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Mizzou Morning Matters: Cotton Bowl Redux

092223_Mizzou Morning Matters

COLUMBIA, Mo. — It’s been a week since Mizzou’s victory over Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. Have you recovered? If you attended the game at Jerry Jones’ steel jungle in Arlington hopefully you’re not still waiting for an elevator or stuck in traffic along Highway 30.  

Otherwise, you’re still likely savoring one of Mizzou’s most satisfying wins in the program’s modern era, a 14-3 defensive masterpiece against the Big Ten superpower that included a fourth quarter for the ages and more from the Tigers’ own version of the Dallas Triplets. (We’ll get to them soon enough.)

Here are the lasting memories and images I’ll have from a grand finale to a special Mizzou 2023 season:

1. Mizzou’s defense saved its best for last. Yes, the Buckeyes were without their season-long starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist wide receiver, but that doesn’t take away from a dominant performance from Mizzou’s defense, especially considering the Tigers were without three defensive starters in linebackers Ty’Ron Hopper, the Butkus Award finalist, and Chad Bailey and cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr. Still, the Tigers played one of their finest defensive games in program history.

Consider …

  • Ohio State’s 203 yards of offense were the Buckeyes’ fewest in a span of 102 games. Same for their 3.56 yards per play. The last time a defense held OSU to fewer total yards and yards per play: Nov. 21, 2015, when Michigan State edged the Buckeyes 17-14 and held them to 132 yards and 2.93 per snap.
  • Ohio State completed only 10 passes all night. The last time OSU completed fewer than 10 attempts in a game? Try Nov. 25, 2017 against Michigan.
  • Four of Ohio State’s 11 offensive possessions netted fewer than 10 yards. Six lasted less than 2 minutes. After scoring the game’s only points in the first half on a field goal, Ohio State ended the night with eight scoreless possessions: six punts, a missed field goal and a lost fumble.
  • The Buckeyes never once entered the red zone. When’s the last time that happened in a game? The 2016 Fiesta Bowl against Clemson in the College Football Playoffs, a 31-0 loss to the Tigers. That was also the last time Ohio State was held without a touchdown.

In his final game for the Tigers, All-SEC defensive end Darius Robinson set the tone on the game’s first play from scrimmage, yanking down TreVeyon Henderson a couple yards deep into the backfield. He also had a sack to finish with 8.5 for the year — an exceptional season, his first as a full-time defensive end. Robinson is off to the NFL, leaving behind as strong a legacy of any Mizzou defensive player in years.

From the D-line to the secondary, the defense came to play. Safety Jaylon Carlies (11 tackles, sack) could have easily been Defensive MVP. Same for safety Daylan Carnell (sack, three QB hits, forced fumble).

Cody Schrader

2. Take a bow, Cody: Minutes after the clock read all zeroes, with eye black smudged across his cheeks, All-American running back Cody Schrader stood silently among a crowd of teammates on the field, soaking up the madness around him — and surely the too-good-to-be-true season that just unfolded. Schrader had the most Schrader game of his brilliant season, battering the Buckeyes 29 times for 128 yards. Only three of his carries went for 10 yards — and none longer than 11. But he eventually broke the Buckeyes’ will, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on an inside zone run on his first of 14 carries in the fourth quarter. Fourteen carries!

On his 25th carry of the night, a 3-yard gain out of bounds, Cody officially passed Tyler Badie for Mizzou’s single-season rushing record and finished the year with 1,627 yards — 23 ahead of Badie. Technically, Devin West ran for more yards in 1998, finishing with 1,703 when you include his 125 yards in the Insight Bowl, but that came before the NCAA began counting bowl stats as part of season totals. With that caveat in mind, here’s how the official record book will look for MU’s most prolific rushing seasons:

1. Schrader, 2023: 1,627 yards (13 games)

2. Badie, 2021: 1,604 yards (12 games)

3. West, 1998: 1,578 yards (11 games)

4. Brad Smith, 2003: 1,406 yards (13 games)

5. Joe Moore II, 1969: 1,312 yards (10 games)

Schrader’s season also ranks among the most prolific seasons for an SEC running back in Mizzou’s decade-plus in the conference. Here’s the top five:

