A lot of being a sports fan is about remembering all the stuff that happened in the past. Great games. Transcendent seasons. Names of dudes. Things of that nature.
Being a Missouri football fan is all that...plus recalling the most heinous, unthinkable ways your team has lost.
Bert Coan. The Fifth Down. The Flea Kicker. The Trojan Horse. Hell in a Hank Baskett. DOOOOIIIIINNNNNNNK.
Mizzou fans are good fans all around but elite at recalling all the eternal scars on the sports body of work and telling you exactly how they were hurt.
Eli Drinkwitz has quietly been replacing those tragedies with the ever-elusive close wins and positive memories. Have you noticed?
Yes, there’s been some crushing losses (hello, Auburn!). But how many times has a Drinkwitz team also won close games. Against blue bloods! And in the North End Zone!
Saturday provided another one of those moments. In a situation where I’m sure my fellow heavily scarred Mizzou fans were thinking, “Oh god how do we gack this one away in painful fashion?”, Brady Cook, Luther Burden, and Harrison Mevis collectively said, “Nah” and, not only kicked a field goal to win it in the North End Zone, but set it up by converting a 4th-and-17.
Read that again. Think about it. Hard.
Your team did that. They made a painful memory for an opponent and created an eternally happy one for you.
Eli Drinkwitz and this team are special, man.
Here’s the advanced box score:
Credit to Florida: they showed up to play. I know it’s a surprise when a team of 85 scholarship players takes the field with the intent of beating your favorite team, but despite a season full of disappointment and underperformance, Florida put together arguably their best game of the year and nearly stole a road victory against a Top 10 team. They did it by playing the exact brand of football they wanted to play on offense and logging some key havoc plays on defense. It almost worked but, again, that Drinkwitz pixie dust got sprinkled on this team once again and Mizzou notched another one-score victory to bolster Eli’s legacy.
When Missouri Has the Ball
Can a running back have a terrible day while running for 147 yards? I’m mostly being facetious but Cody Schrader’s 34.8% success rate is the second-worst of the year, behind his 21.1% success rate against Kentucky. He got his yards and his touchdown but it clearly wasn’t enough to keep the chains moving. To wit, Schrader ran it 15 times for 122 yards in the 1st half and then had 8 carries for 25 yards in the 2nd half; on the flip side, Brady Cook attempted 13 passes for 57 yards in the 1st half then went 13-24 for 273 yards in the 2nd half. Mizzou was much better at throwing the ball than running the ball and that’s fine; the fact that this team can shift tactics and still win games is a testament to its talent and coaching.
IT’S BIG PLAYLIST TIME BABY:
- Q1 - 16-yard run by Nathaniel Peat
- Q1 - 15-yard run by Cody Schrader
- Q1 - 16-yard pass from Cook to Norfleet
- Q2 - 41-yard run by Cody Schrader for a touchdown
- Q2 - 34-yard run by Cody Schrader
- Q3 - 38-yard pass from Cook to Burden III
- Q3 - 49-yard pass from Cook to Burden III
- Q4 - 77-yard pass from Cook to Wease for a touchdown
- Q4 - 27-yard pass from Cook to Burden III (the aforementioned 4th-and-17)
- Q4 - 16-yard pass from Cook to Cooper
The goal was six (6) explosive run plays and seven (7) explosive passing plays; Mizzou finished with four (4) explosive run plays and six (6) explosive pass plays. Each missed the mark and combined missed the total...but they were still cool to watch.
Win the Field Position Battle
Florida had found success in their wins by tilting the field in their favor so the goal was average starting field position within +/- 2 yards, OR +5 for Mizzou. The Tigers enjoyed a +4.7 yard advantage in field position which certainly satisfies the intent of this goal.
Finish your dang drives
Looking back I set this goal lower than I should have, thinking that Florida wouldn’t be able to keep up over 60 minutes. I set the mark at 6 scoring opportunities and at least 5 points per scoring opportunity and the Tigers helped Florida hang around by averaging 4.7 points on their 7 scoring opportunities while Florida kicked one field goal, scored four touchdowns, and only gacked away the advantage by fumbling the ball at the Missouri 15-yard line. Mizzou was pretty close to the goal but it the goal itself was almost not enough to keep pace with the Gators’ surprising scoring capabilities.
When Florida Has the Ball
Suffice to say, Mizzou’s defense missed Ty’Ron Hopper. Clearly, the Tiger defenders haven’t been the most accurate tacklers or savvy angle-takers in the back seven, but Hopper is a guy who is consistently affecting a play, even if he’s not making the play. His backups are fine players in their own right but found themselves out of position on multiple instances, to the point where Florida’s second-half offense was nothing but “screw it, let’s just run it at them again”. It almost worked, but this defense did enough to hold them off.
