I’m laughing at the chanteuses that are a noisy part of Ohio State’s lunatic fringe. They reacted to their team’s 14-3 loss in the Cotton Bowl by belittling the worthiness of Missouri’s 11-point win.

The Buckeyes started their No. 2 quarterback and had to play their third-string quarterback! They didn’t have monstrously talented wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.! They had to use a freshman quarterback who got overwhelmed! Those lucky undeserving dogs from Missouri beat two inexperienced, sorry-azz quarterbacks!

Excuse, whine, excuse, whine.

Is that an updated version of the Buckeye Battle Cry?

Let’s take a run at this …

1. Earlier this month Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and No. 1 quarterback Kyle McCord discontinued their working relationship when Day declined to guarantee McCord the QB1 job for 2024. McCord quickly headed to the transfer portal and committed to Syracuse. I’m not sure why the dominant performance by the Missouri defense is being dismissed just because the coach and the quarterback decided to separate.

2. Did Mizzou make that decision? Were the Tigers in charge of Ohio State’s roster? If the OSU head coach and starting quarterback have a breakup and part ways in the middle of December, that’s their business. It’s an Ohio State football-family problem that has absolutely nothing to do with Missouri. The Tigers lined up and competed like crazy. No surprise. Only one quarterback made Missouri’s defense look awful this season: LSU’s Jayden Daniels, the record-setting Heisman Trophy winner. And Daniels binged late in the game after Missouri did a swell job on Daniels for more than three quarters.

3. The No. 1 key to MU’s defense is pursuing and bothering the quarterback. Among Power 5 Conference defenses, this season the Tigers ranked sixth in pressure rate and 11th in sack rate. Sure, the Buckeyes were at a disadvantage at the QB position in the Cotton Bowl. But Mizzou defensive coordinator Blake Baker didn’t select Ohio State’s starting lineup. MU head coach Eli Drinkwitz isn’t in charge of the transfer portal. The Ohio State offensive line was overrun by Missouri’s pass rush, and McCord would have taken a lot of nasty hits.

4. Talk to your head coach, Buckeye friends. You know, the same head coach that so many of you want to sack because he’s been punk-slapped by Michigan in three straight seasons. The same coach that you’ve nicknamed “Born On Third Base” because he had the good fortune to take over for the legendary Urban Meyer after Meyer’s crackup late in the 2018 season.

5. McCord was a five-star recruit and the nation’s No. 31 overall prospect in 2022. What went wrong? Day won the recruiting chase for McCord – but what about the next part? Why did McCord fail to develop as well as expected? Why did he disappoint and lose the starting job? Isn’t Day supposed to be a quarterback mahatma, or something?

Ohio State started QB2 Devin Brown in Friday’s game. He competed with McCord for the starting job before the season. He was rated fifth in the nation among quarterback prospects when Ohio State recruited him. Brown has been injured three times this season and had to leave Friday’s game after getting tackled on an attempted scramble. Day couldn’t convince McCord to stick around. Or the coach didn’t want McCord to stick around. But this wasn’t Missouri’s problem.

The injury occurred on a football play. Quarterbacks get banged up, and Brown suffered a high ankle sprain. Missouri wasn’t lucky because Brown went down; it happened because the Tigers did what they were supposed to do and put the quarterback on the ground. The MU defense gets credit for tackling the QB instead of letting him get away. You know … football stuff.

6. This was obviously a tough spot for Ohio State true freshman Lincoln Kienholz who replaced Brown. He was the 11th ranked quarterback on the national recruiting list. But again, when the coach and the starting quarterback go through a divorce to create a void, the problem must be handled by the coach and his assistants. Day should be able to make something work; he was paid $9.5 million this season. The Buckeyes couldn’t punish Mizzou’s defense by running the ball – so what are we supposed to say about that? Didn’t it make sense to make a push on the ground? Earlier this season Michigan closed out a tough win at Penn State by running the ball on its last 30 plays of the game before the clock-draining kneel downs.

Kienholz wasn’t ready. Did Day have an alternative strategy, or did he just throw the kid into the pit without support? Did the freshman receive extra preparation time after McCord walked? When Ohio State was blowing out sad-sack Big 10 teams all season, Day could have given Brown more experience and used the low-pressure opportunity to get Kienholz acclimated. Day did nothing of the sort … so, yeah, let’s discredit Missouri for winning Friday. Your coaching staff failed, and Missouri was good enough to take advantage of it. It’s that simple.

