One win. That’s all it takes. One win for all the glory. One win to shut up all of the doubters. One win to make all of us into believers.
They got the win. No, they earned the win.
DOWN GOES NO. 15 K-STATE!— ESPN (@espn) September 16, 2023
A 61-YARD FIELD ON THE LAST PLAY OF THE GAME FOR MIZZOU! pic.twitter.com/5DYx67C6WZ
On a mostly beautiful day in mid-Missouri, the Tigers made a believer out of all of us. They took on a top-15 team in the country and walked off (literally) victorious.
This is the kind of win we’ve all been waiting for. This is a legitimate signature victory for Eli Drinkwitz. It wasn’t perfect. It didn’t need to be. These kinds of games are graded on a pass/fail grading scale. Up to this point, Missouri has failed in them. Against Kansas State, finally, they passed.
Let’s dive into the nitty gritty with some takeaways, shall we? For the first time in a minute, these are going to be a hell of a lot of fun to write. And I hope they’re every bit as fun for you to read.
1) How ‘bout that quarterback?
I can’t imagine there are many Brady Cook doubters today. He’s earned that. He opened up the game on fire. He finished the game with NINE passing plays of at least 15 yards. He had six passes of 25 or more yards. He did all of this despite spraining his knee before halftime, and finishing with just one carry in the second half.
The quarterback known for his legs won this game with his arm.
Cook’s 356 passing yards are the most by a Missouri quarterback against a Power Five opponent since Connor Bazelak threw for 406 yards in Drinkwitz’s other “big win” back in 2020. Cook’s previous career-high for passing yards against a power five opponent came in the final game of last year’s regular season against Arkansas, a game in which Cook finished with 242 yards through the air. He beat that number by the end of the third quarter.
Eli Drinkwitz: “I’m gonna say it: It pissed me off when we booed our starting quarterback to start the game.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) September 16, 2023
"He went out and played his butt off for this university and this team. … You want to boo me? Fine. You don’t boo the starting quarterback. It’s bullcrap." https://t.co/bPXP0T487a
There was a point in time when I thought Missouri might have to replace Cook. Missouri punted on four-straight drives from the midway through the second until late in the third quarter. That was followed up by a drive that stalled deep in K-State’s territory. Cook’s knee was clearly limiting his ability to create. It felt as if Drinkwitz might be forced to turn to Horn. He didn’t, of course, and Drink’s confidence was rewarded.
Cook finished the fourth quarter completing eight of his final 11 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. His final three drives resulted in a touchdown, a punt and a game-winning field goal drive.
Brady Cook: This is my dream school. I have always wanted to play quarterback here. It would be nice if everybody else wanted me to play quarterback here. Games like this probably help. #MoneyQuote— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) September 16, 2023
On Saturday, we got the full Brady Cook experience. He flashed his ability as a runner in the first half. He proved his toughness in the second half. And he won over fans with his arm throughout. That’s the kind of win a quarterback has to get under his belt in order to win over a fan base. This kind of love can be fleeting, but for a week, he’s earned it.
2) Luther Burden has arrived
I don’t even know what to say about Burden at this point. The man is one of the best wide receivers in college football, and he’s as electric a player as I can remember watching at Missouri since Jeremy Maclin. His touchdown on the screen midway through the fourth quarter didn’t make any sense. There were at least three defenders who all thought they had an angle on him. All of them were wrong. He caught the ball and knew he was scoring. There was never a doubt in his mind.
We saw Burden make some plays last year, but that was his first true “moment” in a Tigers uniform. This was a potential game-saving play down the stretch at home against a top 15 team in the country. This was special, and it was clutch.
Luther Burden is a damn cheat code man.— Mark Kim (@MarkJKim_) September 16, 2023
Give him the ball and let him work his magic. pic.twitter.com/ZVXnG1EBTY
It also wasn’t the only play he made on the day. He continued his streak as a legitimate deep threat for Missouri, as well. His first target of the day was a 47-yard bomb deep down the field for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
Luther Burden continues to dominate— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 16, 2023
The player we watched a year ago didn’t resemble this version of Burden. He was a gadget playmaker with the ability to win after the catch. But he didn’t do a whole lot of damage down the field, he struggled to make contested catches and the transition to the outside was a difficult one. This version of Burden, though? He looks like a Jeremy Maclin clone. He’s making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He’s burning corners deep, left and right. He’s making contested catches. He’s doing everything. This is what a legitimate five star wide receiver is supposed to look like as a sophomore.
Buckle up, because it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and he’s only going to get better from here.
