Let’s get right to it: Missouri went 0-2 on Wednesday night. One performance gave us a few reasons to smile. The other performance gave us more reasons to cringe and turn away.

The football Tigers lost the Armed Forces Bowl 24-22 on a final-snap field goal by Army. Good game. Tough loss. The redshirt freshman quarterback Brady Cook was a source of entertainment and encouragement, but Mizzou left Fort Worth with a losing season (6-7) and left coach Eli Drinkwitz with a two-year 1-9 record against winning FBS opponents. As for Army, this was the first triumph over an SEC team since 2009 — and and the first victory over an SEC team that isn’t Vanderbilt since 1986.

The basketball Tigers, who trailed by as many as 37 points, were demolished 88-63 by Illinois in St. Louis. It was the latest embarrassment for coach Cuonzo Martin’s program. This Braggin’ Rights rivalry game used to be a very big deal, but frustrated Mizzou fans have tapped out. Missouri vs. Illinois still matters more than the average game in a marathon season – but it isn’t the same. Illini fans were as dominant as their stellar team in Wednesday’s all-around rout. I’m not blaming Missouri fans for being disgusted and deflated. But it’s just sad to see. Mizzou basketball is a real downer.

Five notes on each game:


1) Cook completed 27 of 34 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. He ran nine times for 53 yards and a score. His errant pass on the late two-point try was an important miss; it gave Army a chance to win by kicking a field goal at the end. But Cook’s excellence in leading that TD drive was one of the highlights of Mizzou’s mediocre season. Cook completed 79.3% of his passes this season. It’s a small sample, but I don’t care. Accuracy is accuracy, and this dude hits the target at a high rate. For the season, PFF gave Cook a passing grade of 76.8 for the season – which is more than 10 points higher than the mark for No. 1 starter Connor Bazelak. And PFF gave Cook a higher grade as a runner as well.

2) Cook — the Chaminade alum — should have played more this season, and I remain mystified by Coach Drink’s bizarre refusal to turn to Cook as an injured Bazelak staggered through a sequence of ineffective performances. It was a big fail by the coach. Should Mizzou lose four-star QB recruit Sam Horn to pro baseball, the Tigers have a plug-in starter ready to go. I’m probably overreacting here, but I don’t want to underestimate Cook’s talent just because the head coach kept him on the bench this season. Cook can play. Hopefully he’ll play at Missouri … but in the transfer-portal era, who knows?

3) Mizzou’s defense, diminished by injuries, showed up, and showed heart. The Tigers fought hard and did better than I expected in summoning resistance against Army’s strong rushing attack. Yes, the Black Knights grinded out 211 yards on the ground, but Mizzou yielded only 3.8 yards per rushing attempt and made enough spots to hold Army to 24 points. I thought Army would easily win the run-game battle, but that wasn’t the case. Team West Point finished 70 yards under its season average of 281 yards rushing per game.

4) Franchise running back Tyler Badie didn’t play. As you know, the coach wanted to protect him from injury and get ready for the 2022 NFL Draft. Given that Dawson Downing and Elijah Young combined for 144 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, I have to assume Mizzou comes out on top in this one with Badie in the backfield. He averaged 8.2 yards per rush against non-SEC opponents this season – and never fumbled in 322 touches from scrimmage against 12 opponents.

Downing lost a fumble Wednesday and it came at a bad time – with Mizzou down 21-16 and driving to take the lead. The Tigers rebounded from the fumble to eventually take the lead, anyway. But that isn’t the point; MU lost momentum on the turnover. Final thought on this: did the Mizzou offensive line receive enough credit for its underrated run blocking this season?

5) No excuses though. And this was hardly a so-called moral victory. And while it’s proper to praise the Tigers for some aspects of their play in a loss, I don’t think we should continue to lower the standards for the Mizzou program. Missouri entered this game as a 6.5-point underdog; the line was Army by 3.5 points before Badie got scratched. Unless we’re talking about Vanderbilt, an SEC team should never be an underdog to a service-academy team, and I say that as a devoted fan of Navy (and Army) football. And if you’re in the big, bad, bruising SEC, you can’t be the Little Engine That Could in a matchup against a service-academy opponent. Army came in with a seven-game losing streak against Power 5 opponents, and had lost 17 of the last 19 when taking on a P-5 squad. Heck, Missou knocked out Army’s starting quarterback coach and still fell to the Black Knights, who used three QBs overall.