7. And enough with the mewling over Missouri getting a huge break because Ohio State had to go to a third-string quarterback. This is really funny coming from Buckeye fans. Cardale Jones? Does that name sound familiar? Jones had a grand total of 19 passing attempts in 2013 and 2014 before injuries made it necessary for Meyer to start him in the Big 10 Championship game. Jones – the third-string quarterback – completed 71 percent of his passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over Wisconsin. And then Jones proceeded to help the Buckeyes win the national championship with wins over Alabama and Oregon in the 2014 playoff.

The Ohio State fan base shouldn’t be pointing to a third-string quarterback and claiming that it put your team in a hopeless situation in the tussle with Missouri. Not after a third-string quarterback did his part to deliver one of the most treasured achievements in the history of a truly great OSU program. Good grief, a third-string quarterback beat Nick Saban’s Alabama team for the title. That’s a helluva lot more difficult to do than beating this 2023 Mizzou team.

Perhaps Coach Day should have a more capable quarterback room, loaded with talented guys prepared to step in to get through an emergency. That was never a problem for Coach Meyer.

8. Sorry, but Ohio State fans can’t have it both ways. They weren’t happy with McCord as the starting quarterback and grumbled about it. Their frustration boiled after McCord threw two interceptions in a 30-24 loss to despised rival Michigan. They’re grumpy over Coach Day. You can’t find fault with McCord’s play during the season and then use McCord’s absence as an excuse for a three-point clunker from your offense.

9. Marvin Harrison Jr. is an exceptional player. He’s a game–changing presence who causes substantial anxiety for defensive backs. The Ohio State offense isn’t the same without him. But this is how it goes in college football. Plenty of teams are going into bowl games without star players who opted out to prevent an injury that could impact their draft status. The bowl system stinks, and the opt-outs cause chaos, but both teams played by the same set of rules. And Missouri won.

A year from now, Missouri could go through the same opt-out absence with the splendid wide receiver Luther Burden III. And given Mizzou’s frenzied pass rush, the poor OSU offensive line play and the shakiness at the quarterback spot, Harrison’s impact may have been limited had he chosen to suit up.

10. According to the 247 Sports Talent Composite, Ohio State was ranked No. 3 in the nation in roster talent. Missouri was No. 25. On the 247 Sports list, Ohio State had 10 five-star recruits; Mizzou had two. The Buckeyes had 63 four-star recruits and the Tigers had 20.

Safe to say, plenty of Ohio State’s backups were more highly regarded than some of Missouri’s starters when entering college football. Ohio State is a heralded recruiting powerhouse, and you’d think the formidable depth would have gotten the Buckeyes through injury-related adversity in a game against Missouri – the overlooked team picked to finish sixth among seven teams in the SEC East. But that didn’t happen. Is the Ohio State coaching staff doing enough to develop talent?

By game time at the Cotton Bowl, Coach Drinkwitz had a unified team that had no opt-outs and was 100 percent ready to compete. This did not appear to be the case with the Buckeyes. Day had more overall roster talent, and his team was the betting favorite by 4 and ½ points. But the OSU quarterback situation deteriorated on Day’s watch and he didn’t have any answers.

I don’t care if Ohio State’s starting quarterback walked off to Syracuse, or that the No. 2 quarterback sprained his ankle, or the No. 3 quarterback was nervous. A prestigious, historically prominent, blue blood program with a wealth of resources and talent and a national recruiting reach shouldn’t lose the Cotton Bowl by completing only 10 of 24 passes for 106 yards. That’s embarrassing.

The Buckeyes couldn’t function in adverse circumstances because they weren’t able to deal with contingencies. Missouri could have packed it in but didn’t succumb to its terrible struggles with an ugly offense that dragged on for nearly three full quarters in the conflict with OSU’s impressive defense.

But Mizzou persevered and broke through against a legitimately fearsome unit that came in allowing an average of 11 points per game – ranking second in the nation. The Tigers kept grinding, kept competing, didn’t become demoralized and took over the Cotton Bowl with a dominating surge that left OSU’s defense tired and fading. The Tigers beat the Buckeyes in a typical Big 10 scrum. Not bad for a team from the “overrated” (*sarcasm) SEC.

Missouri earned this triumph. Instead of denigrating Mizzou’s success, Buckeye fans should just accept the one thing we can pretty much agree on: Ryan Day was outcoached by Eli Drinkwitz. Not just in preparation. Drinkwitz also had the edge in the vital task of instilling his team with a stronger sense of purpose.

In the anything-goes era of college football, that’s how you have to win bowl games. Ohio State has the superior football program; no sober or rational Mizzou fan would dispute that. And that’s why Ohio State should have won the game. This is why Ohio State was favored to win by as many as 5 and 1/2 points on Friday morning. Yes, even with the quarterback-related turmoil. But Missouri was up for the fight and wouldn’t be denied. That’s a victory … a victory with no strings or apologies attached.

Thanks for reading …

Happy New Year!


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb