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Brady Cook leads Mizzou to 29-27 win over Arkansas and bowl eligibility

For much of this season, Mizzou quarterback Brady Cook was the subject of ridicule as to whether he could deliver the goods and at least make sure Missouri became a respectable offense this season sans Connor Bazelak and Tyler Badie.

After a 2-4 start, which included three one-possession losses to Southeastern Conference opponents Cook helped right Missouri's ship. On Friday, The Tigers not only defeated Arkansas 29-27 on to re-claim the Battle Line trophy, but they also clinched bowl eligibility for the third straight season.

"My mindset has never changed," Cook said. "(Ridicule) is just a part of being an SEC quarterback. I've battled through a lot of adversity. I will continue to fight for Mizzou and I always will. I love this school. I love this team. I love my coaches, and no outside noise is going to change that."

On the final possession of the game, on third and four Cook completed a quick slant to true freshman wide receiver Mekhi Miller that effectively ended the game with two minutes left.

This was a play that Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz said in the post-game presser he doesn't know if he would've called earlier in the season, but capitalized when he did it call it.

"I don't know, but we did today, and we did it a couple of times on third downs," Drinkwitz said. "He's played really good football in the last 10 quarters and he's continued to develop. He didn't flinch and obviously, his rushing ability is really what separated this game and gave us a chance to get this win."

Cook completed 16 of 26 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown. He also had 18 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown with 114 of those yards coming in the first half. Not only does it set a new career-high, but it's the most rushing yards by a Missouri quarterback since James Franklin in the 2011 Independence Bowl.

Over the last five games, the Tigers (6-6) are 3-2 and Cook is completing 65% of his passes for 216 passing yards per game. He has 11 total touchdowns (seven passing, four rushing) and one turnover during that span.

Mizzou wide receiver Dominic Lovett, who was on the receiving end of six passes for 130 yards said that he's proud of Cook and the progress he's made throughout the season.

"He used to sit back there in the pocket and (quarterback) coach Bush Hamdan would stress to him that even when the wide receivers aren't open that Cook is and he should use his legs and he did," Lovett said. "So, I'm proud of him. He's progressed a lot with his confidence, his swag, taking shots downfield. This is a turning point."

Missouri moves to 10-4 versus Arkansas all-time and stays undefeated at home versus Arkansas. After losing the Battle Line trophy last season, Mizzou has regained it and Cook said that he made a promise to Fayetteville, Arkansas native and Mizzou wide receiver Barrett Banister, who was out with an injury.

"It means a lot. I told Barrett 'I'm going to win this game for you,' because this is probably his Super Bowl, especially with bowl eligibility on the line."

Isaiah McGuire put it all on the line

Not too long ago, Missouri defensive end Isaiah McGuire said that this will be his final season in Columbia as he probably prepares to move on to the NFL. Last week versus New Mexico State, McGuire exited that game in the first half with an injury and returned with just a jersey and sweats on as he stood on the sideline in the second half.

Drinkwitz revealed that McGuire suffered a separated shoulder, missed a practice or two, practiced in a non-contact jersey and then played tonight in what could be his final game.

"He's a force up front. For him to play after an AC joint separation and put his teammates first, put this rivalry first, put the state first --- instead of opting out for the NFL and all that he didn't flinch," Drinkwitz said. "He said 'Nah man, I'm in."

McGuire recorded five tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss. In eight of his last nine games, McGuire has recorded at least 0.5 tackles for loss. In four of his last five games, he's recorded at least 0.5 sacks.

"I trusted the doctors and what they told me is that it can't get worse," McGuire said. It was definitely something that I knew I could be ready for the game today."

If this was McGuire's last game of the season, he'd finish it with 40 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.

"He's always been a force to be reckoned with since I've been here," Missouri safety Jaylon Carlies said. "He always shows toughness through everything that he goes through. He displays it every week and he showed it again."

Wide receiver room stepped up

Cook said that this was Banister's Super Bowl and it may have been. Banister, had played the best two games of his career before his injury racking up 14 catches for 164 yards.

With Banister out of the fold, it was going to be up to some other wide receivers to step up in his absence.

Lovett had his fourth 100-yard receiving game which included a 55-yard reception. He moved to second place in the SEC in receiving yards with 846 on the season to go along with 56 catches and three touchdowns.

"I was trying to tell them we have nothing to lose even though we did to take their minds off the situation and to just go out there and play fast and execute," Lovett said. "We showed what Missouri's offense can be whether it's air raid, running the ball, everybody executed on every point."

The biggest play of the game was that late third down conversion by Miller in the fourth quarter, a play that would've originally been reserved for Banister.

"Hats off to coach (Jacob) Peeler and coach Hamdan. They talked all week about with Barrett being out that's kind of his route and they said all week Mekhi is going to be the best option. He had a couple of stumbles in Tuesday's practice with it and I questioned them. They said 'No, he's going to be the guy to get it done.' He made a heck of a catch and he knew what to do with it, so I'm really proud of him."

Miller has seen limited action this season and entered the game with only four receptions for 80 yards, but that wasn't the only play he made. With Arkansas punting from its own goalline Miller had a partial block on a punt that gave Mizzou the ball on Arkansas'' 31-yard line.

"I was talking to Barrett and he said 'Dom we need this,' and I told him to calm down we've got it and that Mekhi will do his thing and then he did his thing," Lovett said. "When Mekhi tipped the ball I said good karma is coming our way."

Miller finished the game with two receptions for 28 yards.

Wide receiver Mookie Cooper, who hasn't a reception since week eight versus Vanderbilt, reeled in three receptions on four targets for 45 yards.

"Mookie's done what he's done all year," Drinkwitz said. "He just puts his head down and goes to work and when his number is called, he makes plays and that's what he did tonight and I'm proud of him."

Luther Burden III had just four target, but he made them count with two receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown. He finishes the regular season with nine total touchdowns on the season.

The defense is starting to believe in the offense

For much of the season, it has been the Mizzou defense having to save the offense to keep them in games. The four one-possession losses, for the most part, aren't the fault of the defense because in those games the defense held opponents to 17 (Auburn), 26 (Georgia), 24 (Florida) and 21 (Kentucky).

On Friday, Mizzou scored points on six of its first seven drives, including four straight to start the game. Something it hadn't done all season. The 468 total yards are the most this season against a Power 5 opponent.

Cook told the team he realized what was going on, particularly, after the first three one-possession losses and said he was going to make sure the offense pulled its weight going into the second half of the season.

"The defense has kept us in games all year," Cook said. "During the bye week, I sat down and I said I'm not going to leave my defense hanging anymore. I think that's a big focus for us to hold up our end of the bargain."

Carlies said he sees the offense has more confidence and seeing them score points and have long sustaining drives helps the defense.

"I'm just seeing them believe in themselves and seeing what they can do," Carlies said. "It gives us a lot of confidence in the offense to go out there and execute what they know how to do. They know how to do a lot of things well and time management is one of them. So, sitting on the sidelines watching the show is a pretty good feeling."

Missouri has averaged 32 points per game in its last three games and set a season-high in points versus a Power 5 opponent. Before week 10, Missouri was averaging 23 points per game.

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