Stop the run
At the same time; while everything I said above is true, Mizzou did hold them to a near-season low in rushing success rate, clocking in at 40.5%. That’s not quite the 40% that I set as the goal but it was enough.
Get them into passing downs
I was looking for a 20% run stuff rate to throw the Gator offense off balance and Mizzou ended up with a 13.5% stuff rate. That feels right.
...as an aside, it’s not often that I set five goals for Mizzou to hit in order to win the game and then watch them earn the victory while managing to only clear one of those goals. Is it because I did a bad job of setting checkpoints for the team to hit? Or was Missouri just good enough to win in a way that wasn’t the manner that I anticipated? I’ll let you decide!
The Little Things
Florida benefited from more yards per play and a higher point output per scoring opportunity, but thankfully, Mizzou got ‘em in every other category. Obviously, the two turnovers were massive but better field position, better turnover luck, and more prolific special teams scoring helped carry the Tigers to victory.
On the demerits side, Mizzou was called for 7 penalties for 60 yards while Florida broke the rules 9 times for 59 yards. And I know the officiating was, once again, a hot-button topic. Here’s my input: these crews are new and have been inconsistent at best and flat-outa bad at worst for every SEC game this season. Mizzou isn’t special in that regard, despite those penalties called against the Good Guy Tigers hurting the most. Only fans whose team loses the game complain about penalties and I haven’t heard much about it since the clock hit all zeroes (twice! lol). But just realize that they’re bad, it’s clear that everyone knows they’re bad, they’ll only improve with time, and your team needs to be good enough to make sure those random officiating farts don’t impact your ability to win the game.
- This is another instance where the numbers absolutely back up what we saw. Both offenses were borderline-sleepy-possibly bad for the first half, then came out on fire in the 3rd-quarter. Florida rode a dynamite running game to middling-but-effective results in the 4th while Mizzou closed strong but still barely cleared 40%.
- In regards to yards gained per down, Mizzou had a 3rd-down renaissance, finishing with 144 yards in the most important down. The problem, then, was 2nd-down; if you remove Theo Wease’s incredible 77-yard catch and run touchdown, Mizzou finished with 74 yards on 22 plays on 2nd-down, or 3.4 yards per play. Thankfully that pass did exist but the reason Mizzou struggled in the 1st half and at times in the 2nd half was a lack of movement on 2nd-down. Florida, on the other hand, was able to rip off a big gain regardless of down. Their problem came in the fact that their lowest output was on 3rd-down thanks to a few runs for loss and gains just short of the chains.
- 17.8% is the lowest havoc rate a Missouri defense has finished with in 2023 since a 13.3% against LSU, and the third-lowest output on the year, joining the quiet 12.2% havoc rate against South Dakota.
- In fact, Mizzou finished the game with seven tackles for loss; three of those came from a cornerback (KAD had two) and a safety (Carlies had 1). I’m not sure how often two members of the secondary have more combined TFLs than the defensive line but Saturday was definitely one of those instances!
- Nathaniel Peat had two runs for positive yardage, finishing with 18 yards on Senior Night. Knowing his struggles during the back half of last year and all of this year, this is significant and makes me happy to see.
- At the conclusion of Saturday’s game, 2023 Brady Cook’s single season passing yards surpassed 2011 James Franklin for 9th-place all-time in school history and is 109 yards away from passing 2010 Blaine Gabbert for 8th. Cook’s career passing total remains firmly in 7th place all time, 589 yards away from surpassing Blaine Gabbert for 6th.
- Heading into the game against Florida, Cody Schrader’s single season rushing yardage total was 10th in Mizzou history. After Saturday, Schrader’s 2023 season now ranks 6th, surpassing 2003 Zack Abron, 2013 and 2011 Henry Josey, and 2018 Larry Rountree III. If his rushing yardage at Truman State counted he would be 812 yards ahead of the career rushing yardage record holder, Brad Smith; as is, the Kirksville yards don’t count in Columbia and so Schrader is 516 yards from tying Corby Jones with the 10th-most career rushing yards at Mizzou.
- Thanks to Saturday’s effort, Luther Burden surpassed 2008 Chase Coffman, 2014 Bud Sasser, 2016 J’Mon Moore, 2010 T.J. Moe, 2007 Jeremy Maclin, 2002 Justin Gage, and 2017 J’Mon Moore for the 4th-most receiving yards in a single season. He is 68 yards away from passing 1992 Victor Bailey for 3rd, 118 yards away from passing 2008 Jeremy Maclin, and 639 yards away from catching up to 2009 Danario Alexander.
Mizzou has 9 wins and can get their 10th against an Arkansas team with nothing to play for, a coach fresh off of an endorsement for one more year, and a drive to ruin an incredible season. It’s time to take care of business and win another trophy.