One meme recap to describe Saturday’s 30-27 thriller over Kansas State:
On Saturday, glass ceilings were shattered. Both literally (probably) and figuratively.
Missouri hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 2018, hadn’t started 3-0 since 2018, and hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent at home since 2013. No kicker in SEC history had ever made a field goal as long as 61 yards.
All of that was vanquished with one beautiful boot of the pigskin.
I’ll make a disclaimer now: there were a lot more than five noteworthy plays from this game. I feel like an admissions officer at an Ivy League school; so many amazing options to choose from with so little space! If I highlighted every play I thought was important, this article would be 5,000 words long, and my editor would not be happy with me. (Editor’s note: we’re a wordy bunch, I’m used to it)
Nevertheless, here are five plays that defined Saturday’s instant-classic win over Kansas State:
Play #1: THEY’RE NOT GONNA KEEP ‘EM OFF THE FIELD TO(DAY)!
- an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyful excitement.
- the feeling one gets when Harrison Mevis nails the longest kick in SEC history to beat Kansas State at the buzzer
When Mevis’ holy rainbow cleared the bottom crossbar, ecstasy hit the Mizzou faithful at Faurot Field like a Daylan Carnell tackle.
Ecstasy is quite the feeling. It’s like getting caught up in a tornado of joy. The feeling is so strong that sometimes, all you can do is run and scream, which is what most people did when they stormed the field after Mevis’ moment of magic.
As the rain started coming down late in the fourth quarter, visions of the Tigers faltering amidst adverse conditions resurfaced. Mizzou was on their own 18-yard line with 1:25 left with only one timeout left; instead of going into protection mode or even caving, the Tigers methodically marched into field goal range with smart, quick passes to open receivers. It was an awesome drive to set up Mevis for his one shining moment (except the time management gaffe that made a 56-yard kick a 61-yard kick).
When was the last time Mizzou fans had a moment like this at Faurot? Sure, the walk-off two-point conversion against Florida in 2021 was awesome, but the Tigers were 5-5 heading into that game. The endings against LSU and Arkansas in 2020 were electric, but a) no fans were present, and b) Mizzou was 0-2 and 4-3 heading into those games, respectively. After that…Henry Josey’s touchdown that clinched an SEC title game appearance in 2013?
Whenever the last moment of ecstasy was, Mizzou needed this. Since 2015, this is the kind of game that Mizzou would lose: an early-season test against a quality opponent that killed momentum before the calendar even turned to October. This is arguably the brightest Mizzou’s season has looked since 2019, when they rolled into Nashville ranked 22nd in the country sitting at 5-1. Even so, they’d already lost the opener to Wyoming, so there was already a damper on the season.
Right now, the Tigers remain perfect.
In 2022, the Tigers had a day to forget in Manhattan. In 2023, the Tigers had a day that Mizzou fans will remember forever.
Play #2: Bombs away!
Kirby Moore’s offense is like the chorus to “Firework” by Katy Perry. I promise this will make sense.
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
Just own the night
Like the Fourth of July
‘Cause baby, you’re a firework!
Come on, show ‘em what you’re worth!
Make ‘em go, “Oh, oh, oh”
As you shoot across the sky
Baby, you’re a firework!
Come on, let your colors burst!
Make ‘em go, “Oh, oh, oh”
You’re gonna leave ‘em all in awe, awe, awe
Kirby Moore’s offense at Fresno State was, like fireworks, explosive. Through the first two games, it didn’t appear as if the full batch of fireworks had been set off (a.k.a the playbook not being used in full), and Saturday was when Moore had to ignite the light and let his offense shine. It didn’t take long for the offense’s colors to burst and leave the Mizzou faithful in awe.
Luther Burden continues to dominate— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 16, 2023
This is what so many people have been waiting for over the past couple of seasons: a long completion over the air. It’s been a foreign sight in Columbia recently for a few reasons; Cook’s injured throwing shoulder, conservative play calling, a lack of time to throw and receivers not creating separation downfield.
All of those faults turned into strengths on this play. Cook had plenty of time to throw and delivered a beautiful ball. Burden beat his man early in the play; Jacob Parrish (#10 on KSU) was late picking up Burden because (I think) the outside man (Mookie Cooper) ran inside, and the inside man (Burden) ran outside. It looked like Parrish was ready to guard Cooper and not Burden, which could explain why he was behind Burden early in the play.
Then, KSU safety VJ Payne (#19 in white) clearly got fooled by the run fake, as he took a few big steps towards the line of scrimmage within the first few moments after the snap. When he realized Burden was streaking down the left side of the field, it was too late. The satisfaction of play-action was at work. Here’s another angle of the play so you all can see Payne realizing he’d been burnt:
WATCH: LUTHER BURDEN HIGHLIGHTS VS KANSAS-STATE— Ryan Blakely (@RyanBlakely16) September 17, 2023
Luther Burden III dominated the #15 ranked Wildcats today with 7 catches for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns@KOMUsports @MizzouFootball @lutherburden3 pic.twitter.com/In9HIAErUH
“I saw the safety come down and, shoot, when the safety come down, the ball gotta come to me,” Burden said after the game. “Wasn’t nobody there but me, the ball and Brady.”
That’s exactly what it felt like; for a brief moment in time, the outside world disappeared, and it was just Brady, Burden and the ball. It had the feeling of a basketball player shooting 0/10 from three-point range, then swishing one from way downtown. The Tigers had struggled mightily taking the top off of defenses because, well, they never really tested the third level of the defense at all. This is the only the second time Mizzou has completed a passing touchdown of 40 yards or longer since 2022 (Dominic Lovett’s 79-yarder against Abilene Christian last season is the only other).
