Cody Schrader ran for 217 yards and a touchdown and No. 9 Missouri limited Arkansas to 87 yards in the first three quarters to help the Tigers win their regular-season finale, 48-14 on Friday.
Missouri (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) had its best regular-season record since 2014 to likely secure a berth in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.
Schrader ran for 194 yards and a TD in the first half as the Tigers built a 20-0 lead against the overmatched Razorbacks (4-8, 1-7). Brady Cook had a 6-yard run in the half and threw two TD passes.
“It’s time to start talking about him being the best player in the country,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “For his football team, a Top 10 team, leads the SEC in rushing, can’t say enough good things about him.”
Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson went down on the first play of the Razorbacks’ second drive. Jefferson took off up the middle for a gain of 22 yards, but was twisted up when he was tackled and had to be helped off the field, nursing a lower-leg injury.
Missouri took advantage of five Arkansas fumbles, including one on Jefferson’s injury, recovering four and turning them into 24 points. The last turnover came as Jacolby Criswell, who replaced Jefferson upon injury, was hit from his blind side, popping the ball loose. Jay Jernigan picked it up and ran 10 yards to the end zone, giving Missouri a 41-0 lead in the third quarter.
“This one right here is a disappointing year,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “There was way, way higher optimism this year than it ended up being. We’ve got to change it.”
Cook was 12 of 20 for 112 yards. Criswell went 12 of 20 for 96 yards, with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Andrew Armstrong.
Missouri has won eight of 10 meetings in the Battle Line Rivalry since the schools began playing each other every season in 2014. The rivalry will continue into 2024, as well, even as the SEC sheds its divisional format as the league announced the two as permanent opponents earlier in the year.
DIG AT HARBAUGH
Drinkwitz took a snipe at Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh after the game.
“Earlier in the week I heard a coach talk about being America’s team,” Drinkwitz said. “And I don’t know about all that conversation. They’ve got so many good things going for them. Some good. Some maybe they stole illegally. We’re America’s team. We’re a team built on underdogs. We’re a team built on young men with something to prove.”
ARKANSAS SHOWED SOME FIGHT
A fight began with 5:51 left in the second quarter after a Schrader run. Punches were thrown and when it was over, Arkansas defensive tackle Eric Gregory and defensive end Zach Williams were ejected, as was Missouri offensive lineman Armand Membou. Cook ran up the middle for six yards to the end zone on the play after the ejection to give Missouri a 17-0 lead.
“We were here to play football. They were here to fight,” Drinkwitz said.
Missouri was locked into a high-quality bowl regardless of the result. But the victory provides a resume-builder as the Tigers will be up against Alabama and Ole Miss for the New Year’s Six bowls.
Arkansas will have a hard reset next year. Coach Sam Pittman was confirmed as returning after the team’s win over Florida International in the penultimate game of the season, but he had said the following Monday the team was due for a roster overhaul.
Missouri will have to wait until after the SEC Championship to learn its bowl destination and opponent. Arkansas’ season is over. The Razorbacks won four games or fewer for the fifth time in the last seven years.