1. Derrick Henry, Alabama, 2015: 2,219 yards (15 games)

2. Leonard Fournette, LSU, 2015: 1,953 yards (12 games)

3. Tre Mason, Auburn, 2013: 1,816 yards (14 games)

4. Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M, 2018: 1,760 yards (13 games)

5. Schrader, Mizzou, 2023: 1,627 yards (13 games)

Here’s another incredible Schrader stat: He finished with 469 more rushing yards than the SEC’s No. 2 rusher, Mississippi’s Quinshon Judkins. The last time the SEC rushing king had a bigger lead on the league’s No. 2 rusher came in 2007, when Arkansas’ Darren McFadden had 496 more yards than runner-up Knowshon Moreno.

“He embodies what our team is and what our values are and how we operate,” quarterback Brady Cook said. “He deserves the credit. I mean, I can’t say enough about him. I’m just so proud of that guy. And I hope he’s got a smile on his face right now.”

What a season, one of the best by a Mizzou player at any position in any era.

3. As usual, Cook was unflappable against an elite Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes pummeled him early, but in his third Mizzou bowl game start, Cook stood tall at the end, completing six of his final passes and eight of his final 10.

On Cook’s first 15 drop-backs, he was sacked six times and threw for just 40 yards. His final three attempts went for 88 yards, including the 50-yard game-changer to Marquis Johnson and the needle-threading touchdown pass to Luther Burden III.

By all accounts, Cook put together one of the finest seasons by a Mizzou quarterback in the program’s history. Only two others started every game in a season that ended with 11 or more wins: Chase Daniel in 2007 and Maty Mauk in 2014. (James Franklin started 10 of Mizzou’s 14 games in 2013.)

Here’s where Cook’s 2023 season stats rank in Mizzou history:

3,317 passing yards: No. 8

157.2 passer rating: No. 3

21 touchdown passes: No. 9

3,636 yards total offense: No. 8

Going into his final season of eligibility, here’s where Cook ranks on Mizzou’s career lists:

6,473 passing yards: No. 7

145.3 passer rating: No. 2

38 touchdown passes: No. 7

7,469 yards total offense: No. 5

Back to Burden. Final season stats: 86 catches, 1,212 yards, nine touchdowns. Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexandar are the only former Tigers with more receiving yards in a season. Over the last dozen years, only four SEC receivers have totaled more catches for more yards and more touchdowns: LSU’s Malik Nabers (2023), Alabama’s DaVonta Smith (2020), LSU’s Justin Jefferson (2019) and Alabama’s Amari Cooper (2014.)

4. This Mizzou team captured the hearts of not only fans around the state and beyond but former Tigers, too. There were dozens at AT&T Stadium on Friday. Among the many: Kellen Winslow, Eric Wright, Pete Woods, Kurt Petersen, Leo Lewis, Sean Weatherspoon, Tim Barnes, Chris Turner, Andrew Gachkar, Will Ebner. Many more, I’m sure, I didn’t spot in person or on social media.

I spent some time during and after the game with two more, Daniel and Cotton Bowl Hall of Famer Tony Temple. Here was my favorite takeaway from their experience: As the fourth quarter got started, the Cody Watch was on — and both Daniel and Temple were so invested in Schrader getting the Mizzou season rushing record, they counted down the yards he needed with each carry until he broke the record late in the game. Both Mizzou greats joined the celebration down on the field, along with their coach, Cotton Bowl Hall of Famer Gary Pinkel, reveling in the Tigers’ latest victory. Pinkel gushed praise on Coach Eli Drinkwitz and Mizzou’s administration for making this season possible after three straight .500 regular seasons. “They see the infrastructure. They see what’s going on every single day, and they make those kind of decisions for all the right reasons,” he told KOMU down on the field. “I’m very, very happy for him. It’s very well deserved. He’s never wavered and he’s building a great program. And we have to embrace that.”

