If I told you coming into the day that Missouri would be tied with Georgia at halftime, and the Tigers would get the ball with a chance to take the lead with less than nine minutes to play in the game, we all would have taken it. That’s exactly how the script was written.
The Tigers simply couldn’t get the job done. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve credit for what they were able to accomplish.
The Tigers gave Georgia everything it could handle. The last time the Bulldogs won a home game by less than 10 points was 2019. There were moments when Sanford Stadium went silent, wondering if this would be the day Georgia didn’t have enough to get the job done.
SEC football isn’t about moral victories. It’s about wins and losses and the Tigers took an L on the road. But the process does matter, and the Tigers put together one hell of a fight on the road against a team who very well might be the eventual national champions.
1) Missouri beat Missouri as much as Georgia beat Missouri
Missouri simply made too many mistakes. The Tigers were called for three false starts. Connor Tollison (again) snapped the ball (at least) four times before Brady Cook was ready. Mizzou’s safeties were missing tackles early and often. The third-and-10 outside zone to the short side of the field early in the second quarter was a play call that never made any sense. Marquis Johnson took way too long to decide if he was going to return a kick midway through the third quarter, and by the time he did it was too late. Mizzou was called for a hold on the return and started the drive at their own 3-yard line. The Tigers punted five plays later and Georgia took a commanding 24-13 on the next drive.
And then, of course, it came down to Brady Cook’s interceptions. I still don’t understand what took place on the first interception. I have no idea what he saw. He was trying to make a play and it came back to bite him.
The losses against Georgia and LSU felt similar. Missouri was right there, but self-inflicted mistakes were too much to overcome.
2) Cody Schrader is a boss
Cody Schrader carried the ball 22 times against Georgia. Do you know how many times he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage? Zero. Not a single time. Do you know how hard that is to accomplish against that defense? It’s damn near impossible.
Drinkwitz on Cody Schrader: "Unbelievable. The guy is a heck of a player."— Wendell Shepherd (@wendellsjr_) November 4, 2023
Schrader carried the ball on 2nd or 3rd & short eight times. He converted those carries into a first down on six of those eight carries. His 11 second half carries gained the Tigers 83 yards and a touchdown that left Mizzou fans wondering if this Tigers team could actually pull off the impossible.
Cody Schrader hits the edge and scores— Brendan Moore (@bmoorecfb) November 4, 2023
Missouri is right back in the game
Mizzou fans are highly familiar with Schrader’s story at this point, but it still amazes me what this former Division II running back has been able to accomplish. I remember questioning early last season if Schrader had the explosiveness to be a featured back at this level. I don’t think I was alone in that regard. It’s going to go down as one of my favorite Mizzou football stories in recent years. It’s nearly impossible to not root for Schrader. He showed out yet again against one of the best defenses in the country. The Tigers wouldn’t have been in this game if not for his contributions.
3) There were some who questioned if Missouri was as good as its record. That is no longer in question.
Let’s go down the stat sheet, shall we? Because I think it speaks highly to this Missouri football team.
- Total Yards: 363 to 383
- Yards Per Play: 5.7 to 5.9
- Yards Per Rush: 4.4 to 4.0
- Total First Downs: 22 to 21
- Third Down Conversions: 5/13 to 6/13
- Explosive Plays: 10 to 13
- Offensive Success Rate: 36% to 31%
- Tackles for Loss: 5 to 4
- Pass Breakups: 5 to 4
- Sacks: 3 to 3
Which side won the game? It’s tough to choose, right? They’re nearly identical. Missouri played one hell of a football game.
Kirby Smart on Mizzou’s success running the game: “Tempo. They didn’t do anything they didn’t do all year. They didn’t scheme us up. They whipped our ass.”— David Ubben (@davidubben) November 4, 2023
The difference was pretty simple: Turnovers and Red Zone efficiency.
Missouri was 3-for-3 in the red zone, but only one of those red zone conversions was a touchdown. Georgia was 5-for-5 in the red zone, and three of those five conversions were touchdowns.
Missouri finished with two turnovers. Georgia had none.
Boom. Ballgame. Hard to beat a top-5 team in the country on the road if you turn the ball over and don’t convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. It really is that simple, unfortunately.
But... There was one other factor.
4) We have to talk about the officiating
I hate complaining about the officiating. Hate it. It’s become a crutch for far too many fans and it drives me bonkers when fans assume every game is determined by a bad call here or there.
Eli Drinkwitz tells reporters to "write a letter to them (the officials)" on multiple occasions in the press conference, citing the lack of explanation from referees.— Brandon Haynes (@BrandonHaynes_) November 4, 2023
This game, though? It’s fair to suggest the officiating was a problem. It wasn’t any one individual call. It was everything. The unnecessary hit on Mookie Cooper in the red zone early in the third quarter. The defensive pass interference call on Hopper in the end zone that CBS didn’t even realize was called until the ball was suddenly moved forward 15 yards. The pass interference on Dreyden Norwood, and then the lack of a call when the exact same play was made by a Georgia defensive back against Theo Wease.
This was a tremendous football game that was — at times — made nearly unwatchable by the questionable officiating. I do not believe Missouri lost this game because of a call that went against them. The Tigers can’t turn the ball over twice and force zero takeaways at Georgia and expect to win.
That said, this felt like a baseball game in which the home plate umpire expanded his zone randomly throughout the game. I don’t ask for much. I just ask for some consistency. Decide how you’re going to call the game and then call it that way. That wasn’t the case on Saturday.
5) The dream of winning the SEC East is dead, but this season can still be a huge step forward
This one hurts. It should hurt. Missouri got the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead on the road against a top-5 team in the country. That’s the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. Falling short sucks. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
The dream of winning the SEC East for the first time since 2014 is almost certainly dead. Sneaking into the College Football Playoff is off the table.
"When the games over, you got to pick up the pieces. We are disappointed because we had a goal of winning the SEC East. Now we don't have control of that." - coach Eli Drinkwitz— Adam Ryerson (@AdamRyerson_) November 4, 2023
Other than that, just about every goal is still attainable.
Missouri’s football program has won double-digit games in the regular season four times in program history (2007, 2010, 2013, 2014). That’s something this team can still accomplish. Missouri has finished with a top-15 AP Poll ranking just 10 times in program history. That, too, is very much in play.
The Tigers have been playing football for 120 years. This could go down as one of the 10 best seasons we’ve ever seen them play. That is nothing to scoff at.
The ceiling for the season has changed. This will not be a repeat of 2007, 2013 or 2014. But it could be pretty darn similar to 2010. All things considered, that’s a heck of a step forward.
The job isn’t done. There’s still plenty to prove. Missouri can’t allow this loss to trickle into next week. Time to turn the page. It’s Tennessee week.