Finally, let’s wrap this up with an assessment of Coach Drinkwitz from my friend Gabe DeArmond at PowerMizzou.com.

“It’s time,” DeArmond wrote. “Next year will be his third. Yes, he had a tough start with COVID in year one and an opening game against Alabama leading to an all-SEC schedule. Yes, there were holes on the roster and Missouri’s talent was below average in the SEC. But next year it’s his. He owns it. For better or for worse.”

Gabe added: “Next year is the first year we really get to see if Drinkwitz is good at building a program … we know Drinkwitz can recruit. He can put together a team on paper unlike any Missouri has seen. Can he build a roster? Can he manage the egos? Can he navigate the pratfalls of trying to get 100 college kids to pull in the same direction? We don’t really know any of that yet. We won’t get a definitive answer next year, but we’ll start to get a few more clues.”


1) After getting thrashed by Illinois, Mizzou tumbled to the No. 155 national ranking at KenPom. The Tigers have now played three teams in KenPom’s current Top 40: Florida State (40th), Kansas (5th) and Illinois (14th.) Mizzou lost the three games by an average of 28.3 points. In the challenge of facing a prominent opponent, the Tigers can’t hang tough. Three games, three hideous wipeouts.

UT Rio Grande Valley (No. 279) at Ken Pom gave Illinois a game, losing by nine. Stephen F. Austin (No. 142) gave Kansas a game, losing by eight. Boston University (No. 163), gave Florida State a game, losing by one point. But Mizzou failed to even remotely compete with Florida State, Kansas or Illinois.

2) The offense is a disjointed mess, but usually we can count on a Cuonzo Martin team to dig in defensively and make opponents fight for points. Ain’t happening this season. At KenPom the Tigers are No. 192 overall in defense, No. 316 in effective field goal percentage by opponents, No. 331 in defending three-pointers, No. 237 in defending two-point shots, and No. 110 in opponent turnover percentage.

In liquidating Missouri, here’s what Florida State, Kansas and Illinois did on the offensive end, combined: average 90.3 points, shoot 58 percent from the floor overall, and drain an astonishing 47.3 percent of their three-point shots. And in the three games Mizzou shot only 38.6 percent from the floor, and 27.8% from three-point range.

Can’t defend.

Can’t shoot.

Can’t compete.

3) Obviously Mizzou had no real way to curb Kofi Cockburn’s enthusiasm, and the Illinois big man thundered for 25 points and 14 rebounds. But the Illini sharpshooters were at it again, making 12 of 25 threes. MU tried to run multiple defenders down low to inhibit Cockburn, but that just opened up their perimeter airspace for shooters Alfonso Plummer, Trent Frazier and Jacob Grandison. Closer to the basket, Mizzou was punished for a 63.6 shooting percentage on two-point shots. But back to the threes for a moment: opponents are making just under 39 percent of their three-point hoists this season – that’s crazy. Or just awful defense. Over Martin’s first four seasons at Missouri, opponents made 31.8 percent of 3s.

4) The Missouri offense had a Missouri offense kind of night against the Illini. I don’t know how a team can hope to win when it misses 58 percent of its two-point shots. But the most glaring weakness – and worst habit – is Mizzou’s constant downpour of three point shots. The Tigers made only six of 23 vs. Illinois. Over the last eight games Mizzou has made only 21 percent of its three pointers, with a season percentage of 24.3%. But never mind the math and the reality — keep firing away, fellas!

5) One positive for Mizzou was the play of 6-9 freshman Trevon Brazile. In 24 minutes on the floor he scored 11 points, blocked six shots and had five rebounds. Brazile was Mizzou’s highest-rated player among Tigers that played more than 12 minutes – and he had the team’s best box score plus-minus rating at +10.8. Nice work.

When asked about the message he’d give to frustrated Mizzou fans, Martin said this: “Stay the course. We’ll continue to get better, we’ll continue to grow. I like where we are as a team. I like where we’re going.”

According to the KenPom projections, Mizzou is going to a 10-21 record overall and a 4-14 logbook in SEC games.

Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Statistics used here were sourced from KenPom.com, College Basketball Reference and Pro Football Focus.