Missouri holds off Arkansas 29-27 to reach bowl eligibility

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri and Arkansas will be headed to similar bowl games after the Tigers held off the Razorbacks 29-27 on Saturday night, leaving each of the bitter border rivals 6-6 on the season.

Only one walked out of Faurot Field with victory cigars.

Brady Cook threw for 242 yards and a touchdown while running for 138 yards and a score, and Missouri’s defense stuffed Arkansas when it mattered in the fourth quarter, allowing the Tigers to avenge last year’s loss to the Razorbacks.

“We wanted it so bad,” admitted Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz, who said he bought cigars for the entire team in anticipation of reaching bowl eligibility. “We tried not to make it bigger than it was, but we were playing for more.”

Cody Schrader added 97 yards rushing and a touchdown, and Dominic Lovett – who had to ditch his own lit cigar on the way to the postgame new conference – had six catches for 130 yards, helping the Tigers (6-6, 3-5) qualify for a third bowl game in Drinkwitz’s first three seasons in Columbia.

“We only won by two,” Lovett said after smacking the tobacco taste out of his mouth, “but a win’s a win. We got it done.”

Arkansas (6-6, 4-4) had the ball twice with less than 8 minutes left and a chance to drive for a go-ahead field goal, but the Tigers forced three-and-outs both times and essentially ran out the clock on their first league win in a month.

“We’ve all been through hell – can I say hell? Well, I just said it twice,” Lovett said. “It was a good day all around.”

The Razorbacks’ KJ Jefferson threw for 205 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while running for a score, though he was constantly harassed by Missouri’s aggressive defensive front. Raheim Sanders, the league’s second-leading rusher, was held to just 47 yards on the ground with a touchdown reception.

“We’ve got a very disappointed locker room right now and we’d certainly like to get this taste out of our mouth in a bowl game,” Razorbacks coach Sam Pittman said, “but this is going to be hard to get rid of.”

Missouri actually scored on each of its first four drives yet still trailed at halftime.

That’s because the Razorbacks were better at reaching the end zone.

While the Tigers got touchdown runs from Schrader and Cook to cap long drives, they also had to settle for a pair of field goals from Harrison Mevis, including a chipshot after a drive stalled at the Arkansas 10 late in the first half.

The Razorbacks were forced to punt twice, thanks to Missouri’s pass rush, but they also got a short TD run from Jefferson and his touchdown pass to Matt Landers. And when the Razorbacks got the ball back with 5 1/2 minutes before the break, they breezed 75 yards down field and Jefferson hit Sanders out of the backfield for a 21-20 lead.

Missouri regained the lead in the third quarter when Luther Burden III caught a short pass, put a move on the Razorbacks’ Quincey McAdoo, and reached the end zone from 23 yards out. And after Jefferson was picked off moments later, Mevis hit his third field goal to give the Tigers a 29-21 advantage.

The Razorbacks had a chance to retake the lead in the fourth quarter, after they’d closed to within 29-24, but they couldn’t get into the end zone after first-and-goal at the Missouri 2 and Pittman settled for another field goal.

That wound up being the difference in the game.

“We felt like coming in here we were ready to go,” Pittman said, “and physically we just got whipped.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Arkansas simply made too many mistakes to beat anyone in the SEC. The offensive line gave up seven sacks, penalty flags flew at costly times and Pittman’s conservative play on fourth down may have cost the Razorbacks the game.

Missouri’s defense made stops when it mattered the most, particularly in the fourth quarter. They stuffed Arkansas at the goal line, then forced consecutive three-and-outs in the waning minutes to essentially run out the clock.

UP NEXT

Both teams await bowl destinations with the Tigers possibly jumping the Razorbacks in the pecking order. “Honestly,” Drinkwitz said, “I don’t give a crap where we play. It’s a bowl game, it’s a celebration. Wherever our administration thinks it’s best for us to go, we’ll saddle up and go.”

Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz gets 2-year contract extension

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz received a two-year contract extension, tying him to the Tigers through the 2027 season for a level of stability that has been missing from the program in recent years.

The school did not announce the terms of the extension, though a university spokesman said Drinkwitz would receive an increase in guaranteed paid. His original six-year deal paid him $4 million annually before incentives.

