Missouri football: Brady Cook has career rushing day as Tigers punch bowl ticket
Missouri quarterback Brady Cook took a page from his counterpart on Friday, leading the Tigers with his feet as well as his arm, to a 29-27 victory over Arkansas at Faurot Field.
It was Razorbacks’ quarterback KJ Jefferson who everyone expected to run for big yardage and pass for more, as is his norm. Despite missing 2 games this season, Jefferson remains 1 of just 2 SEC quarterbacks, along with Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, with at 20-plus passing, and 5-plus rushing TDs.
But Cook stole the spotlight Friday, rushing for career-highs in carries (18) and yards (138). He scored a rushing touchdown and threw for another while completing throwing for 242 yards, 1 TD and no interceptions.
And he made them count. Cook completed 11 passes for first downs, converting 3 3rd-down passes and another on 4th down. Five times he ran for 1st downs, converting a pair of 3rd-down scampers, including a 9-yard TD run.
He completed passes to 6 receivers, including 6 completions to his favorite target, sophomore Dominic Lovett, who totaled 130 yards, his 4th 100-yard game this season.
The Tigers not only took home the massive 180-pound Battle Line trophy but also qualified for a bowl game for the 3rd straight season under head coach Eli Drinkwitz.
It has been heck of a turnaround for Mizzou, which started the season 2-4.
Both Missouri and Arkansas will go bowling with identical 6-6 (3-5 in the SEC) records. It’s just the 3rd time in program history for Missouri to make bowl games in at least 3 consecutive seasons, and the first since a streak of 7 from 2005-11.
Arkansas fell to 0-6 all-time at CoMo. The Hogs haven’t beaten Missouri on the road since 1944.
That’s because without their all-time leading tackler Bumper Pool, sidelined with injury, and Myles Slusher, a leader in the secondary who quit the team this week, Arkansas just could not find a way to stop Cook, either on the ground or through the air.
Missouri’s junior quarterback had been somewhat angling toward a game like this one. He rushed for 106 and 71 yards in his previous 2 games, against Tennessee and Mexico State, respectively. The 106 vs. Tennessee was career high.
It was a game that Missouri has found a way to lose far too often this season. Four of Missouri’s 5 SEC losses have been by 7 points or fewer, and by a combined 18 points.
But on this critical day, when a victory was desperately needed, Cook came through. Yep, this one was different. Cook willed his team to victory Friday. He completed 4 consecutive passes early on to get into a rhythm, and then went through a stretch of 5 consecutive completions, ending with a 23-yard touchdown to freshman Luther Burden.
Lest we forget that in addition to Cook’s career day, it was a solid defensive effort, led by sophomore linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper, that came through in the clutch. The Tigers held Arkansas to just 113 yards rushing, less than half of its average of 233.5.
Jefferson was limited to only 38 yards on 19 carries, and the SEC’s leading rusher, Rocket Sanders, gathered just 47 yards on 10 carries; far below his 125.36 per-game average.
Hopper led Missouri with 11 tackles, including 9 solo and 2 for losses. He paired well with junior DB Jaylon Carlies (8 tackles) and senior DL Isaiah McGuire (2 sacks).
Yes, Cook led the way, but it was a team effort that allowed the Tigers to come out on top of this close game for a change.
Now, there’s something to look forward to as Missouri extends its season and plays in a bowl game. It will be interesting to see, with the extra practices, the continued development of Cook as the Tigers’ quarterback.