Leading into their game against the No. 13 Tennessee Volunteers, the talk of the town was whether Cody Schrader could continue his prolific season running the football, against the top-ranked rushing defense in the SEC. The Vols came in to the game as the only rushing defense in the SEC allowing double-digit yards per game, looking ready and forward to win the battle in the trenches in Columbia on Saturday.
However, Schrader smacked that same potent defense in the mouth on Saturday, and deposited a dominant full-game performance in which he racked up 321 yards from scrimmage on 39 touches.
Schrader’s impact was felt in short order as he picked up a 37-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage, a sight the Volunteer defense would see two more times as he racked up three receptions for 93 yards in the first half.
Now to what we are here for, Schrader was able to utilize a combination of scintillating blocking and timely cuts in the second level to pick up subtle, but positive runs. Schrader’s runs helped the Tigers run off clock when they needed to, acting as a secondary defense mechanism to the Volunteers profound up-tempo offense.
After allowing a measly 97.8 rush yards per game leading into the matchup, Schrader gashed the Volunteers for 205 yards on 35 carries with a touchdown to boot. Most of his yards came from creative usage of the outside zone run-plays, a play that Head Coach Eliah Drinkwitz alluded to in his pregame presser earlier this week:
“That’s a play that’s been effective for us. It’s been effective for Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie, and I think Cody (Schrader) has gotten really comfortable running that play...I think the athleticism of our tackles really allows us to define that cut back for our tailbacks,” Drinkwitz said.
Schrader continued his incredible run of form in the second half, finishing his tally at 321 yards from scrimmage, and becoming the first running back in SEC history to pick up 200+ yards rushing and 100+ yards receiving in a single game. Schrader alluded to the feat postgame:
“I’ve done it (getting 300+ yards) with all-purpose yards, but I’ve never had that many receiving yards,” Schrader said. “You know I was messing with Kirby (Moore) this week to get me the ball more (in the receiving game) and I did.”
Schrader’s 321 yards was just 29 yards less than the highly touted Tennessee offense had combined, and if it wasn’t for a garbage time drive from the Volunteers, Schrader would have finished with more, and his coach said that’s attributed to the mindset Schrader has going into every play:
“To tackle him you have to sacrifice your body, because he is going to sacrifice his body to take you down,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s like a big game of chicken, that Cody always wins.”
Schrader’s performance not only garnered him national attention, but more importantly to him, it gained the attention of his teammates, as they lifted him up and cheered his name after the game.
Two years ago, Cody Schrader was playing for D-II Truman State.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 12, 2023
Last year, he walked on at Mizzou.
Tonight, he had 205 rushing yards, 116 receiving yards, and got lifted up by his teammates.
“That was definitely the number one moment in my entire life,” Schrader said.
One of the men responsible for the space Cody had running the ball, offensive tackle Javon Foster, had a lot to say about Schrader’s performance:
“Cody just makes it so much easier for us...he’s such an easy guy to block for,” Foster said. “He’s such a great running back, he can do it all, he can run, catch, he can really do it all.”
Ultimately, Schrader’s work is a testament to how far hard work and preparation can get you in college football, as it can turn a running back coming from Truman State to the SEC’s leading rusher in just two seasons.
Schrader’s 13 total plays with 6+ yards or more was a catalyst to his outstanding performance, as he also contributed to nine of the Tigers 26 first downs on the night. His ability to cut back on outside zone runs was exactly what Kirby Moore and the Tigers offense was looking for from him on Saturday, and he delivered.
One play in the game that really felt like a microcosm of Cody’s career at Mizzou, and not even just his career at Mizzou but you could even attribute it to his life, was a play where Schrader was, in his own words, “suplexed” by a Tennessee player on a cutback. Schrader then proceeded to get right back up before the Volunteer player did and got right back into the huddle.
“I was like, ‘I gotta get up or else I’m going to look soft’,” Schrader said. “And I think it makes a huge difference as far as the mindset of the opposing team when they see you get right back up like that.”
Schrader’s performance was not only gritty, but it was highlighted by smart, heads-up football. The coaching staff calls the final four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half the “swing eight”, as it is typically the time where you can augment or decrease your chances of winning significantly. Schrader’s heads up play to get down despite having plenty of running room with just under six seconds left in the first half, to help the Tigers set up for a field goal to make the game 13-7 created a crucial swing in the “swing eight”.
“We call it ‘handcuff’ in practice and we practice it all the time, where you got to get down so you can send out the field goal kicking unit,” Schrader said. “Big shoutout to Coach (Luper) for giving me the heads up and letting me know I was in that situation.”
Schrader’s performance on Saturday was described as gritty, iconic, and insane by his teammates and coaches. However, whatever you call the performance will never change what it was, a dazzling performance that put the Missouri Tigers on his shoulders en route to a classic victory in front of 60,000+ at Faurot Field on Saturday.