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Missouri feels satisfied after beating Kansas State

by Kyle McAreavy | September 18, 2023 at 12:23 a.m.
Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis points to fans as he walks off the field Saturday after the Tigers defeated Kansas State 30-27 at Faurot Field in Columbia. (Associated Press)

COLUMBIA -- Call it redemption, call it revenge. Call it a program-affirming victory. Whatever you want to call it, you can definitely call it better.

“Truly this game was revenge,” Missouri quarterback Brady Cook said of the Tigers’ 30-27 win Saturday against Kansas State. “This game meant a lot to me after what happened last year. We got put through the ringer, I’ll never forget that day. That played a big role in my preparation and my attitude toward the game.”

Missouri kicker Harrison Mevis connected on a 61-yard field goal -- the longest field goal in SEC history and second-longest in Missouri program history -- to beat the No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats, bringing the fans down onto Faurout Field as the Tigers beat a top-20 team for the first time since 2018.

“Redemption is a beautiful thing,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “And hopefully it will quiet the noise and get people to be pushing in one direction.”

The win stands in stark contrast to Missouri’s 40-12 loss to Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., in Week 2 of last season when the Wildcats dominated the Tigers on the ground throughout.

But not only was it different from last year, it was different from the last two weeks.

Missouri’s offense came out firing from its first drive, with Cook hitting 23-of-35 passes for a career-high 356 yards and two touchdowns to go with a rushing touchdown. Cook’s previous career-high in passing was 297 against Abilene Christian last season.

Through two games this season, the Tigers had combined for 430 passing yards on 45 total attempts, but Saturday they were throwing all over the field.

Through two games, Luther Burden had nearly half of the total catches and receiving yards, but Saturday, five receivers had at least 40 yards and three had four or more catches.

“I thought we got into a rhythm early, I thought we were very aggressive in attacking,” Drinkwitz said.

On the very first play, it was clear Missouri’s offense had something new in store.

Cook faked an end-around toss to Burden then kept it for a 6-yard keeper. Cook then ran a draw before connecting with Cody Schrader in the flat to gain a first down.

A quarterback draw and a pass across the middle to Wease put the Tigers on the Wildcat 47, then Cook connected with Burden on a deep post with Burden behind the last line of defenders for a game-tying touchdown early.

“(The coaches) told us we had to start fast and play aggressive,” Missouri receiver Mookie Cooper said. “They said we want to be aggressive with some of the play calls and we came out doing that.”

The Tigers came out aggressive on defense as well, bringing pressure on nearly every third down, leading to a bad pass and a Kris Abrams-Draine interception on the ensuing drive after the touchdown.

Cook then got back to work, finding Burden for a 15-yard gain on the first play before connecting with him on a 16-yard screen. The drive ended with the first of Mevis’ three field goals, this one from 30 yards to take the lead late in the first quarter.

After Kansas State scored early in the second quarter to retake the lead, Missouri got moving quickly.

Cook connected with Cooper down the home sideline on the first play for a 41-yard gain, then hit Brett Norfleet along the sideline for another 27. Norfleet held on through a big hit to get the Tigers a goal-to-go situation.

“Brett had a heck of a catch,” Drinkwitz said.

Three plays later, the Tigers had fourth-and-goal from the 2 and Cook faked another end-around toss to Burden before running it in himself to put Missouri up 17-14 at halftime.

Much of Cook’s production and the Tiger gameplan in the first half relied on designed quarterback runs, but late in the first half, Cook tweaked his knee running out of bounds.

Drinkwitz said there were adjustments, but no worry about the quarterback.

“I think it impacted the third quarter a lot because we were trying to figure out what we could do based on the call sheet,” Drinkwitz said. “I watched him, I called him over and I said, ‘Look, I know you’re never going to come out of a game, but if you can’t help us win, you’ve got to tell me.’ He said he was good.”

And after a couple of stalled drives in the third, he was.

At the end of the third quarter, Cook hit Theo Wease on a corner route, placing the ball perfectly in a tight window before doing it again on a post to Marquies Johnson on the next play. The play to Wease went for 26 yards and the pass to Johnson went for 42.

“He was throwing the ball really well,” Drinkwitz said. “And he wasn’t putting it in jeopardy.”

The drive ended with a Mevis field goal which cut the Wildcats’ to 24-20 with 14:48 left to play.

Another Missouri drive stalled, then it was Schrader’s turn to get the team moving.

Missouri had only 74 rushing yards in the game, almost half of which came when Schrader took the first play of the drive 35 yards, which got 15 more tacked on for a face mask penalty.

Cook then found Burden again on a pass behind the line, giving him room to beat his defender to the sideline before juking behind a downfield block for a 26-yard touchdown.

“He was just a fake guy, he was just the fake,” Cook said. “There was pressure off the edge, a free blitzer and I’m like, ‘Man, I better dish this off to Luther.’ And yeah, he made an incredible play. I’m super proud of him.”

The touchdown put Missouri back in front 27-24 with 8:24 left.

Kansas State kicked a game-tying field goal with 5:25 left, setting up Mevis’ game-winner as time expired.

“Our fans storming the field deserved that,” Drinkwitz said. “I got done, walked in and saw it on the TV. The gold on that field was beautiful. It was so awesome, it was so awesome to see. I know our fans have been waiting a long time. They sold it out for us today and our team never gave up. Man they fought their butt off.”

Missouri (3-0) will try for its first 4-0 start since 2013 when it plays Memphis at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. (ESPNU)

“If we’re gonna go to the Lou, the Zou better show up,” Drinkwitz said.


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