Drinkwitz says there’s ‘new respectability’ to Missouri after highest CFP ranking in program history 

Missouri has played .500 football for the better part of the past decade. 

Since the 2014 season, the Tigers have gone 66-56. Their most recent bowl game win came in the Citrus Bowl in 2014. 

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This season, Missouri is 8-2 under head coach Eli Drinkwitz who is in his fourth year after taking over in 2020, and the Tigers climbed to No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, their highest in program history. 

Drinkwitz has a saying around the team.  

“Restore the roar of Faurot Field, and hopefully it’s a new trajectory of Tiger football,” Drinkwitz said. “We’ve kind of been stuck there in that middle, and now obviously this year we’re not. And obviously, we got to finish. We got to finish the season but there’s a new respectability to our program, whether it’s on the recruiting trail or on the football field, and that’s a tribute to those guys and their belief.” 

Drinkwitz’ teams are a combined 25-25 in his tenure as head coach. The Tigers’ eight wins this season are their most since going 8-5 in 2018 under head coach Barry Odom. 

Missouri is raising its standard this season under the watchful eye of Drinkwitz, who also says his team’s goal is to be “one team, one goal, 1-0.” 

“We’re going to have our challenges this week but it really starts with us and choosing what it takes to win,” Drinkwitz said. “We talk about winning doesn’t negotiate, and we have to choose the standard of toughness Tuesday and the way that we’re going to practice this week. We can’t rely on last week’s performance. We have to stand alone on what we’re going to do this week.” 

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Florida will try and play spoiler to Missouri’s magical season. 

The Gators are 5-5 and trying to play their way into a bowl game in the final two games of the regular season. They haven’t finished above .500 since going 8-4 in 2020. 

Drinkwitz likes what Florida’s defense presents under defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong, who Drinkwitz said has a wealth of talent and ability to give opposing teams a tough time. 

“Their defensive coordinator has made the comment that he has a toolshed of defense — I think it’s more like a mancave,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s got all kinds of defense and plays multiple fronts, coverages, blitz schemes, has all kinds of corrections and does a really good job with what they’re trying to do.” 

Missouri’s offense paces the team. It’s loaded with quarterback Brady Cook, wide receiver Luther Burden III and running back Cody Schrader. 

Cook is fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 2,746 passing yards. He has 17 passing touchdowns to six interceptions, and his experience is what drives the Tigers offense according to Drinkwitz. 

“I think he’s very efficient with the football,” Drinkwitz said. “He’s very decisive in his reads, and he just doesn’t put the ball in jeopardy very much,” Drinkwitz said. “You can tell he’s an experienced football player experienced in making decisions that don’t negatively impact the team or the drive.” 

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Burden lines the perimeter as well as any receiver in the country. He’s third in the SEC with 984 receiving yards, and he’s also caught eight touchdowns which ties for seventh-most in the conference. 

Schrader had a big performance last week against Tennessee. The former walk-on became the first player in SEC history to rush for at least 200 yards and catch at least 100, totaling 205 rushing yards and a touchdown and hauling in 116 yards on five catches. 

“Cody’s story is going to be, I mean, it’s going to be a story of Mizzou football, and quite honestly, it’s going to be a story of the University of Missouri and for a long, long time,” Drinkwitz said. 

Drinkwitz has turned a middling program into one that can contend for a top spot in both the SEC and College Football rankings, with sights set on something bigger down the road. 

But first, the Gators are up in front of the Tigers, and then they’ll travel to Arkansas to close out the regular season. Missouri’s special season will continue on by honoring graduating players on Saturday, and soon the Tigers will find out where they’ll play in a bowl game. 

“This week’s a special week for us in honoring our 27 seniors, guys who have a combination, which is what makes the team so unique,” Drinkwitz said. “A combination of guys who have spent their entire careers here, stayed through a coaching transition, some that believed in me and stayed committed to us and some who committed while we were in the transition, others who chose to join us on their journey, and just appreciative to these guys and men who have seen tough days and great days and sold out days at Faurot and hopefully they’ll get one more opportunity to run out in front of a sold out Faurot Field and play their last home game for the Missouri Tigers.”