As the ball began descending towards a wide-open Burden, football nirvana quickly approached. It hadn’t been felt with Mizzou in a long time, and when Burden came down with the pass that felt like it touched the clouds, BANG! Fireworks.
It was an aggressive call early on that set the tone for the rest of the game, which included another play that saw a version of Mizzou that was previously unseen.
Play #3: These Tigers have some new stripes
Let’s make a list like we’re going grocery shopping. If we polled 100 Mizzou football fans, what do you think they would say have been some of the main criticisms of Mizzou’s offense over the past couple of seasons? The top four might look something like this:
- Not going for it on fourth down
- Losing in the trenches
- Non-deceptive play calling
- Keeping Cook in the pocket too often/not utilizing his legs enough
Within less than five seconds, those criticisms evaporated.
What a call—let’s go! pic.twitter.com/YIOjb58bmZ— Represent Mizzou (@RepresentMizzou) September 16, 2023
On fourth down (!), they ran a fake reverse (!!) for the second time in the half (!!!). It was Cook taking it himself (!!!!) and finding a spacious hole created by the offensive line (!!!!!) for a touchdown.
Saturday saw a real identity revamp from the Tigers. I almost forgot to mention that Cook’s score capped off a wildly efficient six-play, 75-yard drive that featured a pair of explosive passing plays to Mookie Cooper and Brett Norfleet.
Mizzou out-Kansas State’d Kansas State; they won the battle in the trenches, a battle they got roundhoused in last season when they visited Manhattan. While Mizzou couldn’t get much going on the ground – they had 27 carries for 38 yards not including Cody Schrader’s 36-yards scamper – the offensive line played eons better than they did last season against the Wildcats. While “eon” might be a little hyperbole – an “eon” is the largest unit of geologic time that is equivalent to a billion years — it sure felt like Mizzou’s offense evolved a billion years on Saturday.
Play #4: Luther Burden and Tyler Stephens tag team for a touchdown
Touchdown Luther was back at it again in the second half. He had already toasted K-State for a score in the first half, and he almost Reggie Bush’d his way for another a little later when he caught a quick pass on the left side, reversed field and made a handful of white jerseys miss before being tackled inside the five.
Nevertheless, Burden got another YAC opportunity in the fourth quarter. Despite catching the ball almost ten yards behind the line of scrimmage, the only line that seemed to matter at the end was the one Burden crossed to give Mizzou the lead back.
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
Luther’s speed was a burden once again for K-State, and *takes out megaphone* THAT WAS AN AWESOME BLOCK BY TYLER STEPHENS. At the very least, Burden’s path to the end zone is a lot less clear if Stephens doesn’t seal the outside like he did.
Over the offseason, Drinkwitz didn’t seem too happy with struggles Mizzou’s pass-catchers seemed to be having blocking on the outside.
“That room has got to be better and take pride in blocking on the perimeter,” Drinkwitz said back in early August. “It’s not even near what the standard should be, and I’m not pleased with it at all in any shape, form or fashion.”
The perimeter blocking is obviously still developing, but so far, it’s been vastly improved upon since last season, with Stephens and Brett Norfleet leading the charge.
It was also a great read by Cook, because the play wasn’t even supposed to be for Burden. He was simply a decoy to open up the other receivers downfield, but when the K-State blitz got home quickly, Cook smartly swung the ball to Burden.
Saturday’s game was a full team effort. This was one of several plays that exemplified that sentiment.
Play #5: Pressure creates diamonds (and turnovers!)
It’d be journalistic malpractice on my part if I didn’t mention how well the defense played. It wasn’t a perfect afternoon – the Wildcats registered 408 yards of total offense while breaking a few big plays on the ground and through the air – but Mizzou’s big time players stepped up in a big game.
The play that most exemplified the defense’s stellar afternoon at the office came midway through the first quarter. The Tigers were able to generate a healthy amount of pressure on Will Howard, and there were a handful of times where Howard just barely got a pass off for a positive gain. That included the game’s first touchdown; Blake Baker called a blitz that got home quickly, as Chuck Hicks annihilated Howard as he was barely finished completing a three-step drop back. But Howard got a throw off, and while Jaylon Carlies got a hand on the pass, it deflected up in the air and into the hands of Mizzou killer Phillip Brooks for a touchdown.
The unlucky bounce felt like a bad omen, but unlike Mizzou games of the past, that energy didn’t linger. Instead, Mizzou remained relentless, and it turned into the Tigers’ first forced turnover of the season.
The pressure pays off! pic.twitter.com/Ooyhypodu7— Represent Mizzou (@RepresentMizzou) September 16, 2023
While K-State’s offensive line was preoccupied with blocking Joseph Charleston, Darius Robinson, Johnny Walker Jr, Jayden Jernigan and Daylan Carnell, Ty’Ron Hopper had a free shot at Howard and forced an overthrow. Kris Abrams-Draine was in the right place at the right time, and Mizzou’s defense had their first takeaway of 2023.
The pressure from Hopper wasn’t a one-time thing on Saturday. He registered one TFL and two pass breakups. His instincts continue to amaze, both when tracking down ball-carriers and anticipating throws over the middle of the field.
The pressure from different defenders was also representative of not just Mizzou’s defensive performance on Saturday, but what makes their defense so unique. Being “position-less” is a concept that’s often discussed regarding the offensive side of the ball; Baker’s scheme emphasizes positional versatility on defense too. Charleston and Carnell were rushing the quarterback frequently, and the two defensive backs were flying all over the field on Saturday.
This is the best Mizzou football has looked in a long time. Hopefully, the positive momentum can continue against Memphis in the Lou.