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Mizzou’s Drinkwitz starting to see his offensive imaginative and prescient come to fruition

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Eli Drinkwitz arrived at Missouri with a repute for being one in every of school soccer’s brightest offensive minds.

He first proved his chops throughout coordinator stints at Arkansas State, Boise State and North Carolina State. The final of these stops earned the often-brash, always-confident Arkansas Tech graduate an opportunity to steer Appalachian State, the place in a single season as the pinnacle coach he went 12-1 and shattered every kind of offensive data.

Yet his first two video games of his COVID-19-delayed tenure in Columbia had been hardly spectacular. The Tigers had been routed 38-19 by second-ranked Alabama, then managed only one landing and a pair subject objectives in a 35-12 loss at Tennessee.

Well, the 37-year-old Drinkwitz lastly revealed the breadth of his offensive thoughts on Saturday.

With freshman Connor Bazelak at quarterback, and regardless of lacking three essential huge receivers due to COVID-19 protocols, the Tigers nonetheless managed to pile up almost 600 yards of complete offense in a 45-41 victory in opposition to No. 17 LSU. The Tigers unloaded a collection of trick performs — a flea-flicker for a protracted landing, an end-around for an additional rating — that left LSU coach Ed Orgeron dizzy, and left the followers in Columbia pondering that simply perhaps they’ve a coach that may lead a rebuild.

“It doesn’t mean a whole lot to me personally right now. This is about our football team, our senior class, what they’ve fought and struggled for,” Drinkwitz stated. “I plan on being part of a lot more wins here at Mizzou. It’s never going to be about me. It’s going to be about our football team, our players, our seniors and the identity they’re trying to create.”

The id they placed on the sector Saturday was one in every of a bunch of observe stars.

Five of their six touchdowns coated not less than 16 yards, together with the 58-yard flea-flicker to open the sport. Bazelak additionally threw a 41-yard landing cross to transformed quarterback Micah Wilson and a 21-yarder to Tyler Badie, and Badie and huge receiver Jalen Knox every had lengthy landing runs.

It was a brief TD throw to Niko Hea that gave Missouri the lead with about 5 minutes to go. And whereas it was the protection that stopped LSU 4 occasions on the 1-yard line inside the ultimate minute to protect the victory, it was the thrill-a-minute offense that overcame three turnovers and finally put the Tigers in place to tug it off.

“Somebody asked me whether our team played with effort and ticked me off. I think we showed we play with unbelievable effort,” Drinkwitz stated. “We just needed a couple breaks, and you know what? We made our own breaks.”

They additionally overcame loads of adversity. They had been lacking three defensive playmakers resulting from accidents and COVID-19 protocols, together with arguably their three high pass-catchers, forcing Missouri to depend on gamers effectively down the depth chart.

Hea and Wilson had their first landing catches and Dionte Smith hauled within the first reception of his profession.

“I’m so proud of them, just the way they’ve worked all season,” Bazelak stated. “They got their opportunities and they stepped up in big moments and made big plays, and just super proud of them. They deserve it.”

Bazelak deserves all of the plaudits he acquired, too.

After taking on for TCU switch Shawn Robinson because the starter, he proceeded to finish 29 of 34 passes for 408 yards and 4 touchdowns. It was the second-best completion proportion in a recreation at school historical past.

It additionally got here in opposition to an LSU protection that’s unaccustomed to giving up such offense. The final time the Bayou Bengals allowed 24 factors to an unranked group in a half was in opposition to Troy in 2008, and the final time the defending nationwide champs allowed 45 to anyone in a recreation was in opposition to Florida the identical season.

For its half, Missouri hadn’t scored 45 factors in opposition to a ranked foe since a 52-42 win over No. 20 Illinois on Aug. 30, 2008.

It all added as much as the primary win for Missouri in opposition to the reigning nationwide champions since a victory over fifth-ranked Notre Dame in 1978. And in a tidy little bit of symmetry, that additionally was the final time a Tigers coach beat a ranked group for his first win.

“Again, it doesn’t mean a lot to me personally,” Drinkwitz stated. “This is about the foundation our players are trying to lay as a football program, and this was just the start of it. There’s been a lot of hard work — ‘Is this really going to work?’ — and they found out it does.”

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