It may seem ridiculous to say that Mizzou football is on the rise right on the heels of a beat down at the hands of no. 9 Georgia. I get that it seems like more of the same, but the keyword here is perspective. We’re talking about a Georgia team that had College Football Playoff aspirations at the start of the season. At the beginning of the season, this was a game you could have penciled in as a loss. To think the Tigers has a shot in this game would have been hopelessly optimistic.
All that having been said, there are still so many reasons for Mizzou fans to get excited about the new Eliah Drinkwitz era of Missouri Tiger football. The offense is explosive. The defense is strong. The players believe in themselves. It’s time that Tiger Nation begins to believe in this team as well. Here’s why:
Head Coach Eliah Drinkwitz
Heading into last off-season Coach Drinkwitz was a hot name in the “up and coming” head coach category. Many expected him to land a head coaching job at a Power Five school. Indeed that was the case as he had more than one offer. Thankfully for Mizzou, Coach came to Columbia.
Coach Drinkwitz set records at Appalachian State and brought that winning culture with him to Columbia. If success starts at the top, then the Tigers have certainly found their leader. He has a “never say quit” attitude and you can see it in the way the players have responded.
The response may be no better illustrated than how the Tigers responded in their win over Arkansas. The team came together and orchestrated the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history. With only 0:43 left on the clock, Connor Bazelak led the offense down the field and set up the winning field goal. That kind of grit is something this Mizzou program hasn’t seen for several years. We have Coach Drinkwitz to thank for that.
Missouri has a history of elite college quarterbacks. Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert, and Drew Lock just to name a few. Connor Bazelak is about to be added to that list. The redshirt freshman earned the starting gig and has done nothing but prove why he deserves it.
Bazelak only has five TD passes, but he’s also only thrown three interceptions. With over 2,000 yards passing, he ranks fourth in the SEC among quarterbacks. He has shown tremendous growth as the season has progressed. The touchdowns will come as he continues to mature, but Bazelak is close. His poise and cool demeanor in the pocket allows him to make all the throws. And he can make ALL the throws. The aforementioned comeback win against Arkansas is a case in point.
As Connor Bazelak is to the offense, Junior linebacker Nick Bolton is to the defense. Before being ejected for targeting in the Arkansas game, Bolton led the league in tackles. His football IQ is off the charts. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
The defense needs some work as they rank 64th in the nation in total defense. Bolton makes up for a lot of the deficiencies with his strong, heady play. If Bolton sticks around for his senior season, then the defense should only get better as it rallies around its leader.
Close wins are definitely a reason to get excited. If you look at the Tigers’ four losses, they were blown out by ranked opponents. Three of those losses were to top ten programs in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. That’s understandable. Their five wins, however not including the blowout win against Vandy, Mizzou won its games so far by an average of just 5.75 points per game. Those are very close games.
Why on earth should you be excited about that? Because those are games that this team lost during Barry Odom’s tenure. This team knows how to close out the close games and come away with the win. It’s a credit to Coach Drinkwitz’s “never say quit” philosophy that has these players believing in themselves.
If this season so far has taught us anything it’s that Mizzou football is on the rise. They may not be ready to hang with the big boys yet, but they are looking poised to make a huge leap as a program.
Go ahead Mizzou.
Drink it up.
Football in Columbia is getting exciting again.