All Missouri does is win Cotton Bowls. Arkansas, Oklahoma State. Ohio State. Doesn’t matter. If Missouri is invited to play for a bowl full of cotton you bet your ass they’re taking that trophy home. And in a surprise defensive slugfest, your Tigers outlasted one of the best recruiting, best funded, and winningest programs in college football history. Let’s review the main takeaways in one hell of a win to cap off one hell of a season.
1.) Cody Schrader is officially in the pantheon of greatest Missouri football players.
On a night where literally nothing was working, there was one thing that did. And it was the unranked, under-recruited, undersized walk-on transfer from Truman State. Cody Schrader might not be the fastest or the strongest but he worked the hardest and that tenacity is what makes him great. If Mizzou was in a tight game or leading in the 4th, Eli Drinkwitz and Kirby Moore knew they could hand it off to #7 and he’d have enough gas in the tank to take them to the finish line while the defense crumbled. It’s been true all year and it was true this night. Of all the players on the field in AT&T Stadium tonight, Cody Schrader from Lutheran South High School in St. Louis was the first person to score a touchdown, doing so in the 4th quarter to spark the final stanza of a win against Ohio State.
Think about that sentence. Revel in it. Thank you for everything, Muscle Hamster.
2.) Brady Cook was clutch as hell
No, it wasn’t pretty. Yes, the inevitable “BENCH HIM” cries from the internet crazies made the rounds. But Brady Cook went up against the SP+ 3rd-best defense in the country - one that doesn’t allow ANY big plays, period - and eventually was able to make big plays. It started with mad scrambles in the 1st half but eventually turned into big pass plays, first to Marquis “The Flash” Johnson and then Theo Wease on a free play. Cook hung in, took some vicious hits, and still came out to make plays and move the offense down the field. Much like Mr. Schrader, Cook won’t be confused as the best of anything in the nation, but he has the toughness and clutch-itude to will Missouri to points and a win. He did it again against Ohio State.
3.) Ohio State’s defense was as great as advertised.
Along those same line, Ohio State’s defense was monstrous. For three quarters they were able to get devastating amounts of pressure on Brady Cook, letting the secondary drop seven into coverage and eliminate any big plays or chances to complete a pass. Mercifully, Brady Cook’s well-earned jitteriness in the pocket forced him to scramble, sure, but it also lead to some of the biggest gains all night. Ohio State’s defense faltered in the end but almost all the starters were amped to play and showed that they were absolutely the 3rd-best defense in the country.
4.) Mizzou’s defense looked elite against a backup, backup quarterback.
And as we Tiger fans know, that’s not always a given! Ohio State is never lacking talented players but having two freshmen as your quarterback options is rough to overcome. Lincoln Kienholz took over for a battered Devin Brown and was inconsistent at best, unreliable at worst. But, ya know what? He still had 4- and 5-star talents to hand off to and throw to and it didn’t amount to anything. Missouri’s defensive line harassed both quarterbacks all night and - even with the expected big plays given up - Missouri’s secondary was aggressive and tight against Ohio State’s bevy of blue-chip receivers (minus Marvin Harrison Jr, of course). In a game where Missouri’s offense was getting butchered for three quarters, Blake Baker’s boys could not afford to be anything perfect. And, minus one field goal, they were perfect.
5.) This was the last time we saw this truly remarkable 2023 Missouri team
Even when I dared to be boldly optimistic at the beginning of the season, I had no idea that this type of season was coming. Outside of the most blindly optimistic pockets of Missouri fandom, I’m sure many others didn’t see ten wins in the regular season coming, either. There have been very few Missouri football teams that have achieved what this team achieved and so the 2023 squad gets entered into the pantheon of “greatest Missouri football teams”, especially given the defensive chokehold they just put on THE Ohio State. While there are plenty of guys from this team who can and will return next year, we’ll never again have all of these guys in Missouri uniforms ever again. It might not have been pretty, but your Missouri Tigers sealed a magical season beating the Tiffany brand of the Big Ten. What a wonderful season of football. What a tremendous group of football players. What a weird, stressful, awesome game.
It was all worth it. M-I-Z.