LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Missouri football season ends on a positive note.
After a five-game losing streak with offensive woes that frustrated the Tigers down to their core, and just three days after the NCAA upheld their postseason ban, they finished in the win column.
Missouri downed Arkansas 24-14 Friday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium to finish the season 6-6.
The Razorbacks wrap up the year at 2-10, extending their Southeastern Conference losing streak to 19 consecutive games.
The victory was Missouri's first — and only — away from Faurot Field this season and its first win overall since homecoming against Mississippi on Oct. 12.
Missouri has won six or more games in three straight seasons for the first time since Gary Pinkel-led teams did that for seven straight years from 2005 to 2011.
“I’m so proud of our team, especially our seniors and then all of the guys that stepped up today, because there were so many injuries that went into the day,” Missouri head coach Barry Odom said. “Short week, we were banged up going into the game, first and foremost. It wasn’t pretty. We all know that. But it was a win, and I’ll take as many of those as we can get.”
In a bit of a surprise, Odom started true freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak against Arkansas after he previously had brief stints behind center against SEMO and Georgia.
Tigers wide receiver Jonathan Nance said after the game that usual starting quarterback Kelly Bryant didn’t practice much this week. Odom said Bryant had swelling in his knee and was held out as a health precaution.
Bazelak finished the game 7 of 9 passing for 80 yards but didn’t play past the second quarter because of a right knee sprain.
The newcomer was one of several Missouri players to get injured during the game or miss it entirely. Bryant, defensive back DeMarkus Acy, wide receiver Johnathon Johnson and offensive lineman Case Cook all missed action.
Taylor Powell, a native of Fayetteville, Arkansas, replaced Bazelak as signal caller and went 8 of 14 passing for 105 yards and a touchdown while playing in his home state. Powell connected with Nance for a 10-yard scoring strike with 8:47 remaining to establish the final margin.
Despite being passed over for the starting spot against the Razorbacks and throwing an interception on his first attempt of the second half, Powell’s confidence wasn’t shaken inside a venue where he won two state championships in high school.
“I think it’s what our team’s about, it’s next man up,” said Missouri wide receiver Barrett Banister, also a Fayetteville native, about Powell. “He had a tough throw on one of those but bounced back and led us on two scoring drives.
“That’s the type of person he is, it’s the type of player he is. He’s going to bounce back whenever he gets knocked down, and I’m so proud of him."
Powell’s fourth-quarter touchdown throw was the first of his Missouri career. He threw it to Nance, who transferred from Arkansas to Missouri last December.
Nance’s touchdown was the first by a Missouri wide receiver in SEC play. It was also the first time a non-running back reached the end zone since Albert Okwuegbunam’s score against Vanderbilt on Oct. 19.
“He’s been waiting a long time for that, and what a better time for him to get his first touchdown pass,” Banister said of Powell. “He threw it to Nance. Just so many things aligned, it was just crazy.”
Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie each scored rushing touchdowns for the Tigers, who outgained Arkansas 329-242 overall.
Badie ends the season as Missouri’s leader in pass receptions (32), one better than second-place Nance. Johnson, who missed the last four games of the season, was in third at 29. Badie is the first running back to lead Missouri in receptions since Brock Olivo did so in 1995.
“Even just from a personnel standpoint, nothing changed too much. So it's one of those things, what happened? What’s the deal?” Missouri defensive tackle Jordan Elliott said about snapping the Tigers' five-game losing streak. “Hopefully we’ll figure it out and we can make those changes for next season.”
Elliott said he’ll make a decision in the next week or so whether to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He is rated by Pro Football Network as a third-round selection should he leave MU.
Arkansas, which had nearly a quarter of its active roster miss the game with various injuries and illnesses, including several Razorbacks diagnosed with mumps, started Jack Lindsey at quarterback, its fifth different starter behind center this season.
Lindsey started the game 0-for-5 passing and didn’t complete a pass that wasn’t for a touchdown until midway through the third quarter.
Lindsey’s first two pass completions were for touchdowns, one to Trey Knox, the other to Grayson Gunter. Yet Missouri limited Lindsey to just 75 yards passing.
With six points in the game, Missouri senior kicker Tucker McCann (358) passed Andrew Baggett (355) for second place on the Tigers' career scoring list. He needed four more points to pass Jeff Wolfert (362) as Missouri's all-time leader.
Missouri heads into the offseason with 281 days from Friday’s victory until its 2020 season opener against Central Arkansas.
As of press time Friday, MU had yet to make a statement about Odom’s future with the program. Speculation about his job security has been rampant for weeks.
“I would do anything for him. That coach has given me everything and he's given me a chance to go be what I want to be,” Banister said of Odom. “I’m so thankful for him, just so thankful to be playing for him. He loves his players and he's truly passionate about what he does.”