Missouri football fans talk Drinkwitz, Cooper and crowds

Calum McAndrew

Missouri football’s 12th practice of the spring was its most anticipated.

The Tigers hosted their annual Black and Gold Game on Saturday at Faurot Field, an event that marked the third time fans have been able to attend a practice this spring.

A 5-5 season in 2020 has prompted a level of optimism among the Missouri fanbase, the kind that has been absent for quite some time.

That optimism, in large part, began with the hiring of coach Eliah Drinkwitz and two more developments are conjuring waves of positivity: Freshman Mookie Cooper, and the promise of a full Faurot Field come the fall.

It’s no secret how the team is spending its spring. Not a practice goes by without mention of individual development or building team camaraderie. We’ve heard from the coaches and players; here’s what fans at Saturday’s game had to say about their team:

On Mookie Cooper

One name dominated the responses from Missouri fans when asked, “Who are you most excited about seeing in the new season?”

It’ll come as no surprise that it was the dynamic and speedy Cooper, a transfer wide receiver from Ohio State.

Missouri indubitably lacked a red zone presence this past season, as quarterback Connor Bazelak threw just seven touchdowns, but it may have found its answer. The fans certainly have high hopes for the newcomer Cooper.

“I think (Cooper and Dominic Lovett’s) speed can really bring a different dynamic,” Jake Stouffer, 22, said. “I feel like we have some solid, tall, big pass catchers, but I think that level of really elite speed can really bring a whole new dimension to this offense.”

He wasn’t alone.

“I’m pretty excited to see the new kid Cooper,” James Patrick said. “His speed and his playmaking ability — that’s one of the things we missed last year, some guys who could make plays when we needed to.”

Hudson Patrick, 5, isn’t convinced. But who is he excited to see in the new season?


On Eliah Drinkwitz

After his first full season in charge of the Tigers, there is very little doubt among Missouri fans about whether they want Drinkwitz at the helm.

“I was pleasantly surprised last year,” Randy McClain, 63, said. “When Coach Pinkel gave him the thumbs up, I thought, ‘That’s a plus,’ and then last year with the chaos of a season, they won some games that a lot of people thought they wouldn’t.”

It isn’t just Drinkwitz’s first year that fans are excited about, but his vision for the future.

“I’m really excited about the direction of the program,” Stouffer said. “I think so far he’s done everything right. Five-and-five last year was better than what I was hoping for, and he brought in a really good recruiting class, and has a really good start to the 2022 recruiting class, so really so far in his tenure I can’t ask for much more.”

Drinkwitz being at the reins even has some fans dreaming of a return to championship glory.

“I thought the first season went pretty well, but I’m definitely looking for more success,” former Missouri student Derek Fiquet said. “I was in school in 2013, 2014 when we won back-to-back SEC East championships and it would be nice to get back to that.”

On a full Faurot

Missouri Athletics announced Wednesday that come fall, a full crowd will be allowed at football games.

Missouri will open its 2021 season against Central Michigan on Sept. 4. It will be the first time in 651 days that the Tigers play in front of a potentially full stadium.

“This was my first full semester here and it was not as hype with half crowds,” Missouri student Aaron Lang said. “It’ll be nice to see it fill back up.”

Trish Koetting, mother of Missouri kicker Sean Koetting, said both she and her son are excited for games to be played in front of big crowds.

“It’s a complete game changer when the team can play in front of a full stadium,” Trish Koetting said.

For some fans, however, the return of crowds is only exciting if executed in a safe manner.

“If everybody is vaccinated and everybody is wearing masks and the coronavirus is behind us, then by all means, I’m all for it,” Piquet said.