Admit it. You’ve seen so many disasters over the years that you saw how this was going to play out even before the first ball was snapped. You saw every missed opportunity, each bad snap, each penalty, and they all added up to the Missouri Tigers losing their chance to take down a giant.
For 3 quarters all those thoughts sprung up. For 3 quarters the Mizzou offense was a dud. For 3 quarters they had accumulated just 105 yards of total offense. It felt like 104 of those yards were from Brady Cook scrambling away from the pass rush. The Tigers punted the ball 9 times, had no red zone appearances, but it looked like either team was just one mistake away from turning the game around. After 3 quarters, the score was still just 3-0.
Ohio State was down two quarterbacks and it showed. Mizzou’s defense was eating, but to each team’s credit neither had forced a back-breaking turnover. Although part of that reason was due to the officials missing a fumble and recovery by Mizzou on the 15 yard line early in the second quarter, but I digress. OFFICIALLY, there were no turnovers. The Buckeyes’ third string quarterback, Lincoln Keinholz, was rattled by the Tigers’ pressure. And Mizzou looked like a team that was out of sync.
Nothing was working.
And then it was.
Like most of this season, we complained and crabbed and posted derogatory things. We aired every complaint possible. It was the head coach. It was the offensive coordinator. It was the defense not forcing turnovers. It was bone-headed mistakes. It was personal fouls. It was the offensive line. It was the wide receivers not getting open. It was Brady Cook not being good enough. It was everything.
But Missouri won the game.
It wasn’t good enough! They beat South Dakota. It was a struggle and the offense stinks! They beat Middle Tennessee. It’s always some kind of penalty! They beat Kansas State. We crab, they win. More and more.
Having watched good Mizzou teams over the years, and having watched average and bad teams over the years, I still watch this team and I’m not sure if they’re all that good.
And you know what? I don’t care. I love this team. They might be my favorite team. Yes even above 2007 and 2013. I just love this team. I love that they may not even be that good, and they won 11 games. I love that they take the fight in each game and do what they have to do to win. It’s never perfect, but you don’t have to be flawless to be perfect. And I think this is what the 2023 Mizzou Tigers are about. They’re imperfectly perfect.
For all their flaws, they make it work. If you stacked Mizzou quarterbacks against each other there isn’t anyone who would vote Brady Cook ahead of Chase Daniel or Brad Smith, probably not many who would put him ahead of Drew Lock or Blaine Gabbert, or even James Franklin. Yet, only Franklin and Daniel have won as many games in one season as Cook has.
Previous great Mizzou teams have featured 1st round draft picks. Jeremy Maclin or Ziggy Hood, William Moore or Sean Weatherspoon, Aldon Smith, Blaine Gabbert, Sheldon Richardson, Shane Ray, Markus Golden, Charles Harris, Drew Lock. Ok, not all of those guys were 1st rounders but most were, and the rest were second round picks. There aren’t many mock drafts where you’ll find a Missouri player in the 1st round. Ennis Rakestraw has gotten some buzz as a potential top 2 rounds pick, but even as awesome as Rakestraw has been he wasn’t on the field against Ohio State.
This team is Cody Schrader.
Sure, there are some guys who may get drafted next season. If Luther Burden is healthy all year in 2024 there’s little doubt he’s a first round pick. There are also multiple guys who could - and likely should - get selected in this upcoming draft. But there are no sure things, and this team has no slam dunks.
I think Kris Abrams-Draine is an NFL level cornerback. I think Javon Foster is an NFL level offensive lineman. JC Carlies is an NFL level safety. Ty’Ron Hopper is an NFL level linebacker. There are a lot of guys who are NFL level players.
But this team embodies what Cody Schrader is. He’s a small running back without elite speed and very little shiftiness. What he is... well he’s just a damn good football player. He finds a way to get yards. And this team found ways to get wins.
It was a miracle season, and we’re not done talking about it. But for now, take a moment to bask in the glory of the 2023 Mizzou Football team. The imperfectly perfect football team.