A joyous Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz did his postgame radio show with a cigar and plenty of pride.
Drinkwitz, born in Norman, Okla., but raised in the Arkansas community of Alma, was enjoying his team’s 29-27 win over visiting Arkansas in what is dubbed the Battle Line Rivalry.
“Rivalry games deserve a cigar and our whole team has got them in there (in the locker room),” noted Drinkwitz, now 2-1 against Arkansas and its head coach Sam Pittman. “We are going to celebrate this one for awhile.”
Missouri (6-6, 3-5) , winners of six of the last seven games in the series and now bowl eligible, led 14-7 before Arkansas rallied to take a 21-20 lead into halftime.
The Tigers limited the Razorbacks (6-6, 3-5) to two field goals in the second half while scoring a touchdown and booting what turned out to be a game-winning, 29-yard field goal by Hunter Mevis’ with 5:32 left in third quarter.
“What a great game and I am so proud of our team finding a way to win,” Drinkwitz said. “It turned into a defensive battle in the second half and man what a way to win the game.”
Missouri held off Arkansas after the Razorbacks cut the lead to 29-27 on a 20-yard field goal with 12:40 left in the game by Cam Little, who was 3 of 3 on his attempts.
“It was a 12-round fight and we know we had the most fight,” Drinkwitz said. “Our guys weren’t going to come off this field without a win. I really believe that is what it was all about. We had the heart of a champion tonight.”
Drinkwitz brought up Arkansas play-by-play announcer Chuck Barrett during his radio remarks after his team held the Razorbacks to 113 yards rushing – which is 120 less than their average.
Missouri also had seven sacks to SEC sack leader Arkansas’ 2.
“Our front seven took it upon themselves,” Drinkwitz said. “There was some trash talk this week by Chuck Barrett saying that we didn’t have it in the trenches. We’ll see what Chuck thinks about that now.
Drinkwitz also answered a question about the win over Arkansas being any more special than any other.
“No not really, it’s just because we needed it,” Drinkwitz said.
But it does admit the getting back the trophy – which has been in Arkansas the past year after the Razorbacks’ 31-17 win over the Tigers last season in Fayetteville – makes him a happy head coach.
“Really I am more proud of getting this trophy back,” Drinkwitz said, “We stack up enough wins at the end of the season, have enough wins to go to a bowl and keep the season alive and keep this seniors going. But tonight is about us winning a rivalry game and doing it in that fashion.”
Missouri quarterback Brady Cook accounted for 380 yards total offense while going 16 of 26 passing got 242 yards and a touchdown and rushing 18 times for 138 yards and another score.
The Tigers had 468 yards total offense to the Razorbacks’ 318.
“We have faced everything and we are battled tested,” Cook said. “Faced so much adversity, had so many tough games so this one is really sweet.”
“We finished strong. After our bye week, we knew we needed to to win four games (to get bowl eligible) and we did. I am just so proud of this team.
Arkansas was 5 of 12 on third down conversions and Missouri 5 of 14.
“He gave us a chance,” Drinkwitz said of Cook. “Big third down conversions, great job running the football and just really, really proud of him.”
Missouri had 10 penalties for 61 yards while Arkansas had just 2 of 11, but had the one turnover while the Tigers did not have any.
“The fact that we played a clean game was the biggest thing and obviously that turnover there gave us a chance to win the game. I am really proud of that for coming up with that.”