Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Drew Pyne (10) warms up before playing the Fresno State Bulldogs at Mountain America Stadium in Tempe on Sept. 16, 2023.

Report: Ex-Arizona State, Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne transfers to Missouri

Former Arizona State and Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne committed to Missouri, ESPN reported Sunday.

Pyne entered the NCAA transfer portal in December and re-enrolled at Notre Dame for the spring semester to earn his degree in American Studies. When he transferred to Arizona State, he was one semester short of graduation.

As a graduate transfer at Missouri, he’ll be eligible to play immediately and will have three years of eligibility remaining after factoring in a medical redshirt and the extra year granted by the NCAA for the pandemic-impacted season.

He’ll be joining a quarterback room headed by Brady Cook, who led Missouri to a Cotton Bowl victory over Ohio State in December and is returning for his final season of eligibility.

Backup quarterback Sam Horn will miss the upcoming season following Tommy John surgery.

Pyne, 23, began his college football career in 2020 at Notre Dame. He saw limited action the first two seasons, redshirting as a freshman, and started 10 games in 2022 with an 8-2 record, including 4-1 against top 25 teams.

The Connecticut native transferred to Arizona after the 2022 season but played in just two games for the Sun Devils because of a lingering hamstring injury and other injuries.

In his career, Pyne has appeared in 19 games, completing 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,530 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

–Field Level Media

University of Missouri Curator Daryl Chatman, left, and System President Mun Choi present new athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois with a jersey Wednesday after she was formally introduced at the Walsworth Family Columns Club.

20210811 033a Mu Athletic Director Reed Francois Press Conf

Report: Arizona set to name Desiree Reed-Francois new AD

Arizona is set to name Missouri athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois to the same position in Tucson, ESPN reported Monday.

Reed-Francois will sign a five-year contract with Arizona, per the report. She would replace Dave Heeke, who was fired last month after seven years and reportedly leaving the athletic department in dire straits.

Arizona is facing a deficit of $177 million, in part due to more than $80 million the athletics department has borrowed from the university, according to ESPN. Part of the issue was a $55 million loan received amid the COVID pandemic that the university was having trouble paying off.

Reed-Francois, who graduated from Arizona law school in 1997, turned Missouri’s athletics operating deficit into a $15 million surplus in 2022, in part due to her fundraising prowess, per the report. Reed-Francois will also oversee Arizona’s transition from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 in the 2024-25 academic year.

Reed-Francois, 51, has been at Missouri since 2021 after working as the AD at UNLV from 2017-21.

Arizona fired Heeke one week after he hired Brent Brennan as the Wildcats’ football coach on Jan. 16 to replace Jedd Fisch, who left to take the Washington job.

According to the Action Network, Heeke was let go because of “financial & operational mismanagement, resulting in an athletic department financial ‘disaster,’ loss of major donors & mishandling of former (football) coach Jedd Fisch’s contract.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 7, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; A general view of a LSU Tigers helmet against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

LSU reportedly makes new DC Blake Baker highest-paid assistant

LSU named Blake Baker, defensive coordinator at Missouri, to the same position.

While LSU announced his hiring on Friday, no financial terms were released. ESPN reported Baker will receive a three-year deal worth $2.5 million per year, which will make him the highest-paid assistant coach in college football.

Baker helped Missouri to an 11-win season and a 14-3 defeat of Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29. It was the first time the Buckeyes didn’t score a touchdown in a game since the 2016 season.

Baker spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Missouri. Among his career jobs, he was the defensive coordinator at Lousiana Tech (2015-18) and Miami (Fla.) in 2019-20, as well as the linebackers coach at LSU in 2021, before heading to Missouri.

“Blake brings a wealth of experience and success as a defensive coordinator throughout his career, including the last two years in the SEC at Missouri,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly said. “His ability to develop and motivate his players while putting together highly successful defenses sets him apart in his field. I am excited to welcome Blake and his family back to Baton Rouge.”

On Wednesday, Kelly announced LSU was parting ways with coordinator Matt House and three of his assistants — cornerbacks coach Robert Steeples, safeties coach Kerry Cooks and defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey — following a 10-3 season.