5. As the confetti covered the turf at AT&T Stadium, Coach Drinkwitz just couldn’t resist. First, he laid the night’s most impressive form tackle on University of Missouri President Mun Choi. Then, after climbing down from the stage for the trophy presentation, he plopped down and made snow angels in the rainbow of confetti. December is a grueling month for college football coaches in the modern era. You’ve got the transfer portal on full blast. There’s the early signing period. Bowl practices. Staff turnover. NIL. Oh yeah, the holidays. And they’re all condensed into a few December weeks. That’s why Friday’s celebration was an unabashed and warranted eruption of joy. Don’t let folks tell you bowl games outside of the four-team playoff don’t matter. Friday’s postgame revelry was evidence.

This was my 12th Mizzou bowl game  — I stayed home for the 2009 Texas Bowl when my twin boys were born, then last year’s ice storm wiped out my travel plans to the Gasparilla Bowl — and obviously I’m in a different role this year with a different perspective. But don’t ever let anyone tell you Mizzou fans don’t travel to big events. Dallas was decked in Black and Gold. Fans of all ages swarmed Arlington for Friday’s festivities. From the opening kickoff to the game’s final moments, Mizzou’s crowd was thunderous.

The best eras of Mizzou Football usually start with a feelgood, touchstone moment. Harrison Mevis’ 61-yard field goal against Kansas State was certainly the kickoff moment for 2023 — and last Friday was undoubtedly the crescendo. But like the man likes to say, why stop now?

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‘Mizzou Storytellers’

Just a reminder, starting next week, we’ll have a new podcast on the Inside Mizzou Athletics podcast feed: “Mizzou Storytellers,” hosted by myself and Nikki Barry, our assistant AD for marketing and creative services. Each week Nikki and I will visit with someone in the world of Mizzou Athletics to tell their story — coaches, student-athletes, administrators, letter-winners and more — with the kind of long-form conversation you won’t find anywhere else. Look for the first episode next week. We previewed the new podcast on a recent episode of the Inside Mizzou Athletics Podcast.

Matter’s Weekly Power Rankings

We’re still thinking about the bowl game, so let’s count down Mizzou’s five best defensive performances in bowl games:

1. Mizzou 14, Ohio State 3, 2023 Cotton Bowl: Mizzou put the ‘D’ in Dallas last week, marking the second time in the Tigers’ 36 bowl games the opponent failed to visit the end zone.

2. Mizzou 21, Navy 14, 1961 Orange Bowl: The Tigers held Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino to 41 yards of offense and answered Navy’s game-opening defensive touchdown with a 90-yard pick six by Norm Beal. Navy punted seven times and finished with minus-8 rushing yards.

3. Mizzou 38, Arkansas 7, 2008 Cotton Bowl: On New Year’s Day at the original Cotton Bowl, the Tigers grounded Arkansas’ three-headed rushing attack, holding McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones to 170 yards on 36 carries — with William Moore returning an INT for a touchdown.

4. Mizzou 35, Alabama 10, 1968 Gator Bowl: Alabama’s only touchdown came on an interception return, which the Tigers answered in the fourth quarter with Dennis Poppe‘s 47-yard pick six. Mizzou didn’t complete a single pass, but Dan Devine Tigers’ held Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide to just 132 yards of offense.

5. Fordham 2, Mizzou 0, 1942 Sugar Bowl: How can we possibly compare games separated by more than 80 years? Not sure, but we’ll try anyway. Played on New Year’s Day in 1942, less than a month after Pearl Harbor, the Tigers and Rams played in a rainstorm with the only points coming on a blocked MU punt returned for a safety. Fordham didn’t complete a single pass, finishing with 137 rushing yards.

In the running: Mizzou 20, LSU 15, 1978 Liberty Bowl: MU gave up nearly 400 yards but picked off four LSU passes.

Mizzou 33, Minnesota 17, 2015 Citrus Bowl: In his final college game, MVP Markus Golden flattened the Gophers with 10 tackles, four for losses and a forced fumble.

Penn State 10, Mizzou 3, 1970 Orange Bowl: Mizzou outgained the Nittany Lions but lost the turnover battle 9-1 with seven interceptions.

