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Drinkwitz on Mizzou's loss to Texas A&M: 'The slow start doomed us'

Drinkwitz on Mizzou's loss to Texas A&M: 'The slow start doomed us'

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Mizzou football coach Eli Drinkwitz talks to reporters after the 35-14 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Video by Mizzou Network, used with permission of Mizzou Athletics

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Here’s everything Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz told reporters after Saturday’s 35-14 loss to No. 21 Texas A&M.

Opening statement …

“Give credit to Texas A&M. That’s a good football team. Obviously the slow start doomed us. Down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and could never make up that margin. Had a couple opportunities when we cut it to 14. Overall, just didn’t play well enough in really any of the three phases. Two turnovers on offense, multiple missed throws, holding penalties, defensively, third downs, sloppy play on special teams with two balls inside the 20. Hats off to A&M, but can’t overcome that. Before we can win a championship, we got to keep from beating ourselves. We weren’t able to do that today.”

On season-high amount penalties…

“Huge. You had big plays or third-down stops and had pass interference calls and had holding penalties. At one point it was first-and-30 or something. Can’t do it. Can’t do it, got to fix it.” 

On if there was something that led to the penalties…

“Not that I can recall, but when I watch tape I’ll have a better answer on that.” 

On the slow start being a theme and if there’s a consistent thread among those games…

“I’ll have to go back and watch. That’s what bye weeks are good for. To go back and figure out what are the issues, how do you fix them, where do you develop, what are the issues we’ve gotta get fixed immediately, how do we get people back healthy in the lineup. I think we had gained a first down and had a penalty. Second down ended up throwing an interception.”

On Connor Bazelak’s first interception…

“Just a missed throw. It looked like he was throwing the sit and lifted it a little bit and it went into the corner’s hands.”

If Bazelak being banged up has hindered him at all in his throws…

“I don’t think so.”

On his message to his team at halftime…

“We’re defined by the effort that we play with on every play. Regardless of the scoreboard, regardless of what’s going on, you define who you are by how hard you play and that’s the only thing we get to control. I thought our guys fought their butt off in the second half. It didn’t always go well and we didn't still execute exactly the way we want to, but forced them into a missed field goal. Started the game off on a three-and-out, went down and scored on a 97-yard drive, had some chances, but gave up a big third-and-long on the next drive that led to a touchdown.”

On the message after the game…

“My message was real simple. I was proud of the second half, the way they fought and how hard they played. But before we can win a championship, we can’t beat ourselves. We got a chance to get healthy through the bye week, to re-evaluate who we are and then determine what we want to do for the next five games. We have five opportunities left to represent each other and represent this state and we really got to go back to work to improve. We’ll do that starting on Tuesday.”

On the play-calling sequence at the end of the first half…

“We had the interception. I thought we were gonna be out with some good field position. But we weren’t because of a penalty. I was trying to make sure they didn’t get the ball back because they had all three of their timeouts and they got the ball to start the second half. So, at that point, I believe it was 28-7 and they had just driven into the red zone and gotten a turnover. If we were to do something and give them the ball back and them get a chance to score then they would start the second half, the game would be over. I thought if we could go three-and-out and score, cut it to 14 and see how it played out, which is exactly how it played. Look I get it, everybody’s got opinions on how to play the game out. Strategically, I didn’t think with 30 minutes left in the game, to put ourselves in jeopardy by a turnover, which we had already committed two, or something or let them call timeout. They called a timeout on third down and we had to convert. That’s the strategy. I understand people are upset with it, but it’s how you try to win.”

On if the long third-down play felt like the dagger…

“No, because we had a chance. We had the very next drive and didn’t execute. Tried to take a shot on first down, then second down had a negative play, third down tried to run the ball. We were still in the game. Obviously, you’d like to stop them on third down and 18.”

