Why Missouri coach Drinkwitz subbed out Connor Bazelak at QB against South Carolina

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  • Eliah Drinkwitz
    American football coach
  • Connor Bazelak
    American football player

With 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Missouri football holding onto a slim three-point lead against South Carolina, MU head coach Eliah Drinkwitz decided to put backup Brady Cook in at quarterback in place of Connor Bazelak, who had played every snap of the game up until that point.

The Gamecocks had just scored a touchdown to cut Mizzou’s lead to three points after Bazelak’s second interception of the day set them up in the red zone, and the Tigers couldn’t afford another turnover.

“I felt like we were gonna need the quarterback run and Connor was just not, wasn’t moving the way I wanted him to, and that last pick,” Drinkwitz said of the decision after the win. “Just, you know, we needed somebody who could be able to be a threat with his legs.”

Cook kept Mizzou on the field long enough to run out the clock and secure the 31-28 victory, the team’s fifth of the season. Though most of the drive was handoffs to running back Tyler Badie, Cook, a redshirt sophomore, had an 11-yard run on second-and-14. That gave the Tigers a manageable third down.

Bazelak was listed as questionable in this week’s injury report after having missed last Saturday’s game against Georgia with a soft-tissue injury. True freshman Tyler Macon started that game, and Cook split reps with him throughout the 43-6 loss.

Drinkwitz said he went into this week’s game with a plan that centered around Bazelak as the starter and Cook as the primary backup.

Bazelak struggled on Mizzou’s first drive of the game, throwing an interception on the fourth play. The turnover set South Carolina up at the Missouri 45-yard line and the Gamecocks went on to take a 7-0 lead in less than two minutes. The second interception in the fourth quarter once again put South Carolina in scoring position.

“No, just really poor decisions,” Drinkwitz said when asked if Bazelak’s injury played a role in his two interceptions. “Just really poor decisions.”

On the afternoon, Bazelak completed 15 of 23 passes for 180 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He has thrown five interceptions in his last three games and 10 total on the season, compared to 15 touchdowns.

In the past, Drinkwitz was firm in insisting that Bazelak was the team’s starter even after bad performances, but that wasn’t the case following Saturday’s game.

“I’ll sit down tomorrow and evaluate the tape and look at it and just see who gives us the best chance to win,” Drinkwitz said. “You know, who’s played the best, who gives us the best chance to win.”

Drinkwitz also didn’t provide much clarity on the status of Bazelak’s health. And there likely won’t be any on the quarterback situation in the coming week either.

“I was celebrating in the locker room, so I didn’t get a chance to meet with the trainer about it yet. But we’ll probably evaluate him Monday,” Drinkwitz said. “I like the whole questionable deal and just keeping it dragged out all week, so I’ll probably just go with that.”