and what we were capable of doing with each other, and ultimately, we accomplished a lot of those, so, I think watching back on the tape and thinking back on this year, our team is really proud of ourselves.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 04 Ohio State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Ohio State’s defense: “Their front seven is really, really good. Their D-Line stands out to me a lot. They stood out the first time I watched tape on them. We got to make sure we take care of those guys. Their back end is solid. There’s not a lot of MAs (Missed Assignments). They know their assignments, they know the coverages they run really well and obviously they got great backers. 35 (Tommy Eichenberg) really stuck out, obviously.”

On his preparation for the Buckeyes: “Ever since the bowl game was announced, I was able to start watching tape and you know, just a 1,000-foot view of what they do and who they are and what we can expect, and as we get closer, you start to match that with the game plan that’s in place now. So that’s the process we started the last three days...I’m smiling just thinking about it. It’s getting close and it’s almost here.”

On Kirby Moore: “Kirby, and I’ve said this before, brought in a fresh set of eyes for the offense and the quarterback room. He was able to tell me where I needed to improve the most from a blind view on his side. And then he just slowly implemented wrinkles and ideas and his own thoughts into the offense we currently had and he just slowly changed it.”

“He continues to evolve. Each week I think he watches every single college football game of the weekend. I mean, it’s unbelievable, and he’ll grab ideas, he’ll talk to other coaches from different schools, and he’ll evolve the offense and, that’s what he’s done so far.”

Where he’s grown the most under Moore: “Really, just from a numbers and tape point of view, you look at last season and this season, I think it’s obvious downfield passing and accuracy, making explosive plays in the pass game, etc., etc. I think that’s the biggest thing. I think that stands out.”

“He’s just kind of helped me from a scheme point of view, from a coaching point of view to kind of teach me those concepts, and he’s just put an emphasis on it, and it’s something he hasn’t let up on because he knows we have the weapons to do it and he knows I can do it.”

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

On Mookie Cooper: “Mook is fired up. We know this one’s a little personal for Mook. He’s gotten a taste of that side so yeah, he’s going to be fired up. He’s going to be ready to go.”

On Pete Woods: “I heard he’s the guy who beat Ohio State. And you know, I’ve got to be the next one to do it. But he holds that crown right now.”

Defensive Lineman Jayden Jernigan

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Tennessee at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On preparing for a quarterback with little film: “He has about 50 snaps on film, so it’s not a lot of stuff that you’re able to really key in on with mannerisms and being able to tell off the different keys, but it’s still football, you got to come out there and play. It’s going to be an good opportunity for him and us.”

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Advantages of playing a different quarterback with little film: “He hasn’t played a lot of games, so he hasn’t seen a lot of different looks, a lot of different disguise coverages, so it may be more difficult for him just because he hasn’t had the experience.”

On motivation on both sides: “We’re motivated. Our whole message has been something to prove. We still haven’t finished it, so we still want to go ahead and finish it for Ohio State. They lost to Michigan (so), they want to show why they deserve to be there. So, everybody’s gonna have motivation coming into this game. It’s just truly those four quarters; how motivated are you.”

2023 Big 12 Championship - Oklahoma State v Texas Photo by Caten Hyde/The University of Texas Athletics/Getty Images

On playing at AT&T Stadium: “The biggest thing really is just don’t at that big screen up top. You don’t look at the big screen; you’re good. But look up, you’re going to start looking like you in the stands. That’s all it is. It’s just another place for us to play and be able to show our talents, and it’s just going to be at a big stage like that.”

What experience stands out for him after already playing eight times there: “We had our state championship game there. 75,000 people. We still hold the record for it. So that. I got to play Garrett Wilson and a lot of talent, so it’s just a fun experience when you get to play at Jerry’s World.”

On playing his last college football game in Jerry’s World: “It’s amazing. It’s like a full circle. You don’t ever really get to think my last game in high school was at Cowboys Stadium nowadays in college.”

How fired up the Texas guys on the roster are playing in the home state: “It’s big. When you are able to just play in Dallas it’s different. It’s the best high school football. We get to show everything we did in high school, and we get to come to the big leagues with it and hopefully play on Sunday.”

On playing in the Cotton Bowl from a kid standpoint: “It’s big time. I remember my mom used to work at the Cowboys Stadium, and we went up there for the Cotton Bowl one year, and that was the best experience I’ve ever had. So, the Cotton Bowl is a big thing. It brings a lot of money into Dallas.”

On Blake Baker: “He’s just taught me complete defense. At first, I only really knew defensive or defensive tackle truly. But he works with you, you’re able to learn coverages. He’s an outstanding coach.”

Cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine

FLorida v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Tone of preparing for the Cotton Bowl: “I feel like everyone wants to participate in the bowl. Everyone wants to win the bowl and our season is not over yet.”

What everyone playing in the Cotton Bowl says about the current group of seniors: “That we have a good bond with our teammates and that we want to play our last game with them and create more memories that we’ll remember for the rest of our life.”

On playing Emeke Egbuka and possibly Marvin Harrison Jr: “It can really show how I matchup against one of the best receivers in the nation. So, I’m looking forward to that.”

What to carry into bowl season from a defensive standpoint: “We’ve just got to be disciplined, we got to tackle well, and we just got to force turnovers.”

On Devin Brown and what this Ohio State offense does well: “They are really good at getting the ball in their playmaker's hands. Devin, he’s a good runner, he’s a good passer. I feel like you can’t just take your foot off the gas because their starting quarterback transferred.”

Wide Receiver Theo Wease

South Carolina v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On playing at AT&T Stadium: “I think I’ve played in there about nine times because I played in the Big 12 Championship there before. I got a winning record in there and trying to keep that going.”

Takeaway so far from the team heading into bowl season: “The team is still hungry. I definitely think it's a group of guys that aren’t satisfied at all.”

On what beating Ohio State would mean: “It would mean everything, just being an 11-win season, that’s a great season...They’re a very respected opponent around the country. It’s going to be a good test.”

On what preparing for Ohio State looks like for him: “It’s really been the same. We just have a little bit more free time, but I definitely got a chance to watch a little bit more film, so that’s good for sure.”

On how fun this season has been for him: “Honestly, this is probably the most fun I’ve had. I had some fun playing years for sure. My freshman year to think specifically and going to the playoffs that year, but this year just feels different.”

“I think it’s just the brotherhood honestly, like just how close this team is, just seeing the success from everybody’s hard work that they put in.”

His thoughts on Kirby Moore: “He’s a mastermind. He really puts in that work. I think he be coming up here like at 5 am, leaving at midnight or like one. And that’s like every day; you can just tell how dedicated and how much time he’s actually putting into the offense. I’ve learned a lot of, like, little things just like, you know, how to read certain coverages from being on the outside, how to read the safety, how to read the linebacker, just little things like that, that actually expands my game.”