Was Missouri’s performance against Arkansas the best version of an Eli Drinkwitz team? Maybe. But is it the best version of this ‘22 Missouri team? I’d argue it was.
You had Cook running all over the place in the 1st half. You had receivers working to make good catches and connecting on deep balls. The offensive line gave up only one negative running play and two sacks. The defense logged SEVEN SACKS. The secondary gave up completions but rarely gave up yards after the catch. Explosive plays were made by the defense and contained when made against them.
That’s definitely the maxed-out version of this team. Whether that’s the best a Drinkwitz team can do in the SEC ever is yet to be seen but I’m glad we saw this team perform at its highest level against THEIR MOST HATED RIVAL. You love to see it.
Here’s the advanced box score:
Missouri’s post-game win expectancy in this game was 90% and this shows a lot of why that is the case. Much better yards per play, more scoring opportunities, better rushing numbers, much better net passing numbers, winning the turnover battle, higher success rates...it was a close game, but the quality of which Missouri played and the outcomes of those plays would have had them winning this game 9 out of 10 times. That’s awesome.
When Missouri Has the Ball
Brady Cook had his best day running and throwing the ball and it helped Missouri keep up in a flurry of touchdowns in the 1st half. The big change was a connection on deep balls and Arkansas’ insistence on playing man coverage, opening up for them to get burned deep and have their backs turned whenever Cook inevitably took off down the field. It was a questionable scheme by Barry Odom but one Missouri fans are happy he made.
Run the dang ball
Arkansas’ defense came into the game with a season-long propensity of being fairly bad at stopping the ball but did shut down Ole Miss’ vaunted ground game the week prior. The goal I laid out was to hit at least a 46% success rate running the ball and the Tigers fell short of doing that, finishing with a 37.8% success rate. HOWEVER. Cody Schrader and Nate Peat combine for a success rate south of 30% while Brady Cook finished with a 53.3% success rate running the ball. So, while the Pigs absolutely bottled up the running backs, they let Cook happily scamper through their defenses way too often.
Generate some big dang plays
Barry Odom’s boys also had a tendency of giving up big plays and, as we know, Missouri’s offense needs big plays to move the ball so the goal for Black Friday was for the Tigers to hit at least ten explosive plays. By the end of the game Mizzou had generated six explosive pass plays for 173 yards and four explosive run plays for 109 yards. That’s a bingo!
Finish your dang drives
As usual I begged for Missouri to generate at least six scoring opportunities with at least 4.5 points per opportunity. Against Arkansas Eli’s guys managed to generate seven scoring opportunities at 4.1 points per opportunity. If Thiccer had nailed that 50+ yard field goal, they would have finished at 4.5. One more opportunity, 0.4 fewer points...eh, I’ll give it to them.
When Arkansas Has the Ball
K.J. Jefferson averaging 5.3 yards every time he dropped back to pass is bad. Really bad. And the fact that the running game only offered 138 yards on the ground - and only 36 from Rocket Sanders, one of the best backs out there - is a testament to how awesome this defense is. We’ve said it all year but, man...what a hire Blake Baker has been.
Get some dang turnovers!
The goal was to finish +2 in the turnover department and they almost did it if Rakestraw had pounced on the fumble a split second earlier. Still, +1 was good enough to win the game, even if the goal wasn’t met.
Create some dang HAVOC!
I’ll be frank; I’m shocked that Missouri’s havoc rate was only 25.2%. Thanks to the SEVEN SACKS it felt like Mizzou easily breezed past my goal of at least a 40% havoc rate. But thanks to an offensive line that kept the other TFLs at a lower clip and less active hands in the secondary, 25.2% was where they ended up, less than 40%. Still got that dub, tho.
The Little Things
Better yards per play, more scoring opportunities, winning the turnover battle, and having better field position are all little things that help push close games in your favor which...yeah, it definitely did. Missouri lost the penalty battle by a lot as Arkansas was essentially called for two penalties with only 11 penalty yardage accrued. But 61 yards is one of the more manageable penalty yardage totals of the year which is a win, I guess?
- Once Barry Odom assigned Drew Sanders to spy Brady Cook on every play at the beginning of the 3rd quarter, Missouri’s success rate took a precipitous drop back to their season average, and then continued to nosedive in the 4th quarter. 10 of Cook’s 15 runs came in the 1st half, totaling 124 yards, whereas he only contributed 5 rushes for 25 yards in the 2nd half. Good adjustment, Barry! Not sure why it took you two quarters to do it but, hey, you got it right eventually!
- I mentioned it briefly above, but let’s revisit Rocket Sanders. The dude entered Black Friday as one of the nation’s best rushers, with 1.426 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He had just gotten done destroying Ole Miss the week prior for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns. Then he goes and runs 10 times for 36 yards*. His three worst games of the year came in the last four weeks (Liberty, LSU, Mizzou) but the Tigers did it the best.
- I reviewed this in the goals but it's worth repeating: Missouri generated ten explosive plays for 282 yards, meaning 15% of their plays created 61% of their yards on the day. Which, of course, means that the other 55 plays generated 183 yards, or 3.3 yards per play. Missouri needs big plays to hang with teams and they absolutely got it on Friday.
- Missouri’s seven sacks against Arkansas are the most sacks logged against a conference opponent since Missouri sacked Kentucky seven times in 2013.
- Brady Cook is the first Missouri quarterback to run for more than 140 yards and throw for more than 240 yards in a single game since Brad Smith.
- Missouri has had a wide receiver go over 100 yards receiving in a single game four times all year, including this one. However, it’s only been done by one receiver all year and that guy is Dominic Lovett.
*the official scorer has him at 47 yards but that was a run by Dubinion, not Sanders
Missouri was once a 2-4 team, staring down the barrel of a potential 4-win season and all the terrible things that come with that. They are now 6-6, bowl eligible, with their head coach and defensive coordinator getting hefty raises and an extension on their contract. There will be a ton of negative feelings due to the transfer portal, but teams are always more than one individual player. It’ll be interesting to see where these Tigers go in a bowl game and who the matchup is but, regardless of anything else, feel confident that this program is headed in the right direction.