MO State HS Sports

Four Things: Falling Short Of Perfection Leaves Mizzou Football Short Of A Legacy Win In Athens

Missouri nearly did the unthinkable on Saturday afternoon in Athens but fell short of the upset over Georgia as the Bulldogs won their 26th game in a row, 30-21.

What did we learn from Mizzou’s near miss? Plenty to point toward a still-bright future for Eli Drinkwitz’s group.

Mizzou went toe-to-toe with the best, at their place

Mizzou played a really good football game on Saturday. In fact, the proof is in the pudding when you look at this tweet that shows that Mizzou actually outplayed Georgia in terms of Net Success Rate in the game.

Somehow, that doesn’t help heal my soul after the loss, but it does show that Mizzou went toe-to-toe with the No. 1 Bulldogs (ignoring you, CFP) in Athens.

The Brady Cook to Luther Burden connection had its moment with the first touchdown of the game to show the college football world the Tigers weren’t just going to bow down to the ‘G’ on Georgia’s helmets. They came to play a football game between the hedges.

After Luther got banged up on what was nearly a second touchdown grab, the Tigers had to find other ways to move the ball. Cody Schrader was that answer down the stretch. The former walk-on got better as the game went along. Schrader finished with 112 yards and a touchdown on 5.1 YPC. He was remarkable.

The Mizzou defense wanted to pressure Carson Beck, and they actually made that happen. The Tigers dropped Beck for three sacks. Georgia has allowed nine sacks all season. So Mizzou accounted for a third of that total in one game.

I could go on. Theo Wease was a beast, high-pointing contested catches like it was his job. Harrison Mevis made his kicks. Without Chad Bailey, the Tigers still held both opposing running backs below 5.0 YPC. They did so many things well. But…

But Mizzou didn’t play perfect — So the Tigers lost

You have to play a perfect game to beat Georgia. Missouri played a very good game. But Missouri didn’t play anything close to a perfect game on Saturday.

The raucous environment combined with the scare tactics of the Georgia defensive line caused fits for the Missouri offensive line. Pre-snap penalties and botched snaps were simply par for the course on Saturday afternoon. It’s honestly a tremendous credit to Brady Cook that he didn’t lose any fumbles given the number of times he received a football into his chest without expecting it. 

Then there’s the interception. Although Cook threw two in the game, it’s the first one that was the true backbreaker for the Mizzou upset dreams. The Tigers had orchestrated a gritty touchdown drive before holding Georgia to a field goal to keep it a one-possession game. With the game clock winding down in the fourth quarter, seemingly in sync with the Missouri offense, the Tigers then marched for another productive drive. They reached midfield with a 1st-and-10 and the possibility of a program-defining win in their crosshairs. 

And Brady botched it.

Brady Cook is one of the biggest reasons Mizzou was in this position in the first place, but inexplicably, he made one reckless decision to force a pass that just didn’t need to happen given the circumstances. It was first down. He had the check-down to Mookie Cooper open in the flat if he wanted it. But Cook tried to force the ball over the middle of the field to Brett Norfleet.

He was tentative with the pass before it even left his hands, a hallmark sign of an ill-advised decision. Cook released the ball directly into the chest of Georgia lineman Nazir Stackhouse to snuff out the comeback bid.

After so much fight, it was very painful to watch it end the way that it did. Tiger fans should understand that nobody is more disappointed with that errant decision than Brady Cook. In the heat of competition, mistakes sometimes happen. It doesn’t make Brady a bad quarterback or make his season a bust. Missouri fans making such comments should stop doing that.

But the reality is, we’ll never know what that drive could have become if Brady had simply thrown the ball away and lived to fight another down. And that’s a harsh reality, indeed.

The refs were bad (go figure), but they were uniquely bad against Missouri

I don’t even know how to broach this particular topic without sounding like a complete homer, so I’ll just have to accept that label from the opposing fan base if they catch wind of this blog. But my goodness, the SEC officiating crew was terrible on Saturday afternoon–and that fact screwed Missouri far more than it did Georgia.

Have you ever seen a review on an OPI? I never had until Saturday. And again, I’m not even saying reviewing it was illegal. I’m simply asking if ever in a million, trillion years would the conference refs have reviewed that same play for the same reason if it wasn’t the Georgia Bulldogs that would benefit from it?

Not a chance. It’s the same reason several other questionable calls were conveniently glossed over or outright ignored on the television broadcast as the officiating crews moved the game right along. But if a replay could glean some small advantage for Georgia? Hey, let’s show a few more advertisements while the SEC office digs into the rulebook to find a rare clause that could help out ol’ UGA.

This all might sound hyperbolic but it’s genuinely how it felt watching the game unfold. Had a Mizzou player issued the hit on a defenseless receiver, Mookie Cooper, he would’ve been ejected from the game. Georgia didn’t even draw a flag for it and after a mere passing mention on the broadcast, it was onto the next play.

I’m not saying there weren’t some missed calls that favored Missouri. There was a facemask at one point that I know should’ve been called. But you had the referees willfully ignoring late hits and unnecessary ones against the Georgia defense while combing the tapes repeatedly for grievances against the other side. 

It’s not why Missouri lost the game, specifically. But I’ve still never seen anything like it.

The season is NOT over

Mizzou’s hopes of winning the SEC East are probably dashed. The dreams of a natty coming to CoMo are delayed for at least another year (or at least until April–looking at you, Dennis!). But for goodness sake, folks, this football season is far from over.

The Tigers have another ranked matchup on deck this coming Saturday afternoon–and this one is at home. Faurot Field will be the setting for another CBS main event game–and this time I think CBS is sending its actual broadcast crew.

The Tigers take on the Vols as Tennessee and Josh Heupel come to town. Tennessee has beat the living crud out of Missouri the last couple of years, but the point spread for this game is pretty near a pick’em. 

Win this game and the possibility of a 10-2 regular season remains very much alive. That could mean a top-10 national ranking. That could mean a New Year’s Six bowl game.

There’s A LOT left to play for, which means for Missouri fans, there’s a lot left to cheer for. Let’s ride out this football season for all it’s worth. It could still contain plenty of magic.