If you had told Missouri fans that its defense would go toe-to-toe with Florida and hold the Gators to 6 points in the 1st half and 23 overall, they’d have thought you were crazy, and with good reason.

The Tigers’ defense has been one of the worst in the country. But it has shown some improvement in the past few weeks after Missouri dumped defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

It might have played its best game of the season in the Tigers’ 24-23 overtime victory Saturday.

Let’s break down how the Tigers managed to take care of the Gators.

The offense

The Mizzou offense didn’t play its best game of the year, but unlike previous games, it stepped up in the end. It did enough to win, and that’s all it needed to do.

Tyler Badie showed why he is the best running back in the SEC, picking up the pace in the 4th quarter when his team needed him. He ended up with 146 yards, and his only touchdown came in overtime.

Give credit also to quarterback Connor Bazelak, who played hurt most of this game. Bazelak didn’t light up the scoreboard — he had 1 touchdown — but he did 2 important things well: He didn’t turn the ball over, and he threw the game-winning 2-point conversion.

Let’s give Mizzou kicker Harrison Mevis some credit, too. He was 3-for-4 on field goals and kept Missouri in the game when points were at a premium.

It wasn’t pretty at times, but the Mizzou offense did what it needed to do.

Grade: B-

The defense

Mizzou held an explosive Gators offense in check all day, something no one saw coming.

Florida put up 70 points last week, and Mizzou held it to 23, 16 n regulation.

The Tigers held quarterback Emory Jones to 261 yards passing and 0 touchdowns. Jones was also the Gators’ leading rusher with only 45 yards.

All season, fans and the media have dragged this Missouri defense. Saturday, it may have played its best game of the year, holding the Gators under their points and yards per game.

It was an impressive performance indeed by a defense that deserves a lot of credit for the way it has stepped up over the past few weeks.

Grade: A-


The main reason this team is going bowling is the coaching of Eli Drinkwitz. While most teams would have tanked after getting beaten badly by Tennessee, Drinkwitz rallied his, and now it has enough wins to go to a bowl.

What changed was that Drinkwitz put his trust in his All-SEC running back to carry this team the last few weeks. It has paid off big time.

Drinkwitz also trusted his gut Saturday when it came to who would start at quarterback. Although Bazelak had struggled in recent weeks, Drinkwitz put the ball in his hands and was proven right.

Bazelak didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he did keep the car on the road, and he didn’t do anything to cost his team the victory.

But maybe the most impressive thing Drinkwitz did was let Bazelak throw the game-winning 2-point conversion. That was a gutsy call, and an even better play by Bazelak.

To go for it with the game and potentially your season on the line is impressive. Coach Drink proved why he was hired a few years ago.

This team showed guts and passion, and that has led it to a bowl game.

Grade: A