Cotton Bowl Tiger Trivia

1. Cody Schrader’s 29 carries against Ohio State came two short of Mizzou’s bowl record for rushing attempts. Who holds the Mizzou record for rushing attempts in a bowl game?

2. Mizzou is now 3-1 in the Cotton Bowl. Only two programs have appeared in at least four Cotton Bowls and have a better winning percentage in the bowl game. Name the two programs.

3. Mizzou defensive end Johnny Walker Jr. is the third player to go by the name Johnny to be named an MVP of the Cotton Bowl and the second MVP with the last name Walker. Name the other two Johnnys and the other Walker.

Mizzou Musings

How many teams can say this: As of Friday, every Mizzou wide receiver who caught a pass for the Tigers this season is slated to return in 2024. Theo Wease Jr., who made some of the year’s biggest plays, announced Thursday he’ll return for his final year of eligibility. Wease led the Tigers with 16 catches on third down for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Only one wideout across the entire SEC had more third-down catches this season. …  Huge win for No. 2 Mizzou wrestling on Tuesday against No. 11 Virginia Tech, sparked by an upset by redshirt freshman Kade Moore over two-time All-American Sam Latona at 133 pounds. It was Moore’s first career victory over a ranked opponent. The Tigers (6-0) had trailed by six points early in the match, making this the program’s biggest comeback win in nearly two years. Plus, Brian Smith‘s team had dropped three straight duals to Viriginia Tech. Now, it’s four straight competitions on the road for the rest of January. … SEC basketball action tips off this week with Dennis Gates‘ Tigers hosting Georgia on Saturday (noon, SEC Network). Mizzou’s first three SEC opponents rank Nos. 98, 24 and 46 in the NCAA’s NET rankings. … Robin Pingeton‘s Tigers had a promising first half in Thursday’s SEC opener at No. 7 LSU before falling to the defending national champions. Mama Dembele‘s strong first half paced Mizzou early. The All-SEC point guard candidate filled up the box score with 15 points, nine assists, five steals and six boards. … How’s this for storytelling: Hear straight from gymnastics coach Shannon Welker in his open letter to Tiger fans to kick off No. 12 Mizzou’s season. The season officially starts Saturday night (6 p.m.) at Hearnes Center for Princess and Superhero Night against Lindenwood, SEMO and Northern Illinois.

Links to Click

The Cardinals Caravan will stop by Mizzou Arena on January 13 for the men’s basketball game against South Carolina. Bring the family to the game and take home an exclusive Mizzou and Cardinals co-branded t-shirt. Tickets and t-shirt combo are $20 each. More info here.

Fans can learn more about Men’s Basketball tickets here and Women’s Basketball tickets here.

For all the latest information on Mizzou Athletics, please visit For up-to-the-minute updates, follow the Tigers on XInstagram and Facebook

Looking Ahead

Friday, Jan. 5

Swimming and Diving at Louisville, 11 a.m. (Louisville, Kentucky)

Saturday, Jan. 6

Men’s Basketball vs. Georgian, Noon, SEC Network

Gymnastics vs. Lindenwood/Northern Illinois/SEMO, SEC Network+, 6 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 7

Women’s Basketball vs. Alabama, 5 p.m., SEC Network

Tuesday, Jan. 9

Tennis at Grand Canyon (Phoenix)

Men’s Basketball at Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPN (Lexington, Kentucky)

Wednesday, Jan. 10

Wrestling at Stanford, 4 p.m., Pac-12 Network (Palo Alto, California)

Thursday, Jan. 11

Women’s Basketball vs. South Carolina, 7 p.m., SEC Network+

Friday, Jan. 12

Gymnastics at Alabama, 6 p.m., SEC Network (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

Mizzou Composite January Schedule

Cotton Bowl Tiger Trivia

1. Devin West ran 31 times for 125 yards against West Virginia in the 1998 Bowl.

2. Penn State is 3-0-1 in the Cotton Bowl and Ole Miss is 4-1.

3. Texas offensive guard Johnny Treadwell (1963), Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2013) and SMU running back Doak Walker (1948, 1949).

This article is provided by University of Missouri Athletics