Mizzou football: Despite adversity, Tigers win measuring-stick game against Arkansas
Mizzou passed their test on Saturday.
Yes, Arkansas was without their starting quarterback and leader, Feleipe Franks. But KJ Jefferson, the future of the Arkansas football program, balled out and made life tough on the usually stingy Mizzou defense. Even without Franks, the Battle Line Rivalry was still a measuring-stick game, and the Tigers prevailed, 50-48, in the best way possible — doing it while battling adversity.
What adversity? First of all, the game was a shootout, and those are wild and hard to win. There were a combined 1,219 total yards and 98 points. The Tigers had the win in their grasp until they didn’t, when Jamal Brooks dropped an interception that fell into the hands of Arkansas’ Mike Woods for an unbelievable 2-point conversion, putting the Razorbacks on top 48-47 with only 43 seconds left.
It wasn’t just the 4th quarter, though. Adversity came earlier, when Mizzou watched a 10-0 first-half lead disappear and turn into a 27-20 deficit at halftime and 40-26 in the 4th. And when star linebacker Nick Bolton was ejected late in the 1st half from a bad targeting penalty. And when Mizzou’s defense was getting torn up by Trelon Smith.
Winning that game says a lot about Eli Drinkwitz’s team. It showed that the head coach is building something in Columbia, and that his offense is working there. It shows that Connor Bazelak is one of the top young quarterbacks in the nation, and that the post-Bolton defense is going to be in good hands with Devin Nicholson and Martez Manuel. Oh, and it’s nice to have a great field-goal kicker who’s just a freshman, right?
Bazelak had a heck of a day, throwing for 380 yards. On his game-tying drive midway through the 4th, he threw beautiful completions to Damon Hazelton on a 3rd-and-7 and Keke Chism on 2nd-and-10 to set up a Larry Rountree touchdown.
Really good placement by Bazelak. pic.twitter.com/qfpXtGuC3t
— Nikki Chavanelle (@NikkiChavanelle) December 5, 2020
Bazelak’s final drive of the game against Barry Odom’s defense was magnificent. He was calm and collected and took what the defense gave him, firing completions of 14, 18, 12 and 10 yards against soft zone coverage and picking on Arkansas’ freshman corner Hudson Clark, whom Hazelton owned. There were just 43 seconds left, but Bazelak made it look easy.
Mizzou is obviously a different defense without Bolton. But Nicholson and Manuel are solid sophomore defenders with bright, bright futures. All-SEC type futures. Nicholson led the Tigers with 13 tackles, while Manuel had 12.
And how could we not mention Harrison Mevis? The freshman was 5-for-5 on field goals — including the game-winner — and 100 percent on extra points, which is something that Arkansas’ A.J. Reed can’t say.
Drinkwitz is proving his system works and that the program is trending upward. Arkansas was a good win, no matter who was playing quarterback for the Razorbacks.
Next up for Drinkwitz and Co.: Georgia. Yep, you guessed it, another measuring-stick game. After everything we’ve seen from the Tigers lately, it looks like the Bulldogs should be on upset alert.
Mizzou will have the most confidence they’ve had all season going into this game. They should, too, because they’ve proven they can come out on top despite things going wrong. Drinkwitz’s team fought through adversity on Saturday, and that bodes well for the Georgia game.