In 2019, it was NCAA sanctions. In 2020, it was a rise in positive COVID-19 tests.
It’s been nearly three years since Missouri football last went bowling, but the wait is over.
The Tigers were selected to play Army in the Armed Forces Bowl at 7 p.m. Dec. 22 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. It was first reported by The Action Network’s Brett McMurphy on Sunday afternoon, and the SEC confirmed the news soon after.
“Very excited about playing in this game,” MU coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “Obviously, got a great opponent in the West Point, so it will be a fun challenge and a difficult challenge for us.”
Missouri was the only SEC team left out of a conference-affiliated bowl.
Drinkwitz called it a “win-win,” for Missouri, citing the 17 Missouri players that are from Texas — a list including wide receiver Keke Chism and defensive back Shawn Robinson — and the potential for recruiting.
“We knew that this was a potential bowl, we researched it and we’re just really proud,” Missouri athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois said. ... “The level of meaning associated with this bowl, with the military tie-in, with it being Dallas, with it being the state of Texas.
“We have a rich alumni base, we have student athletes that are from there and get to go home and see their families. And the opportunity to participate in a bowl game is always special, so we’re really proud to be a part.”
It will mark the 34th occasion Missouri has made a bowl-game appearance and will be the Tigers’ first since a 38-33 loss to Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31, 2018, in Memphis, Tennessee.
The game is also on the same night the MU men’s basketball team faces Illinois in the annual Braggin’ Rights showdown in St. Louis. The Armed Forces Bowl is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN, while Braggin’ Rights tips at 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
“We certainly shared it with the conference that the Braggin’ Rights game was within a one-hour differential,” Reed-Francois said. ... “We’re excited to be able to got to the bowl game regardless of the date and the time.”
Army is 8-3 this season, with one game still to play — against Navy this coming Saturday — before the bowl. The Black Knights have won four straight games, including wins over Liberty and Air Force.
Missouri is 3-1 in its history against Army, but it has been nearly 40 years since the two teams last faced off. The last time the Black Knights and the Tigers played was Oct. 23, 1982, when Missouri won 23-10.
This is the first time Missouri and Army will play against each other in a bowl game. The Black Knights are scheduled to visit Faurot Field twice in the future — in 2029 and 2033.
Missouri has a 15-18 all-time bowl record, recording its most recent win in the Orlando Citrus Bowl against Minnesota (33-17) on Jan. 1, 2015, in Orlando, Florida, when Gary Pinkel was Missouri’s coach.
The Tigers are currently on a two-game losing streak in bowl games after going 0-2 in bowl appearances with coach Barry Odom at the helm. Under Odom, Missouri lost 33-16 to Texas in the Texas Bowl in 2017 and then to the Cowboys the next season.
It will be Eliah Drinkwitz’s first bowl appearance as a head coach, despite leading teams to bowl bids in each of his two seasons in charge.
In 2019, Appalachian State defeated UAB 31-17 to win the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21, but Drinkwitz had already left to become Missouri’s coach.
In his first season in Columbia, the Tigers would have played Iowa in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee, but Missouri pulled out of the game after a rise in positive COVID-19 cases suspended team activities.
As an assistant coach, Drinkwitz is 8-0 in bowl games.
Missouri became bowl-eligible after a dramatic 24-23 overtime win against Florida took it to the all-important six-win mark. After starting the season 3-4 and winless in Southeastern Conference play the Tigers won three of their next four games — defeating Vanderbilt, South Carolina and the Gators — to salvage bowl eligibility.
For a long time, the Tigers’ season looked destined to end in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where MU played its final regular-season game.
After that loss, Tyler Badie said he wanted to play in the bowl game but would have to discuss the issue with Drinkwitz and assistant coach Curtis Luper. It appears as though a decision has been made — Badie will play.
“(Badie) was out there the past two days practicing and getting better,” Drinkwitz said. “And we anticipate him giving it a go in the bowl game, so very excited about his competitive spirit.”
Whether he plays or not, Missouri has Army on the horizon.
A win would mark Drinkwitz’s first winning season at Missouri — a rung up the ladder from a .500 year in 2020.