MO State HS Sports

Takeaways from Mizzou’s Cotton Bowl victory over Ohio State

That. Just. Happened.

I’m not exactly sure how, and the following won’t be any coherent explanation. But the No. 9 Mizzou football team turned an offensive snooze-fest into one of their biggest wins in program history, edging out No. 7 Ohio State at the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.

It didn’t seem all that likely during the first three quarters. An offense that showed vast improvement all season turned into a shell of itself, albeit against its toughest defensive test of the season. Brady Cook looked lost. The offensive line struggled to give him time to throw. The receivers couldn’t find any openings. It all resulted in the Tigers punting on their first eight possessions of the game.

And then, a spark. Cook connected with freshman Marquis Johnson for a 50-yard bomb downfield, setting up their first touchdown drive finishing at the start of the fourth quarter. And it ended up being all Mizzou needed.

Instead of writing my usual Knee-Jerk Reactions, I’ll give you three players that most stood out to me in making this whole thing happen.

Cody Schrader

Even when Mizzou’s offense went stagnant, the Doak Walker Award finalist stayed the same. Friday’s game didn’t feature as many explosive runs that we’re used to seeing from Schrader, and that was to be expected given the opponent, but he kept Mizzou on schedule during the course of the game.

He finished with 29 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown, with almost half of his yardage coming in the fourth quarter. That’s the mark of a closer. He gave Mizzou what they needed to edge out in front at the start of the fourth, then he saw out the rest of the game by keeping the ball away from the Buckeyes.

And oh yeah, in the process, he passed Tyler Badie and became Mizzou’s all-time single season rushing leader. Not bad.

Schrader’s obviously been the best story of Mizzou’s season and probably the entire college football season, but it was important for him to have a finale that was worthy of his performance and impact in 2023. The Cotton Bowl provided exactly that.

Triston Newson

Johnny Walker Jr. was technically named the defensive MVP of the game, and he certainly played well. But man, I felt like the former junior college linebacker got robbed of that award. Filling in for the injured Ty’Ron Hopper, Newson racked up 10 tackles, 2.5 of those for loss. He stayed locked in on OSU running back Treveyon Henderson, who got held to 3.8 yards per carry while the Buckeyes dealt with quarterback injury and ineffectiveness. He also applied pressure in the pocket on passing plays. He was all over the place.

I kept watching this guy play and got so excited for what the future could hold for Mizzou’s linebacking core for 2024. Even with the losses of Chad Bailey and likely Hopper, the Tigers have two reliable options to take on those spots with Newson and Chuck Hicks. Add in the addition of Corey Flagg in the transfer portal, and Mizzou might have another solid group at that position again.

This defense has had to rely on some unsung heroes all season long. Newson became the biggest one Friday night.

Brady Cook

To be honest, I didn’t think we’d be talking so glowingly about the Mizzou signal-caller about midway thru the third quarter. Before his long pass to Johnson for 50 yards, he had a grand total of 40 passing yards on eight completions. Maybe it was just the nature of facing a tough Buckeye defense, but something just seemed off with Cook on passing downs.

But it’s not about how you start. You know the rest…

After that completion to Johnson, Cook led back-to-back touchdown drives of 90+ yards to take complete control of the contest. He then followed up that 50-yard completion by dropping one in the bucket to Theo Wease Jr. for a first down, and capped the second TD drive by threading an absolute needle to Luther Burden for the score.

With how bad it looked to start, it was all forgiven with the big plays Cook made to finish the game and put his team in position to grab the victory. And as a starting quarterback, that’s the most important part of the job description. Not the final numbers. Not how pretty your passes look. Just winning. In the end, Cook made the plays to put Mizzou in the winner’s circle, even if they came a little later than we all would’ve preferred.

Of course, it wasn’t just those three guys that delivered this program-changing win. It takes a whole roster and coaching staff. And ultimately, Eli Drinkwitz deserves the most credit of the bunch. The fixes he made within the program in just one year has set this team on a whole new trajectory.

Soak it in, Mizzou fans. You’ve got another 11-win season and another Cotton Bowl championship.

And 2024 can’t get here soon enough.