COLUMBIA, Mo. — When the Missouri Tigers and Vanderbilt Commodores played last year, Missouri was not prepared.
The Tigers entered that game in Nashville, Tenn., on a five-game winning streak and ranked No. 22. Vanderbilt was 1-5 and 0-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
Missouri stumbled 21-14, the start of a five-game skid. The Tiger offense was bottled up to a then-season low of 293 yards, and a unit that averaged 39 points per game in its first six contests and hadn't been held to fewer than 38 points since the season opener scored just two touchdowns.
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz used the headlines from last year's game to motivate the team this week, including one that ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 'Knocked out in Nashville.'
He also went a step further in his weekly radio show in the lead-up to Saturday's game, saying even though he had been the coach at Appalachian State at the time — his Mountaineers beat Louisiana-Monroe 52-7 on the road the same weekend — he owned the loss, too.
"When you get your butt whipped, and you lose a national ranking, that's gotta mean something to you," Drinkwitz said Thursday.
The press clippings were displayed prominently throughout the South End Zone facility, including team meeting rooms, and each player received a smaller version in their lockers.
It was personal for running back Tyler Badie, albeit in an unintentional way: the photo accompanying the story happened to be of Badie, so his face was plastered all over as the team prepared for the Commodores.
"I just took it personal because it was my face up there and in the whole team room, so everyone looked around, looked at me, so I just knew I had to do something about it," Badie said. "And this team, we had a chip on our shoulder from the beginning, just knowing that what they did last time to us, knocking us off. We just came in with that mentality that we're not gonna give up, we're not gonna lay down, we're gonna play all four quarters."
Missouri turned in a complete game in all phases Saturday, winning 41-0, the program's greatest margin of victory in a Southeastern Conference game.
Badie matched a career high with seven receptions for a career-best 102 yards and added five carries for 18 yards, as well as his second rushing score of the season. He finished last season first on the team in receptions, with 32, and second in receiving yards (356) and receiving TDs (five). This year, through seven games, he's tied for second on the team with 20 receptions (along with Keke Chism, Damon Hazelton and Tauskie Dove), leads the team with 302 receiving yards and is tied with Dove for the lead in touchdown receptions with two.
Missouri got two major contributors back on the offensive line in Larry Borom and Xavier Delgado which helped pave the way for Larry Rountree III's 160 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, and gave quarterback Connor Bazelak the time he needed to complete 30-of-37 passes (81.1 percent) for 318 yards.
The move motivated Missouri's defense, too. The Tigers shut out an SEC opponent for the first time since 2018 and allowed Vanderbilt to move across the 50-yard line on just three drives.
"Oh yeah, I thought about it every day," linebacker Nick Bolton said. "Just seeing, (they were) dancing on Homecoming after they won. You saw it all over social media, you saw 'Vanderbilt downs No. 22 Missouri'. It's just on your mind. We looked at it all week. It was one of those things that we didn't want to let happen again."
Bolton said he didn't move the clipping from his locker, leaving it there all week. He made sure to make his presence known early in the game, recording seven tackles on Vanderbilt's first three offensive possessions, including a solo tackle on fourth-and-1 on the first drive of the game. That stop set the tone for Missouri's defense, and set up an easy score off a short field for the offense.
For the players, it was an example of Drinkwitz finding the right buttons to press to motivate his team. Making comparisons to other years is difficult to do in 2020 because of all the difficulties presented by the pandemic, but past Tigers squads were prone to letting a big win or a big loss influence how they played in subsequent weeks, with three streaks of four-plus wins and three streaks of four-plus losses in the last four years.
"I mean, every week you try to figure out what your edge is going to be in trying to motivate your guys, and I think last year we were all embarrassed," Drinkwitz said after the game. "When the headline says 'Knocked out in Nashville,' that's something that you want to remember and use as something to increase your focus and make sure that we don't take anybody for granted.
"I told them, 'It's not about what happened. It's about what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it?' I wasn't even here, most of our staff wasn't here, but I said we're gonna do something about it, and we owned it and tried to do something about it."
Notes: The SEC has announced kickoff times for this week's games. Missouri will host Arkansas at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network. Bazelak's season completion percentage rose to 70.3 percent (147-of-209) following the game, within striking distance of Chase Daniel's single-season completion percentage record of 72.9 percent. Daniel completed 385-of-528 passes in the 2008 season. Since becoming the full-time starter after the Tennessee game, Bazelak is 126-of-174 (72.4 completion percentage). Jalen Knox caught one pass for 13 yards in the first quarter and played sparingly. Drinkwitz said Knox was held out because he tweaked a lower leg injury, saying, "Hopefully it's nothing, but didn't want to risk it."