Baker, 41, is a Houston native but his Louisiana roots run deep. He played linebacker at Tulane from 2000-04.

Missouri head coach Eliah Drinkwitz posted a message of appreciation for Baker on social media late Friday.

“Thank you, Blake for all you did for @MizzouFootball,” Drinkwitz wrote. “Your help in all we’ve accomplished cannot be DENIED! I enjoyed every minute of our journey together — but it’s time for you to go on a new path.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Cody Schrader (7) runs for a first down against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri All-American RB Cody Schrader enters NFL draft

Missouri star running back Cody Schrader, who set the school single-season record with 1,627 rushing yards this season, declared for the NFL draft on Thursday.

Schrader rushed for 14 touchdowns and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors while helping Missouri to an 11-2 record. He was a consensus first-team All-American and finished eighth in Heisman Trophy balloting.

Schrader emerged as a star at Missouri the past two seasons after playing his four college campaigns at Division II Truman State.

“It was a dream of mine as a kid to be a Missouri Tiger,” Schrader said in his announcement on social media. “I want to thank Coach Drink (Eliah Drinkwitz) and Coach Loop (running back coach Curtis Luper) for believing in me when no one else did and developing me, not only as a football player, but as a man.”

Schader rushed for 745 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022 for the Tigers before breaking out big this season.

Cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine and defensive lineman Nyles Gaddy also announced they were entering the NFL draft.

Abrams-Draine was a first-team All-SEC selection after intercepting four passes this season. He had seven overall in three seasons after focusing on defensive back. He arrived at Missouri as a receiver.

Gaddy played just one season at Missouri after playing two seasons at Jackson State. He had four sacks this season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 24, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eli Drinkwitz celebrates after a defensive touchdown in the third quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Missouri won 48-14. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz receives contract extension

Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz had his contract extended through the 2028 season with an increase in salary on Sunday, following a stellar season that was capped by a 14-3 victory over Ohio State in Friday night’s Cotton Bowl.

Financial figures weren’t disclosed but school officials indicated Drinkwitz’s raise will put him among the top coaching salaries in the Southeastern Conference. Drinkwitz guided the No. 9 Tigers to an 11-2 record and was named SEC Coach of the Year.

The 11-win season was the first for Missouri since 2014. Missouri went 6-2 in SEC play this season.

In November 2022, Drinkwitz had his contract extended through 2027 and his annual salary was increased from $4 million to $6 million.

“This contract puts Coach Drink where he belongs, in the upper echelon of SEC head coach salaries,” Robin Wenneker, Missouri’s board of curators chair, said in the news release. “To continue in championship style, keeping Coach Drink and his staff together was the No. 1 priority for the Board of Curators and its administration.”

Drinkwitz is 28-21 in four seasons at Missouri. This season marks his first winning campaign.

“You can’t do this alone, and our players, coaches and staff have worked tirelessly and believed in the process of building a championship program,” Drinkwitz said in the news release. “The passion of our fan base, alumni and donors is awesome, and we are proud to represent them. We are extremely grateful for the resources they provide and the continued investment from our administration in Mizzou football. All of it has allowed us to get to where we are.”

Missouri previously extended the contracts of defensive coordinator Blake Baker and offensive coordinator Kirby Moore.

–Field Level Media

Dec 29, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Lincoln Kienholz (12) almost gets sacked by Missouri Tigers defensive back Daylan Carnell (13) before throwing the ball away in the second quarter during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium.

No. 9 Missouri rallies to beat No. 7 Ohio State in Cotton Bowl

The No. 9 Missouri Tigers rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat No. 7 Ohio State 14-3 in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, on Friday.

The Buckeyes (11-2) played most of the game with third-string quarterback freshman Lincoln Kienholz and managed only a first-period field goal.

Missouri took a 7-3 lead on a 7-yard run by Cody Schrader five seconds into the fourth quarter to complete a 95-yard drive. The big play was a 50-yard pass from Brady Cook to Marquis Johnson to the Ohio State 15. An 8-yard run by Cook on the last play of the third quarter set up the score.

