Coach Eli Drinkwitz and the Missouri Tigers travel to South Carolina Saturday to face the 25th-ranked Gamecocks in a must-win game.
This game will be as important to Mizzou players as it will to their Head Coach, Eli Drinkwitz. An accomplished recruiter, he is well-liked amongst his peers and players, but he has yet to demonstrate that he can lead his team late and closes out winnable games.
This season, the Missouri Tigers have either led or were tied late in games against the Auburn Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, and Florida Gators. Only to lose these three games in heartbreaking fashion in successive weeks. All three teams, powerhouse SEC programs, found a way to win, as they have throughout their storied histories.
These would be major victories for the Missouri Tigers. A program with a history of coming up short. Eli Drinkwitz is desperately seeking that signature win, showing the SEC that Mizzou is for real. A road win against a ranked South Carolina team would give pause to his critics and allow the alumni and fanbase a sigh of relief.
It is not enough for the Coach to bring talent to the program; he must coach these kids as well. It is not easy to create a winning culture when you are losing, but something has to change. It will be either a shift in recruiting and transfers or the Missouri Tigers will start winning conference games. You cannot have both.
1) The opportunity to play
2) To win
3) A chance to play at the next level
Eli Drinkwitz and The Missouri Tigers offer all these things to recruits
However appealing the program, amenities, campus, and opportunity may be, if Mizzou does not start turning in some big wins, would-be recruits will choose somewhere else to play. It is a simple formula. A good college experience for athletes + a winning culture = a consistent pipeline of solid recruits. This is how those programs mentioned previously became powerhouses. Often, when those teams struggle, which is rare – you can point directly to coaching.
Eli Drinkwitz is not naïve about his role in this season. When asked about calling the plays, he had this to say:
While some may interpret this as stubborn, he is taking accountability. Also, it would be unfair to the players who must execute the playbook to add an entirely new mix of plays or to alter the scheme halfway through the season.
If Mizzou can pull off a victory on Saturday, they host Kentucky in Columbia on November 5th and would look to pull even in the conference on the season at 3-3. A loss at South Carolina puts the Tigers in a difficult position, leaving them 1-4 in conference with only four games remaining, three of them SEC matchups – including dates with undefeated Tennessee and a good Arkansas team to close the season.
Eli Drinkwitz may only be off the hot seat because of his recruiting prowess. If Mizzou cannot find a way to win at least two of their four remaining conference games, expect that chair to get much warmer.
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