The Missouri Tigers are going bowling. Mizzou and the Arkansas Razorbacks kicked off rivalry week for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with an exciting Battle Line Rivalry matchup. Sophomore quarterback Brady Cook led the Tigers to a narrow 29-27 victory to pick up the Tigers’ sixth win of the season. Cook threw for 242 yards and one touchdown and made his most significant impact on the ground by rushing for 138 yards and a score. Here are three takeaways from Missouri’s crucial win.
Let Luther Burden Cook!
The Five-star recruit has had his fair share of ups and downs in his true freshman season, but the flashes of talent are undeniable. Both of his catches came on the opening drive of the second half. He flashed his playmaking ability on a screen pass, breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage, recovering his footing and outrunning the Razorback defense for a 23-yard touchdown. Rumors of Burden transferring have loomed over Columbia all season long.
Games like this are a reminder that keeping him out of the transfer portal should be a top priority for the Tigers this offseason. Missouri reaching a bowl game goes a long way in demonstrating to Burden and future recruits that the Tigers have a bright future. Burden should be a key element of the next game plan, and one final strong performance should be enough to keep him in stripes next season.
The Defense is Legit
A good word to describe Mizzou’s season is inconsistent. In the same year, they were blown-out by Kansas State, lost to Florida and Auburn in down years, nearly beat number one-seeded Georgia, and defeated South Carolina. The Tigers’ defense finished the regular season in the middle of the pack of the SEC for most defensive team stats. The unit stepped up in the second half against Arkansas, giving up just two field goals. KJ Jefferson, Raheim Sanders, and the Razorbacks can break away for big plays at any time, but Mizzou held strong.
The Tiger pass rush, led by senior defensive end Isaiah McGuire, lived in the backfield all game long and had seven sacks. They came up with several crucial stops on third downs. The secondary also performed at a high level. Kris Abrams-Draine kept his side of the field locked down all game long, and Arkansas rarely targeted his assignments. He had a critical play in coverage late in the fourth quarter to help clinch the win. Both McGuire and Abrams-Draine have bright NFL futures and are products of a Missouri defense that is earning its SEC pedigree.
Brady Cook Can Be the Long-Term Answer at QB
Mizzou has been a run-first team since Drew Lock was drafted into the NFL. Similarly, the Tigers have been searching for a true program leader at quarterback since Lock. Brady Cook is finally the answer. With the season on the line, Cook led his team through a neck-and-neck game to beat their rivals and earn a bowl game berth.
Is his arm elite? No, but he can make all the necessary throws. He’s not a game-changing runner, but he certainly has dual-threat capabilities. Cook has now led the team in rushing yards in three straight weeks. His development this season should be enough to hold off highly touted recruit Sam Horn and keep his starting job. Burden and sophomores Dominic Lovett and Mookie Cooper form an exciting receiving corps for the foreseeable future. The Tiger passing offense has a promising future with Cook under center.
The Missouri Tigers improved to 6-6 and are now bowl-eligible. Their final matchup of the season will be announced on December 4th.