The Tigers (11-2) then used 13 plays to go 91 yards, capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass to Luther Burden with 5:12 to play.

Cook was 11 for 18 passing for 128 yards, and Schrader ran for 128 yards on 29 carries.

The Buckeyes were without starting quarterback Kyle McCord, who transferred to Syracuse, and receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who opted not to play and is expected to be a high first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Harrison finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting balloting earlier this month. Also, linebacker Tommy Eichenberg was injured and did not play.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Brown made his first career start for the Buckeyes but he injured an ankle late in the first quarter and was replaced by Kienholz.

Kienholz was 6 for 17 for 86 yards. Brown was 4 for 6 for 20 yards and was sacked three times.

It was a defensive struggle in the first half. The only points came on a 44-yard field goal by Jayden Fielding with 3:12 left in the first quarter.

Through two quarters, Ohio State had 112 yards (28 passing, 84 running) while Missouri had 76 (20 passing, 56 running). Each team had five first downs and six punts.

Fielding had a 48-yard field goal try in the third quarter hit the left upright and fall back to the field, and the momentum shifted to the Tigers.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Devin Brown (33) throws during warm-ups prior to the NCAA football game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Ohio Stadium.

Missouri motivated for Cotton Bowl test against Ohio State

Even though Ohio State is ranked higher and has more wins than No. 9 Missouri, the seventh-ranked Buckeyes also have uncertainty entering Friday’s Cotton Bowl matchup in Arlington, Texas.

The Buckeyes (11-1) were still reeling from a third straight loss to bitter rival Michigan, 30-24, on Nov. 25, when two days later starting quarterback Kyle McCord announced he would enter the transfer portal. He committed to Syracuse on Dec. 17.

Missouri hopes to take advantage of Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Brown’s inexperience. While McCord completed 229 of 348 passes (65.8 percent) for 3,170 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions, Brown was hampered by an ankle injury and threw just 22 passes, completing 12 for 197 yards, two TDs and one pick.

“He hasn’t played a lot of games, so he hasn’t seen a lot of different looks, a lot of different disguise coverages,” Missouri defensive lineman Jayden Jernigan said of Brown. “So, it may be more difficult for him just because he hasn’t had the experience.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has confidence in Brown.

“The first thing you notice is his command of the huddle, his command of the offense,” Day said. “He’s done a nice job of that. He has a charisma about him that I think the guys appreciate.”

McCord joined 13 other Buckeyes in the portal, including backup running back Chip Trayanum and receiver Julian Fleming.

Adding to the upheaval, receiver Marvin Harrison Jr, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting earlier this month and is projected to be a high first-round pick, is undecided if he will play. The same goes for starting running back TreVeyon Henderson, defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau and tight end Cade Stover.

However, all of them were in Texas for the pre-bowl practices.

Day said that he’s focused on the game and not questions surrounding the availability of players.

“I’ve allowed those guys to kind of do their own thing; I don’t want to put their stuff out there,” he said. “But we’ve got a good group playing in the game. We do.”

Missouri (10-2) expects a full roster for the game.

“We didn’t have any opt-outs,” Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “Our brotherhood is wanting to play this one final game, this one opportunity together.”

Receiver Theo Wease said the Tigers are motivated to beat the Buckeyes.

“It would mean everything, just being an 11-win season, that’s a great season,” he said. “They’re a very respected opponent around the country. It’s going to be a good test.

“Our team is still hungry. I definitely think it’s a group of guys that aren’t satisfied at all.”

Brady Cook threw for 3,189 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions and Cody Schrader rushed for 1,499 yards and 13 touchdowns. Missouri averages 34.1 points per game and allows 22.3 points.

Even though the Buckeyes are disappointed in not making the College Football Playoff for a second straight season, there is still plenty at stake for the proud Big Ten program.

