Missouri entered its bowl game on a six-game winning streak and averaged more than 51 points per game in the process.
It was a different story Wednesday night as the Tigers fell 33-16 to Texas in the Texas Bowl. After the game, his last in a Missouri uniform, defensive end Marcell Frazier explained what went wrong from his point of view. When asked about the offense, he quickly pointed to the departure of two assistant coaches: offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and offensive line coach Glen Elarbee.
“Realistically Heupel left us in a bad position. It is what it is. And Elarbee left us in a bad position. So as men they have to look in the mirror. They let a whole bunch of teenage boys down, 18, 19-year olds down. They left and they have to do what’s best for their family, but I think it showed up a little bit today,” Frazier said. “We were doing things that we haven’t done since maybe the Auburn game. It showed up. You practice for a whole month without an offensive coordinator or an offensive line coach after having one of the most dominant offenses in the nation, it’s tough. I believe that they let some guys down.”
Heupel left Missouri to become the head coach at Central Florida, replacing Scott Frost, and took Elarbee with him as the offensive line coach. But Frost is sticking with UCF through its bowl game — a Peach Bowl matchup with Auburn.
That left Frazier, who finished his senior season with 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, wondering why Heupel and Elarbee couldn’t do the same.
“They have to do what’s best for them and I don’t quite understand it because I know Scott Frost is staying at UCF for their bowl game. So I don’t quite understand all the politics of it, but it showed up,” Frazier said. “Texas, I don’t believe they had any coaches leave their staff. We had two offensive coaches leave from arguably the most explosive offense in the country so it showed up a little bit.”
Coaches, especially assistants, move from school-to-school all the time. Sometimes they stay through a bowl game, but often they’ll do what Heupel and Elarbee did. Every case is different, but coordinators who take their first head-coaching jobs like Heupel often follow this path. That doesn’t mean Frazier’s point of view doesn’t have merit, but a coach’s priorities can quickly shift after accepting a new job.
In Heupel’s absence, tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley made his debut as play-caller. It wasn’t easy. Texas punter Michael Dickson pinned the Tigers deep in their own territory for most of the night and some were critical of Finley’s play-calling — especially in the first half.
Mizzou ended up finishing the night with 390 yards of offense (compared to Texas’ 280), but four turnovers doomed the Tigers, who finished the year 7-6.
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