It’s hard not to get wrapped up in a bundle of fury when it comes to watching your team. The discourse in public forums can border on hostile when things aren’t going well.
Last night, things weren’t going well.
For years prior to when I was responsible for leading this site, RockMNation was known for a level of levity in and around Mizzou sports. At least part of that came from the site coming of age when things were mostly going well, coupled with the personality of Bill and others like him. Formidable years spent in the mid to late aughts under the responsible ownership of Gary Pinkel coupled with the rebirth of Mizzou Basketball under Mike Anderson makes it easier to keep things light and fun. After all, winning is fun.
Last night Mizzou won a football game. But what it wasn’t... was fun.
For far too much of Eliah Drinkwitz’s tenure at Missouri you could ascribe the term “not fun” to. For all the offseason successes, the recruiting wins and the boisterous quotes, Drinkwitz as an actual gameday football coach is incredibly boring and dull. He’s conservative and close-minded, and incredibly old school. It’s remarkable, really.
Football, and really many other sports, have come a long way with the advance of analytics. Dennis Gates has a very nuanced and progressive approach to how he has built and styled his last two rosters at Missouri. And while basketball and football remain very different sports, the approach and new age of thinking is still something that is required when you’re on the fringes of power. This seems to be something Gates grasps, and something Drinkwitz rejects.
Missouri is perpetually on the fringes of power and creativity is required to be successful. Pinkel understood that, and Mike Anderson did too. What Drinkwitz seems to struggle with is that you can upgrade the talent as much as you can, but you’re still playing at a deficit in the SEC. Giving him credit here, the talent has been upgraded. Sure, there are still some problems on the roster, but it’s still one of the most talented rosters Missouri has fielded in the modern recruiting era. The talent level per 247sports.com is 24th in the country, but it’s still just 10th in the SEC.
So even with a major upgrade in talent Missouri is still behind. You would hope that would instill some creativity into the approach.
Take this quote from Drinkwitz after the game when asked about punting versus going for it on 4th & short: “Up 13, if they’ve got to go 83 yards their chance of scoring are a lot less than on the 50. I think it’s the right call every time.”
I pulled this quote from a PowerMizzou.com tweet, and as of around 11:00 pm there were roughly 60 quote tweets from people making fun of this comment. That’s because it’s absurd. This is a very, very, very old school way of thinking. It’s akin to saying “well, I trust my defense” on any decision to punt. It makes no sense.
It completely ignores down, distance and success rates. It ignores whether or not you think your offense can pick up a yard. And as many people have correctly pointed out, the University of Missouri should be able to pick up a yard against Middle Tennessee State on every down every time. Missouri did not attempt a 4th down conversion. Meanwhile, MTSU attempted three fourth down conversions and the only one they didn’t make was a 4th & 8. They converted a 4th & 7 and a 4th & 13. So Drinkwitz is completely ignoring success rates on offensive plays when taking into account whether he should punt on 4th down.
The approach is boring. But what bothers me the most is it just feels like 2022 redux. Drinkwitz deserves credit for fixing the defense and its approach. He’s hired an exciting coordinator and they’ve recruited the players who fit the scheme. It’s a success. But his offense is just uninspiring.
Brady Cook looks moderately better than he did a year ago. The offensive line looks basically the same. The running game leaves a lot to be desired. This really does look a lot like last years team. And heading into a week where Kansas State will be looking to assert more dominance over their old conference foe, I think it would seem like a good time to be bold.
Other SEC Scores:
- Georgia (1) 45, Ball State 3
- Texas (11) 34, Alabama (3) 24
- Tennessee (9) 30, Austin Peay 3
- LSU (14) 72, Grambling 10
- Ole Miss (20) 37, Tulane (24) 20
- Miami 48, Texas A&M (23) 33
- Arkansas 28, Kent State 6
- Kentucky 28, Eastern Kentucky 17
- Wake Forest 36, Vanderbilt 20
- Mississippi State 31, Arizona 24
- Florida 49, McNeese State 7
- South Carolina 47, Furman 21
- Cal was up 10 to 7 over Auburn at midnight