Drinkwitz says Mizzou threw out egos to turn season around

COLUMBIA- Already bowl-eligible for a second straight season under head coach Eliah Drinkwitz, the Missouri Tigers hope to clinch a winning season on Friday in Fayetteville, AR when they take on the Razorbacks.  But just weeks ago, such a strong finish felt awfully far away.

Coming out of Missouri's 62 to 24 loss to Tennessee on October 2nd, Drinkwitz searched for a way to reset the season.  Mizzou had gone (1-3) in their previous four games, so Drinkwitz threw out the depth chart and challenged his players to compete for their jobs each week in practice.

"I think there were a lot of things that were thrown out," said Drinkwitz at his weekly press conference on Monday.  "Depth chart, egos, continuing to figure out who really wants to be here.  Everybody's got to be able to push in the same direction and when you have the best teams, you sacrifice a little bit of your individuality."

Mizzou responded.  The Tigers have won four out of their last of six games entering Friday's annual matchup with Missouri's rival from the SEC West, Arkansas.  Losses like the one one Mizzou suffered in overtime at Boston College in late September are in the rearview mirror.

"We weren't improving at the rate that we needed to in the middle of the season," said Drinkwitz. 

"After Week 1 (against Central Michigan) I had a different sense of what I think our team was capable of and the disappointment at Boston College I think was real."

Mizzou uses renewed team effort to turn season around

"It took a little bit of humbling for our football team and our football program to the point where we've got to do it together, we can't do it by ourselves."

The bowl-bound Tigers look for their 7th win of the season on Friday.  A renewed defensive effort under first year Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks has sparked Mizzou, as what was once the worst run defense in the country has rebounded in recent weeks.  Offensively the Tigers are riding the legs of the SEC's best running back, Doak Walker Award finalist Tyler Badie.  Despite some recent inconsistent quarterback play, Badie is still leading the conference in rushing yards and has the Tigers poised to finish 2021 stronger then they started it.

"I think we had to really rededicate ourselves to how are we going to focus on improvement and individual player development and then commitment to the team," said Drinkwitz.  "Not worried about individual statistics or what is in it for me but what can we do as a group. I think that the best teams play the best together and we're starting to figure that out as a culture and a program."

The Tigers are a bit banged up heading into the regular season finale.  Mizzou announced that starting defensive back Akayleb Evans, who missed the Florida game with a soft tissue injury, is Questionable for the Arkansas game.  So is tight end Daniel Parker along with offensive lineman Hyrin White and backup running back Elijah Young.  Mizzou's official injury report, released on Wednesday evening, also lists defensive backs Chris Shearin, Shawn Robinson and Ish Burdine as Out for Friday's game along with offensive lineman Bobby Lawrence.

Mizzou and Arkansas kickoff at 2:30 pm on Friday from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. KOMU 8 Sports will have a crew in Fayetteville and will have complete coverage on KOMU 8 News and komu.com.

To report an error or typo, email news@komu.com.

Sports Director

I'm proud to be the Sports Director for KOMU-TV in my hometown of Columbia, MO. You can catch me on KOMU 8 News at 6, 9 and 10 and Sundays on Sports Xtra. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook @BenArnetKOMU

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