The long-scuffling Missouri football program hasn’t posted a double-digit victory total since 2014.
The Tigers have a chance to change that — and secure a New Year’s Six bowl game — when they finish their regular season Friday against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.
Missouri (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) kept its special season alive with a dramatic 33-31 win over Florida lat Saturday. That raised the stakes for this rivalry game with Arkansas (4-7, 1-6).
“I think it’s a mindset and this team has it,” Missouri quarterback Brady Cook said after beating the Gators. “I don’t think we win this game last year. I think that’s the development and the toughness and the grit that this team has. Yeah, I’m just so proud of our team. It’s super special.”
The Tigers marched 62 yards in the final 1:36 to set up Harrison Mevis’ winning 30-yard field goal. Along the way they converted a fourth-and-17 play to stay alive.
“We’re tough and we refused to lose,” running back Cody Schrader said. “I keep saying from last year — I truly believe that we won that game because of what we learned last year. I think last year we may have found a way to lose that game and this team, this year, we’re not going to lose those games.”
Cook has completed 221 of 330 passes for 3,077 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Schrader has rushed for 1,272 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Luther Burden III has caught 77 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns.
Missouri’s defense was compromised Saturday by the absence of linebackers Chad Bailey, who is out for the season with a core muscle injury, and Ty’Ron Hopper, who missed the Tennessee game with a sprained ankle. Hopper is questionable for this game.
The Tigers will have their hands full with Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, who has passed for 2,105 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 432 yards and two touchdowns.
Jefferson became Arkansas’ career leader in passing yards (7,909) and passing touchdowns (67) during the Razorbacks’ 44-20 victory over Florida International lat Saturday.
“It meant a lot to us that we’ve been able to have him for four years now,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “KJ’s meant a lot to our program. He’s going to mean a lot to us next Friday, too. Just really, really happy for him.”
Freshman running back Isaiah Augustave had a breakout game against Florida International, gaining 101 yards on 14 carries. He stepped up after running backs Rashod Dubinion and Raheim Sanders suffered first-quarter injuries.
Andrew Armstrong (52 catches, 724 yards, four touchdowns) is Jefferson’s top receiving threat. He caught four passes for 67 yards against Florida International.
This has been a challenging season for the Razorbacks, who suffered a six-game losing streak in the middle of the campaign. That raised questions about Pittman’s future, but Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek seemed to put those to rest after the Florida International game.
“This has not been the season any of us anticipated,” Yurachek said in a statement. “We have work to do. I am confident that together, we can meet the goals and expectations of our program.”
–Field Level Media