On if the message to the team starts with the run defense…

“It starts with not turning the ball over in the first quarter and letting them get 14 points off turnovers. That’s where it starts. We’ve got to do a better job of stopping the run, but I think if we’re not gonna stop the run, we got to be much better on third down. That was really our Achilles heel tonight. We had two third downs on PIs that I can remember right off the top of my head. We had third and over 15 in the first half that they rushed a counter play and got a touchdown and third-and-18 right there in the third quarter. I think third downs we got to improve there.”

On if he relies on film from the Texas A&M game during the bye week…

“No, it’s a heavy work week for the staff because you got to self scout who you are, what’s the problems, where do you got to get it fixed, who keeps attacking you the same ways and then we got to recruit. We got to recruit, recruit, recruit. We got to recruit, recruit, recruit. And then we got to get ready for Vanderbilt.” 

On what he says to the recruits about the season right now…

“It’s part of the building process. 100%, this is a part of the building process at Mizzou. Look, I realize maybe last year we probably overachieved and so everybody assumed that those expectations we’d meet this year. It hasn’t gone that way. It just hasn’t. That’s part of the process. I’ve said this before, I wish success was always linear. It’s not. There’s fighting, there’s wrestling. There’s good days and bad days. That’s what we’re trying to do. I’m trying to establish a culture of trying to recruit great players and we can’t skip steps. I would’ve liked to and I thought maybe we could’ve and maybe I got the fan base too excited and thought maybe we could skip that step. We can’t. We can’t skip a step. We’re still fighting. I thought today, the first quarter was unacceptable, but I thought the fight that our team showed was good. That’s what I tell recruits. Our team is fighting. We got to continue to recruit at a high level. We got to continue to develop the players that we have and continue to reinforce them with good recruits. There’s plenty of opportunities for those guys that we’re reinforcing.”

On the locker room…

“Nobody is happy with the record. Nobody is in there patting themselves on the back. Being 3-4, I get it. We’re all disappointed.”

Is the fight more than what he saw against Tennessee…

“I’m not gonna retrace the steps of weeks past. I’m gonna focus on what we got right now. I’m gonna focus on moving forward. We can’t go back in time. I can look at it. If the question is how’s the locker room doing, I think the locker room is fighting. They’re disappointed, absolutely. Nobody likes to be called out about losing. All the blame needs to fall on my shoulders. That’s my job. I’ve got to do a much better job. But the locker room is fine.”

“I think every loss is a lesson and an opportunity to learn and grow and move forward. Everything we go through in life helps us develop and grow. I’m growing a lot right now.”

On if he adjusts season goals now…

“Just got to win the next week. We got to get healthy. We got to improve in our fundamentals and techniques. We’ve got to try to win the bye week first. Stay out of trouble, show up on time, be where you’re supposed to be, make sure you focus on your academics, execute in practice, and then try to be 1-0. Can’t do anything about the record, the record is what it is. The only thing you can control is the next task in front of you.”

On how big of a role fundamentals and techniques played on penalties this week…

“Big. Hands inside is one of the key ingredients for not getting a holding call. We had several of those. Pass interference, when their hands go up, you got to get your eyes around. If the ball is in the air, can’t put hands on a wide receiver when you’re trying to knock the ball out. Those are techniques and fundamentals and if you don’t do them properly, then you can’t penalized.”

On if he thought about giving another player a shot at quarterback…

“No, Connor is our quarterback. I think he gives us the best chance to win. It’s not always going to be perfect. He’s going to get a lot of blame. There’s a lot of things that have to improve. He knows he’s going to have to improve from today’s performance.”

On what was encouraging from defensive stops...

“To start the second half three-and-out, which I think was the first time we’ve done that, and then the offense going back and scored, looked like complementary football. It looked like something that you could build off of. Obviously, it didn’t continue the rest of the half which we’ve got to fix. They were flying around I thought. On the last two drives, they were able to get stops for us. They showed pride and continued to fight.”

On the differences defensively between the first quarter and the rest of the game…

“Well, we didn’t give them great field position with turnovers. It’s always really difficult to go out there defensively when you don’t have the advantage of the field in front of you. You got to play everything. Run, pass, screen, everything. They weren’t able to just focus in on maybe stopping the run. Can’t turn it over twice.”

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