How quickly things can change. A few weeks ago it was a Defensive Coordinator controversy, now it's pivoted to a quarterback controversy. Most fans believe there has been a quarterback controversy since the October 30th game at Vanderbilt. That's when starter Connor Bazelak exited the game with a leg injury, which has since been a nagging hamstring for the red shirt sophomore.
Although Head Coach Eli Drinkwitz sat Bazelak the next week vs Georgia, and used backups Brady Cook and Tyler Macon, Drinkwitz started Bazelak during the final stretch of the season. Consequently, the offense has struggled, with Bazelak obviously not nearly at 100%.
If you look at Bazelak's stats since the Vandy game, the decrease in production is obvious. During the first five games of the season, threw for 257, 294, 346, 303, and 322 yards. Since the Vanderbilt game, he has 180 against South Carolina, 165 against Florida, and a measly 65 yards vs Arkansas.
Of course, part of his reduction is also due to the increased reliance on all-everything running back Tyler Badie. Nevertheless, Bazelak's injury has obviously impacted the offensive performance of the team.
Before Bazelak's injury, the Tigers averaged almost 23 first downs per game. They’ve only averaged 17 since. The passing offense contributed almost 13 first downs per game before his injury, only about 5 since.
With the decline in the passing game staring him in the face, Coach Drinkwitz has opened the competition with the quarterback spot for the Armed Services Bowl. Now he says any of three quarterbacks could play.
"Whoever we feel gives us the best chance to win and move our football team is going to play" said Drinkwitz. He also said the extra practice time between now and the bowl game gives the coaching staff more time to evaluate and develop players skills than during practice during the season. "And so we have a little bit more time for the competition to develop and play out."
What backups Brady Cook and Tyler Macon don't have, is much experience. Cook is 18 for 23 with 103 yards and one touchdown in four games. Macon is 9 for 17 with 143 yards and one touchdown in three games.
Hopefully, Connor Bazelak's injury will fully heal and he will be at 100% for the Bowl game on December 22nd. In my opinion, an experienced and healthy Bazelak would likely be the best option for the Tigers against Army. However, if Coach Drinkwitz elects to go with Brady Cook or Tyler Macon, then so be it.
Finally, Army is no slouch. Even though they don't play an SEC schedule, the Black Knights put up 56 points on 16th ranked Wake Forest, and only lost to Wisconsin by 6.
With their triple option, they currently rank second nationally in rushing offense at 301 yards per game. Additionally, their defense allows only 103 yards rushing per game. Mizzou improving their passing game will be imperative for a victory.
The Missouri football program has been...well....stagnant since the retirement of Gary Pinkel after the 2015 season. The result is a gloomy Mizzou fan base that has led to sagging attendance. A bowl victory would be a good shot in the arm going forward into 2022.
Maybe a spirited quarterback controversy is the first step that is needed to help rejuvenate, not only the offense, but also the Tiger fan base.