3) Missouri’s defense made just enough plays
Missouri’s defense was far from perfect in that game. Kansas State finished with 11 explosive plays (runs of 10+ yards and completions of 15+ yards). The Wildcats had a rushing success rate of nearly 50 percent.
But, when it mattered the most, Missouri’s defense came up with stops. Kansas State had four drives in the fourth quarter. Three resulted in punts. The other, which traveled 67 yards over eight plays, ended in a field goal from the 8-yard line. This was a classic ‘bend but don’t break’ performance by Blake Baker’s unit.
The Tigers created some havoc with three sacks, four tackles for loss, an interception, six pass breakups and six quarterback hurries. That’s exactly what they had to do in order to win this game. Again, this was a game that was graded on a pass/fail scale. Missouri’s defense didn’t look as good as it has at times over the past year-plus, but it ultimately passed the test. That’ll do.
4) What a moment for Harrison Mevis
Talk about a comeback story. Mevis started the season 1-for-3 on field goals and 7-for-8 on extra points. It was a rough start, to say the least. Heck, earlier in this game he missed a (difficult) kick from 53 yards.
So, yeah, it’s fair to say I was less than confident as he took the field for a SIXTY-ONE YARD FIELD GOAL AS TIME EXPIRED. The only thing that was missing from this kick ending in disaster was it being directed toward the north end zone.
But, then, something incredible happened. He didn’t miss. He didn’t kick it short and allow Kansas State to return it for a touchdown. He didn’t get it blocked. The protection was good. The snap was perfect. The hold was in place. And then... he made it. He made the longest kick — according to SEC Network — in the history of the Southeastern Conference. He made one of the biggest kicks I can remember in my time watching Missouri.
He built himself into a legend. When his time is done at Missouri and we look back at his time as a Tiger, that’s the moment we’ll remember. What a moment. What a game. What a comeback.
5) Alright, it’s time to talk about what that game means for Eli Drinkwitz
Let’s start with the obvious. The end-of-game sequence was unacceptable. That simply can not happen. Missouri clocked the ball at the K-State 39-yard line with six seconds to play. They went to the sideline to talk things over... and failed to get the field goal unit on the field in time? The play clock struck zero, and the Tigers were called for a delay of game.
Drinkwitz said the delay of game is "totally 100% on me...completely boneheaded, but sometimes your players bail you out"— Power Mizzou (@PowerMizzoucom) September 16, 2023
A 56-yard field goal attempt suddenly became a 61-yard attempt. Again, can’t happen. And that wasn’t the only mental mistake in this game. The Tigers were assessed five offensive pre-snap penalties in the game; three for a false start and two for a delay of game. That’s too much, and it’ll get you beat eventually even if it didn’t on this specific day.
Oh, and I didn’t mention the third down woes; Missouri finished the day 3-for-13 on third down for the game.
All of that matters. It’s stuff we’ll discuss if it remains an issue in the future, especially if similar issues lead to losses down the road. But, for today, we can wash it all away.
The Tigers scored 30+ points against a conference opponent for the first time since 2021. They earned their first win against a top 15 opponent since 2018 (#11 Florida). First win against a top 15 opponent at home since 2013. They started the season 3-0 for the first time since 2018. They’ll have an opportunity next week in St. Louis to open the season 4-0 for the first time since 2013.
The fans rushed the field, and damnit, they deserved it.
On this day, we’re focusing on the positives. And I don’t think any of us can overstate just how significant that win was for Drinkwitz.
Drinkwitz needed a win like this. He needed an offensive performance like this. He needed to give fans a reason to believe. The recruiting is exciting. The one-liners are fun. But Drinkwitz’s tenure — prior to this season — had been defined by mediocrity. Missouri had a big win at home early on against LSU, and it felt like things were heading in the right direction. But the results were a 5-5 season followed up by two 6-6 seasons. The quarterback position was in question. The offense was a mess. The in-game decisions came under scrutiny. His tenure felt as if it was at a bit of a crossroads.
And then he beat Kansas State.
The love affair can go away as quickly as it was earned, but this kind of win is what allows fans to dream again. If the Tigers do what they should and beat Memphis and Vanderbilt over the next two weeks, Faurot Field will be a scene unlike anything we’ve seen in years for the October 7th showdown against LSU. If they win that game (which suddenly feels possible?), the Tigers have a real chance to make this a special season.
That’s what the win against Kansas State did. It put the wind back in the sails. A program that felt as down last week as it has in quite some time suddenly feels as if it got its swagger back.
Hot damn, what a win. I’m ready for a cigarette and a sandwich.