“We want to finish this season and have something to show for it,” Ohio State cornerback Denzel Burke said. “Our job is to go out, have fun, compete and win the game.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 24, 2023; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Cody Schrader (7) rushes against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the second quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Schrader rips Arkansas as No. 9 Missouri hits 10 wins

Southeastern Conference leading rusher Cody Schrader ran for a career-high 217 yards and a score as No. 9 Missouri reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2014, pasting Arkansas 48-14 on Black Friday in Fayetteville, Ark.

Schrader achieved the yardage on 27 carries, but the lion’s share of his work — 192 yards — came on 22 first-half attempts.

Quarterback Brady Cook was 12-of-20 for 112 yards, rushed for a score and tossed two touchdowns to Brett Norfleet, from 16 and 11 yards.

The win should put the Tigers (10-2, 6-2 SEC) into a New Year’s Six bowl game, with their only two losses coming to ranked opponents LSU and Georgia.

Missouri moved the Battle Line Rivalry series record to 11-4 in its favor against the Razorbacks (4-8, 1-7), who lost for the ninth time in the past 11 outings against their border rival.

Record-setting Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson was injured early in the first quarter and did not return. Jacolby Criswell went 12-for-20 for 96 yards with a TD pass in relief.

Schrader set up the game’s first score with a 36-yard run and soon plunged in from 2 yards — his ninth straight game with a rushing TD — at 9:12 of the first quarter.

On the next series, Jefferson scrambled for a 22-yard gain but took a hard hit, fumbled and clutched his left knee. He left the game with the assistance of trainers.

Harrison Mevis drilled a 24-yard field goal at the end of Missouri’s ensuing drive.

A scuffle ensued after Cook was hit out of bounds on the Arkansas sideline in the second quarter, and another tussle occurred a play later. Both sidelines had to be restrained while one fight had to be broken up.

Missouri’s Armand Membou and Arkansas’ Eric Gregory and Zach Williams were ejected.

When the fracas settled, Cook made it 17-0 on a 3-yard run.

Schrader’s 49-yard dash put the Tigers in field-goal range for Mevis, who made one from 22 yards for a 20-0 halftime score.

After Norfleet’s two TD receptions in the third, Jayden Jernigan recovered a fumble and rumbled 10 yards for a score to make it 41-0.

In the fourth quarter, the Razorbacks’ Andrew Armstrong caught an 8-yard pass from Criswell, and Isaiah Augustave (15 carries, 80 yards) scored on a 6-yard run.

Missouri’s Nathaniel Peat scored on a 1-yard run to cap the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Missouri quarterback Brady Cook adjusts his helmet before a college football game at Faurot Field on Nov. 11, 2023, in Columbia, Mo.

Missouri eyeing elusive 10th win at Arkansas

The long-scuffling Missouri football program hasn’t posted a double-digit victory total since 2014.

The Tigers have a chance to change that — and secure a New Year’s Six bowl game — when they finish their regular season Friday against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.

Missouri (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) kept its special season alive with a dramatic 33-31 win over Florida lat Saturday. That raised the stakes for this rivalry game with Arkansas (4-7, 1-6).

“I think it’s a mindset and this team has it,” Missouri quarterback Brady Cook said after beating the Gators. “I don’t think we win this game last year. I think that’s the development and the toughness and the grit that this team has. Yeah, I’m just so proud of our team. It’s super special.”

The Tigers marched 62 yards in the final 1:36 to set up Harrison Mevis’ winning 30-yard field goal. Along the way they converted a fourth-and-17 play to stay alive.

“We’re tough and we refused to lose,” running back Cody Schrader said. “I keep saying from last year — I truly believe that we won that game because of what we learned last year. I think last year we may have found a way to lose that game and this team, this year, we’re not going to lose those games.”

Cook has completed 221 of 330 passes for 3,077 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Schrader has rushed for 1,272 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Luther Burden III has caught 77 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns.

Missouri’s defense was compromised Saturday by the absence of linebackers Chad Bailey, who is out for the season with a core muscle injury, and Ty’Ron Hopper, who missed the Tennessee game with a sprained ankle. Hopper is questionable for this game.

The Tigers will have their hands full with Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, who has passed for 2,105 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 432 yards and two touchdowns.

