Michael Maietti will never forget how he felt watching former teammate Daniel Parker Jr.’s 2-point conversion in overtime against Florida on Nov. 20.

Not only did it secure Missouri a win in a well-fought game, it guaranteed something even more special for the Tigers captain — a bowl game.

“It’s surreal,” Maietti said. “You do everything, go through all the workouts, you do the waking up early. ... Finally, for the bowl to fall your way, it’s exciting.”

About two weeks later, the Tigers received their bowl placement: the Armed Forces Bowl against Army.

Players were well in the loop on where the Tigers might end up for a bowl appearance before the official announcement Dec. 5 thanks to coach Eliah Drinkwitz.

Ultimately, though, the details of the game didn’t matter to Maietti. All he cared about was that the game was happening at all.

“They’re a good opponent. I’m excited to play them, but it really didn’t matter who we were gonna play,” Maietti said.

The Armed Forces Bowl, set to kickoff at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas, will be the first bowl game for Maietti, the center who’s played six years of college football between Rutgers and MU. Earning a bowl game for him has been a focus of his teammates all season.

This will also be the first bowl game for MU (6-6) since 2018, having served a postseason ban in 2019 and having its 2020 bowl canceled because of positive COVID-19 tests within the program. The Tigers are 15-18 in bowl appearances.

Despite MU’s loss against Arkansas to end the regular season, Drinkwitz said his team’s spirits have been high in practice for the bowl game. The team has had one player opt out of the bowl, cornerback Akayleb Evans, and five players transfer from the program. On Monday, five more were declared out with injuries. And on Tuesday, the MU staff decided to sit Tyler Badie to protect his NFL prospects.

“Really since the bye week, I think the camaraderie and the chemistry on this team has been really strong,” Drinkwitz said. “And they still want to play.”

With tight ends Parker Jr. and Messiah Swinson gone, Drinkwitz said Missouri’s offense is exploring playing 20 personnel with two running backs. The Tigers could play 10 as well or even slide an offensive lineman out to block in the tight end position.

With Badie now out, playing two running backs gives younger players plenty of opportunity to get experience. The senior carried the ball 226 more times than both his backups did combined.

“Tyler is Tyler. He doesn’t need a whole lot of reps to stay ready to play,” Drinkwitz said. “So this has been really good for our guys to continue to get that work on how exactly we run our schemes and what’s the best way for those guys to get comfortable in those blocking schemes.”

There was no definitive answer heading into bowl week on which of Missouri’s quarterbacks would get the starting nod. Drinkwitz opened the competition following an underwhelming performance by starter Connor Bazelak in the regular-season finale, when the redshirt sophomore threw for 65 total yards on 10 completions.

“We’ve thrown some touchdowns, we’ve thrown some interceptions,” Drinkwitz said.

Bazelak, Brady Cook and Tyler Macon had all been taking reps with the first-team offense since the end of the regular season. Tuesday morning, though, Cook was named the starter.

Meanwhile, on defense, Missouri will face a final exam of sorts. The Tigers might have redeemed themselves in terms of run defense in the latter half of the season, but Army’s triple-option offense is sure to challenge that.

Defensive lineman Darius Robinson said the team has been focusing on fundamentals to prepare for an offensive style many of them haven’t seen since high school. Like Drinkwitz and several of his teammates, Robinson watched the Army-Navy game — which Navy won 17-13 — to help familiarize himself with the Black Knights’ playing style.

“They passed a little bit more, but I definitely feel like they’re gonna run the ball against us,” Robinson said.

Army averages 286.4 yards on the ground and 94.8 through the air. While that rushing number might align with what the Tigers were giving up at the beginning of the season, in the past four games, MU has allowed an average of 120.3 rushing yards.

Missouri is also preparing for a difficult test on special teams. But kicker Harrison Mevis is familiar with Army. His high school ran the exact same offense as the Black Knights, and the service school even recruited him.

“I considered (Army) a little bit,” Mevis said. “My coach really loved the Army offense and all that. It was an offer, but I absolutely love Missouri, and I’m happy I’m here.”

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