“You can’t do this alone, and our players, coaches and staff have worked their tails off and stuck with the process as we’ve built this program,” Drinkwitz said in a statement hours before the Tigers played Kentucky at Faurot Field.

“We feel strongly about our trajectory and are proud to represent our state’s flagship institution,” Drinkwitz said. “We are grateful for the investment in our program from the administration and excited about the future of Mizzou football.”

Drinkwitz was hired in 2019 after the program had slipped to mediocrity under Barry Odom, but his rebuild was made more complicated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drinkwitz, who won 12 games in his lone season as head coach at Appalachian State, wound up 5-5 in his debut season and 6-7 with a loss in the Armed Forces Bowl last year.

The Tigers started just 2-4 this season, getting blown out by former Big 12 rival Kansas State and losing consecutive down-to-the-wire games to Auburn, top-ranked Georgia and Florida. That slow start led some to believe that Drinkwitz, who’d been hired by athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois’s predecessor, would be on the hot seat the remainder of the season.

He was still just 15-16 and 10-13 in SEC play heading into the game against the Wildcats.

The close call against the defending national champion Bulldogs showed the Tigers were on the right track, though, and back-to-back wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina apparently gave Missouri officials confidence in the direction of the program. The university’s board of curators voted 7-0 to approve Drinkwitz’s contract extension.

“Coach Drinkwitz and his staff have created great momentum in our football program.” Missouri President Mun Choi said. “You can feel the excitement and you see it in the fans as they have turned out in great numbers at Faurot Field.

“Coach Drinkwitz’s program is a key part of the results-driven, championship culture that AD Reed-Francois is building to help support our student-athletes. Like so many of our fans, I am excited to see what the future holds for Mizzou football.”

Earlier this week, first-year Missouri defensive coordinator Blake Baker agreed to an extension that will keep him with the Tigers through the 2025 season. It increased his pay from $600,000 to an average salary of $1.2 million.

“Our football team is on the right trajectory,” Reed-Francois said, “and we are seeing results in recruiting and on the field. Coach Drinkwitz is a dynamic leader who brings people together and we believe in our football staff’s combined commitment to excellence in the classroom and in the community. We are looking forward to him continuing to lead our program into the future.”

Army stuns Missouri in Armed Forces Bowl on last-second FG

Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas- Cole Talley kicked a 41-yard field goal as time ran out and Army rallied to beat Missouri 24-22 in the Armed Forces Bowl on Wednesday night.

After the Tigers took a 22-21 lead on a touchdown with 1:11 to play, third-string quarterback Jabari Laws led Army (9-4) downfield to the Missouri 24-yard line, setting up Talley’s game-winner.

Army backup quarterback Tyhier Tyler came on after starter Christian Anderson was injured early in the fourth quarter and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Walters to give the Black Knights their first lead, 21-16. Anderson and Jakobi Buchanan scored on TD runs of 22 and 10 yards, respectively, for Army.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Brady Cook threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Keke Chism with 71 seconds left to put the Tigers (6-7) ahead, but their two-point conversion attempt failed. Cook also ran for a 30-yard score in his first collegiate start.

Missouri played without second-team All-America running back Tyler Badie, who was held out by coach Eliah Drinkwitz in advance of the NFL draft. Starting quarterback Connor Bazelak was sidelined because of a leg injury.

Cook completed 27 of 34 passes for 238 yards and ran for 53 more.

Buchanan led Army in rushing with 68 yards on 21 carries. Elijah Young was the Tigers’ top rusher with 75 yards on 13 carries.

THE TAKEAWAY

Missouri: The Tigers began the game short-handed in the secondary and lost multiple players in the first half, leading Army to open up its passing game more than usual in the second half.

Army: The Black Knights’ option offense depends on patience and trust – and delivered at the finish. While only 5 of 14 on third downs, they were 5 for 5 on fourth downs to put themselves in position to win.

UP NEXT

Missouri: After the Tigers open at Middle Tennessee State next season, they’ll host former conference rival Kansas State. The season finale against Arkansas will also be at Faurot Field.

Army: The Black Knights won’t face any Power Five teams next season for the first time since 2004 (except for the reworked 2020 schedule). The first two games will be against Group of Five heavyweights Coastal Carolina and UTSA, and the Army-Navy game will return to Philadelphia.