Jefferson became Arkansas’ career leader in passing yards (7,909) and passing touchdowns (67) during the Razorbacks’ 44-20 victory over Florida International lat Saturday.

“It meant a lot to us that we’ve been able to have him for four years now,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “KJ’s meant a lot to our program. He’s going to mean a lot to us next Friday, too. Just really, really happy for him.”

Freshman running back Isaiah Augustave had a breakout game against Florida International, gaining 101 yards on 14 carries. He stepped up after running backs Rashod Dubinion and Raheim Sanders suffered first-quarter injuries.

Andrew Armstrong (52 catches, 724 yards, four touchdowns) is Jefferson’s top receiving threat. He caught four passes for 67 yards against Florida International.

This has been a challenging season for the Razorbacks, who suffered a six-game losing streak in the middle of the campaign. That raised questions about Pittman’s future, but Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek seemed to put those to rest after the Florida International game.

“This has not been the season any of us anticipated,” Yurachek said in a statement. “We have work to do. I am confident that together, we can meet the goals and expectations of our program.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Athens, Georgia, USA; Missouri Tigers wide receiver Luther Burden III (3) runs against Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Smael Mondon Jr. (2) and defensive back Javon Bullard (22) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Mizzou looks to put up bigger challenge for No. 13 Vols

Tennessee routed Missouri in Josh Heupel’s first two years at the helm of the Volunteers, rolling to 62-24 and 66-24 victories.

The Tigers hope to offer a much tougher test this time around.

Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said, “Offensively we weren’t able to keep the pace and defensively we’ve got to do a consistent job of finding stops in the game. I think the pressure they put on you is that they can score so fast. That’s the challenge. You’ve got to get your cleats in the ground and be able to make routine plays routinely.”

No. 14 Missouri (7-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) enter their matchup with No. 13 Tennessee (7-2, 3-2) on Saturday in Columbia, Mo., following a solid showing in a 30-21 road loss to No. 2 Georgia last week.

The Volunteers are coming off a 59-3 rout of UConn. The lopsided nature of that game allowed Heupel to empty his bench and rest some of his regulars.

Tennessee expects running back Jabari Small, defensive lineman Omari Thomas and offensive lineman John Campbell Jr. to return against Missouri after sitting out against the Huskies.

“Yeah, opportunity for them, you know, to get completely healthy here,” Heupel said. “They would have been available if we felt like we needed to, but just elected not to play them in that game. It’ll be big to have all those guys back and fresh and ready to roll.”

Tennessee’s Blur Ball offense has succeeded with a pass/run balance. Quarterback Joe Milton III has passed for 2,017 yards with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

He has also rushed for 265 yards and five touchdowns. Jaylen Wright (826 yards, three TDs), Small (415 yards, two TDs) and Dylan Sampson (404 yards, seven TDs) have also run very well.

Squirrel Wright (46 catches, 557 yards, two TDs) and Ramel Keyton (24 catches, 412 yards, four TDs) are the Volunteers’ top receiving targets.

“They have the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC, the No. 1 rushing defense in the SEC,” Drinkwitz said. “Josh (Heupel), much like good offensive coordinators do, always starts with trying to figure out how to run the football. If you take the run away, then he has answers vertically down the field.”

Like Tennessee, Missouri has prospered with a mobile quarterback directing the offense. Brady Cook has passed for 2,471 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions while adding five TDs on the ground.

“We’ve got to do a great job in the pass game,” Heupel said. “We’ve got to affect him, not let him be comfortable in the pocket. While doing that, you cannot let him escape the pocket. He’ll be dynamic and make big plays with his feet and his arm as he breaks contain. And then he’s obviously a part of their run game, too, and can hurt you there.”

Cody Schrader (919 yards, 10 TDs) has been a steady producer on the ground while receivers Luther Burden III (64 catches, 958 yards, seven TDs) and Theo Wease Jr. (41 catches, 530 yards, five TDs) have been the big playmakers in the passing attack.

On defense, Missouri will have to finish the season without standout linebacker Chad Bailey, who has been shut down due to a core muscle injury.

–Field Level Media