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Beyond the Box Score: Cook ‘n’ Horn

An NCAA-sanctioned game that counted towards the record books occurred on Thursday night but **** it let’s talk about quarterbacks.

It’s a brand new season for Beyond The Box Score and, as much as I am a stickler for consistent routines, allow me to break the usual pattern in this instance.

Missouri played an ok FCS team that was getting a hard restart on offense paired with a decent defense that was running something on Thursday night that they had not consistently run during the Bob Nielson era. In my team preview I had no specific statistical goals state for this matchup because, to me, this was as close to a guaranteed win as you could get with minimal effort. So, yes, while there are things that I’d like to talk about regarding Mizzou’s defense and certainly do some analysis on the question mark areas heading into the season (i.e. offensive line, running back, overhauled receiving corps, edge rusher)…there’s been only one talking point since the opening game concluded and it’s the quarterbacks.

If you think Eli Drinkwitz once again said something that his actions didn’t back up, fine, go ahead and believe that, I won’t blame you. If you think he legitimately is undecided and will use both quarterbacks against Middle Tennessee, sure, I won’t tell you that you’re wrong. If you think his post-game comments were weird and/or unnecessarily hostile, sure, I’m not going to waste time to convince you otherwise. If you think he truly watched tape with an unbiased eye to make his decision going forward, good, I can see a world where that’s true, too.

Point is, everyone is right and everyone is wrong until proven otherwise. Additionally, you are free to have whatever emotional reaction you want to what the head coach of your favorite football teams said at various point with a microphone in his face. Thanks to a Thursday night game, the fanbase had an extra two days tacked on to the usual week-long gap between competitions to talk ourselves dizzy about it and continue the #discourse well past its natural expiration date.

So, then, what’s my contribution to the rhetoric? Well, I am (famously) not Eli Drinkwitz. I am also not on the offensive staff. Nor am I a mind reader. But I am me and my offering to you, dear Rock M Nation reader, is to provide what I always provide: a numerical breakdown of what you just saw; in this case, specifically, the quarterbacks. Let’s math!

Brady Cook v. Sam Horn - Game 1

Just to provide some numbers to the various arguments I’ve seen online: Brady Cook had the ball for an extra 3 minutes and 48 seconds of game time and managed to run 20 more plays out of 2 more possessions than Horn had; if you think that’s an unfair advantage, there’s your numbers to utilize.

What I find particularly interesting at the jump is this: the offense under Cook managed a nice 6.9 per play, while Horn’s offensive efforts averaged out to 6.8 yards per play. Eerily similar, yeah?

But looking at the success rate contains a much more telling clue: the offense under Cook was humming at a 61.9% success rate while Horn was at a 36.4%.

Let’s break it down further: the rushing success rate (which is more about the line and running backs than quarterback) under Cook was at a cool 80% whereas the running game under Horn was at 35.3%. Breaking it down to an even further ridiculous level: Cook ran the ball himself twice with a 100% success rate (and a touchdown), Horn ran the ball three times with a 0% success rate. One of the factors to the lowered success rates for the rushers was the difficulty in timing the snap with some of those motion plays with Horn as QB, leading to fumbled snaps or janky starts to the play.

But we all know a quarterback needs to throw the ball, and certainly the knock on Cook is that Horn is a much more polished passer with better timing and power; I certainly hold that belief, anyway! Cook had 22 passes called (including the sack) and netted out 161 yards while suffering two dropped balls by the receivers; that’s 7.3 yards per passing play and a 45.5% success rate. Horn had 5 passes called and netted out 55 yards with no dropped passes; that’s 11.0 yards per passing play and a 40% success rate.

Even with a smaller sample size on Horn’s part, the offense was better passing the ball under Cook and way better running the ball with Cook.

If you want to “but, but, but” this with the fact that the game was out of hand and the plays called for Horn weren’t really trying to do anything other than milk the clock, that’s fine! At the same time, when given a live audition for a job - regardless of context - it’s in your best interest to do the absolute best you can and with the same cast of characters as Cook, Horn’s efforts weren’t nearly as good.

