Missouri Tops Ohio State in Cotton Bowl

The No. 9 Missouri Tigers‘ offense came alive in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns to propel them to a 14-3 victory over the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes in the 88th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

All-American senior running back Cody Schrader and junior quarterback Brady Cook took charge of the game in leading to the Tigers to consecutive scoring drives of over 90 yards in the fourth quarter. Schrader’s seven-yard rushing touchdown capped off a 95-yard drive to give the Tigers a 7-3 lead.

ARLINGTON, TX – DECEMBER 29: Missouri Tigers running back Cody Schrader (7) carries the ball during the 88th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between the Missouri Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes on December 29, 2023 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire)

Missouri’s second touchdown drive was a 91-yard affair that took over six minutes and included Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz making the call to go for it on fourth down at the Ohio State 23-yard line with 6:38 remaining in the game. Cook got the first down on a two-yard rush and then put the game on ice with a 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Luther Burden III to give the Tigers their first victory in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

“The story of the game is how hard our defense played,” Drinkwitz said. “Refused to give in. Refused to blame or place blame. Stick together and then our offense just kept chopping wood.”

Ohio State entered the game without starting quarterback Kyle McCord, who left for Syracuse in the transfer portal following the regular season, and it was announced just prior to the game that two-time All-America receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. had opted out of playing in the Cotton Bowl with the likelihood that he will enter the upcoming NFL Draft and be selected in the top five of the first round.

Devin Brown took over for McCord as the signal caller, but left the game in the second quarter due to a high ankle sprain and true freshman Lincoln Kienholz took over the Buckeyes’ offense. Kienholz had taken a total of 21 snaps this season and entered the game 4-of-5 passing for 25 yards.

Ohio State’s lone score was by virtue of sophomore kicker Jayden Fielding’s 44-yard field goal with 3:12 left in the first quarter. The 203 total offensive yards and the three points by Ohio State represent the fewest in a game for a Ryan Day-coached team.

“I feel like Lincoln got put in a tough spot there, to say the least,” Days said. “I thought he battled his tail off. But clearly, we didn’t help him up front. We didn’t run the ball well enough.”

For a while, it appeared that field goal might hold up with the Buckeyes’ defense led by Jack Sawyer’s three sacks (tied for second most in Cotton Bowl history) and Cody Simon’s career-high and team-high 12 tackles. Ohio State’s defense had only surrendered 120 yards prior to the Tigers’ first touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

“I’m just upset about the game,” Sawyer said. “It’s tough when you don’t get the outcome you want.”

Missouri finishes the season at 11-2 and is now 3-1 all-time in the Cotton Bowl. This is their first bowl win since the 2015 Citrus Bowl, the last time they finished with 11 wins. 

This season the Missouri offense saw a single-season program first; a 3,000-yard passer (Cook), a 1,500-yard rusher (Schrader) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Burden). Schrader’s 128-yard Cotton Bowl performance allowed him to become the single-season rushing leader in Missouri history with 1,627.

Missouri junior defensive lineman Johnny Walker Jr. was named the Felix R. McKnight Defensive Most Valuable Player. The Tigers defense had four sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

Missouri quarterback Brady Cook was named the game’s J. Curtis Sanford Offensive Most Valuable Player after completing 11 of 18 passes for 128 yards and rushing for another 66 yards.

The game was played in front of a crowd of 70,114 at AT&T Stadium.

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