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Week Two vs Middle Tennessee: A Fan’s Notes

Notes, thoughts, and observations from halfway across the country on a frustrating night for Missouri Tiger football

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Every week after the game on these electronic pages, I’ll be writing a “notebook” style piece. A lot of beat reporters do this, with miscellaneous quotes, injury notes, or other clubhouse observations from the day spent around the program. I do not reside in Mid-Missouri, so this will not be based on unbiased reporting built around access; it will be about things that catch my attention as a fan watching on television and through the internet.

I want to hit some of the small things first because that game filled me – and most of you, it seems – with some existential dread. So let’s focus on the on-field play before the navel gazing.

  • Daylan Carnell is a player, isn’t he? After a rather anonymous Week One, the sophomore was everywhere on Saturday, including a lot of time spent uninvited in the Middle Tennessee backfield.
  • Mizzou’s defense, as good as it can be on a down-to-down basis and at generating stuffs and TFL, has yet to record a takeaway this season. They are going to need at least two this upcoming Saturday to have any chance against their next opponent. Kansas State looked really good through the air against a Troy defense that is Missouri’s peer, even though the Wildcats were not very efficient on the ground.
  • Marvin Burks had a really nice debut as a true freshman against South Dakota, but his ill-advised decision to bring a kickoff out of the end zone set up the disastrous safety given up by Brady Cook and Cam’Ron Johnson. Burks has a bright future with this ballclub; luckily, the depth at safety will let him do some more growing between Monday and Friday first.
  • Eli Drink-a-witz, Kris Adams-Draine…the SEC Network Plus announcers were not the cream of the crop.
  • On the fourth down stop that the Tigers defense got to end the final MTSU drive, Justin Olson was wide open over the middle of the field; they were lucky the pass was at his feet. A conversion there would have been deflating.
  • Can we not schedule MTSU again? This team just seems to have a weird ability to play well at Faurot. They have a 1-2 record in my two decades of Mizzou fandom that VERY easily could be 3-and-0.
  • I was very disappointed to see the offensive line take a step back to 2022 levels after a promising opening week. Basically everyone was significantly worse than they were in the opener. Cam’Ron Johnson got abused on the play that turned into a safety, Tollison’s snaps regressed, Foster got beat a few times. Drink promised personnel changes this week, but other than EJ Ndoma-Ogar at a guard spot, what’s the upshot here? You’re not benching Foster and probably not Membou at tackle; no one beat out Tollison when they had all summer to do it. Marcellus Johnson has played only 15 snaps in two weeks as a sixth lineman in jumbo formations, and has already been penalized twice during those brief appearances. Having all these OL issues again facing down the biggest game of the Drinkwitz era is not a good spot to be.
  • In 2006, the Brooklyn-based indie rock band Liars released their third album, Drum’s Not Dead. (Stay with me here.) The record was a hit and critically acclaimed. It was a big moment for them, after following up their widely celebrated dance post-punk debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top with a flat effort that was mostly panned in their sophomore release, They Were Wrong so We Drowned.

Drum’s Not Dead was a breakthrough for the band, searching for answers after they could not match their initial debut success. They were initially unhappy with the work they had done for their third recording, so they rewrote it entirely. What it transformed into was a concept album about a battle between two inner characters: Drum, the confident, aggressive go-getter, and Mt. Heart Attack, the scared, passive, overly risk-averse devil on the other shoulder.

You see where I am going with this now, don’t you? (It’s one of my favorite records – hold on, I’m gonna go put it on as I write this.) For a band like Liars, telling a parable about the two warring inner voices is obviously about the creative process, but it is actually universal; we all have this inner struggle, even if we are not artists. Right now, for Eli Drinkwitz, his Mt. Heart Attack is dominating the conversation. We need him to listen to Drum more.

The fourth track, “Drum Gets a Glimpse,” is literally a conversation between the two, both voiced by charismatic frontman Angus Andrew. The cowardly Mt. Heart Attack asks Drum where it all went wrong:

It seems like all our friends are gone

You drove them out

Was I naive to think they’d stay?

You were a bore

Right now, Mt. Eli Drinkwitz, you are a bore. What happened to the go-for-it spirit of the 2020 season? The trick plays? The guy who went for 2 against Florida in November of 2021? You can hear the fans at Faurot – they are getting restless. You are going to drive them out. No one is asking for you to be Kevin Kelley, the high school coach who famously refused to punt and went for it on every fourth down. But the game has modernized. Coaches listen to their inner Drum more now. There’s math about it, man.

There was no reason for this game to be so close. The oddsmakers in Vegas said Missouri was a three-touchdown favorite. 247Sports has the Tigers ranked 24th in overall roster talent; the Blue Raiders check in at 91st in the country. The Tigers defense was swarming the MTSU offense, until the Blue Raiders adjusted and started playing at a higher tempo. On the other side, Missouri failed twice on two early attempts to stretch the field, and then basically bottled it up after that.

Nothing about that win was satisfying. The whole offensive gameplan felt designed by Mt. Heart Attack. That’s not going to work in five days with a top-15 Kansas State in town. The album was such a triumph because the band went on a creative limb to make it; the title Drum’s Not Dead gives this away. Please, Eli, show us on Saturday that Drum is not dead.