And, remember, Drink and friends have been watching what Horn can do since spring and been monitoring this competition for an entire month; what we saw is not the determining factor and, even then, Cook was the better quarterback.

Now, I’m personally not in favor of shutting it down and, even if it is shut down, I believe this staff is going to continue to give Horn reps just in case Cook decides to tear a labrum again. But the numbers back up what the eyes saw: Cook was the better quarterback on Thursday in almost every aspect possible.

Here’s the full advanced box score, in case you’re curious:

Advanced Box Score

Extra Points

Success Rate by Quarter
  • South Dakota achieved the rare goose-egg success rate in the first quarter, largely aided by the insistence on running Travis Theis right into the sharpest teeth of Missouri’s defense, the interior d-line. While he did a good job of avoiding getting tackled for a loss by running through contact just to get back to the line, Theis had six of his 17 rushes go for 0 or negative yardage and they all occurred in 1st down. That’s bad play calling, yo.
  • While the vast majority of the fanbase has been discussing the quarterback situation, I’m over here having a minor meltdown over Mizzou’s kicking situation. Harrison Mevis missed two field goals on Thursday - one from 47 and one from 35 - and should have missed his very first PAT ever if not for an over-zealous South Dakota gunner jumping the snap. So I went back and look at our big beautiful Thiccer to see what’s going on. In 2020 Mevis was 28-28 on extra points, 12-13 on field goals under 40 yards, and 5-7 on field goals longer than 40 yards. In 2021 he was 41-41 on extra points, 9-9 on field goals under 40 yards, and 14-16 on field goals longer than 40 yards. In 2022 he went 2-4 against Abilene Christian and had the miss against Auburn but we all figured the heroic Georgia performance got him out of his rut. But here’s what he’s done since then:
Harrison Mevis FG attempts since Florida 2022

In his career before the 2022 Florida game Harrison Mevis was 50-58 on all field goals attempted, good for 86.2%. In his career starting at the 2022 Florida game and going forward, Mevis is 12-17 on all field goals attempted, good for 70.6%.

  • Missouri’s style of play and the quality of opponent in the SEC leads to playing many close games; in games decided by less than one score Eli Drinkwitz went 3-0 in 2020, 2-3 in 2021, and 2-4 in 2022. That’s 14 one-score games in a career of 27 games at Mizzou. MORE THAN HALF OF MIZZOU’S GAMES UNDER DRINKWITZ HAVE BEEN DECIDED BY ONE SCORE OR LESS. AND NOW YOUR KICKER HAS BRAIN WORMS. I don’t know if Drink needs to look at rotating in some new kickers to create some competition would be nice if field goals could become reliable once again.
  • On the positive side, Mizzou performed better against this year’s FCS opponent than they did against last year’s. Observe:
Comparing FCS games 2022 and 2023

Rushing success rate - both Mizzou’s and their opponent’s - went better for the Tigers, as did the Mizzou’s defensive yards per play allowed. Last year Abilene Christian hung around way too long because Missouri struggled to run the ball and create lanes for its backs. Not so much this year!

  • Missouri’s defense just helped notch a win with it’s lowest havoc output in the Blake Baker era since a 6.7% against Kansas State last year, and it’s lowest havoc output in a win since a 19% against Abilene Christian in 2022.


Missouri managed to comfortably beat an FCS team and yet a noticeable chunk of the fan base is complaining about quarterbacks and style points. I suppose that’s a good thing, since that typically means, a.) a team is good, b.) expectations are high, or c.) both. Again, I’ve been in full-throated support of this schedule because of what we just saw: it takes some time to figure out exactly what your team looks like under live fire and gives you more reps to figure out position battles. Offensive line and defensive end seems set; if quarterback hasn’t been figured out it soon will be, OR we’ll finally have a QB pecking order so that the backups at other positions can get some reps against a team that Missouri should beat with little difficulty.