MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Missouri quarterback Drew Lock wants to make sure he ends his college career with a positive memory.
As a growing number of NFL draft prospects opt against playing in bowl games to avoid the risk of getting injured, Lock savors the opportunity to join his teammates one more time when the 24th-ranked Tigers (8-4, No. 23 CFP) meet Oklahoma State (6-6) on Monday in the Liberty Bowl.
“Someone asked him early on in bowl preparation if he was going to play or not, and I wish I could have captured a picture of the way he looked and the body language that he gave off during that moment,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “This game means a heck of a lot to Drew, and he wants to play really well for his team.”
Lock has thrown for 11,820 career yards, the second-highest total in Southeastern Conference history behind former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray’s 13,166. A big performance Monday could improve his draft stock in a quarterback class that seems unsettled with Oregon’s Justin Herbert planning to return for his senior season.
But the senior quarterback seems more concerned with making sure he avoids ending his college career with a loss.
“I think the most sour part about it is that the guys that you love and have played with the last four years, their last game would be a loss,” Lock said. “I could handle it myself and let it eat at me for a while, but the worst part would be letting them down.”
Oklahoma State will be missing running back Justice Hill and guard Larry Williams as they prepare for the draft. Chuba Hubbard, who ran for 595 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season, will lead Oklahoma State’s rushing attack Monday with help from LD Brown.
Hill, who rushed for 3,539 yards in his three-year college career, missed Oklahoma State’s last two regular-season games due to injury.
“(Hill’s) a fantastic player, he’s a guy who’s good enough to play in the NFL,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “If he’s not with you, you’re certainly not going to be as good at rushing the football as you would be if he were here, but Chuba and LD have stepped up and they’re the guys that are in our program now. We’re coaching them and we have confidence in their ability to rush the football.”
The game should feature plenty of offense.
Oklahoma State is ranked 10th nationally in yards per game (500.0) and 14th in scoring (38.4), while Missouri is 16th in yards per game (468.8) and 19th in points per game (36.9).
A victory would enable Missouri to end a season in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2014. Oklahoma State wants to avoid its first losing season since a 4-7 finish in 2005, the first year of Gundy’s tenure.
Here are some things to watch in the Liberty Bowl:
UPSET ALERT: Oklahoma is a nine-point underdog but may be better than its record indicates. The Cowboys beat No. 14 Texas (No. 15 CFP), No. 15 West Virginia (No. 16 CFP) and No. 23 Boise State (No. 25 CFP). They lost 48-47 to No. 4 Oklahoma (No. 4 CFP) after missing a two-point conversion with 1:03 remaining.
WHERE’S WALLACE?: Oklahoma State’s offense features Associated Press second-team All-America receiver Tylan Wallace, who has 79 catches for 1,408 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wallace was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award given annually to college football’s top receiver.
OKWUEGBUNAM OUT: Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam will miss a fourth straight game with a shoulder injury. He has 17 touchdown catches over the last two seasons and was one of three finalists for the Mackey Award given each year to college football’s top tight end.
DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS: Missouri enters the postseason on a four-game winning streak, while Oklahoma State has lost five of its last seven.
DEFENSIVE DEFICIENCIES: Oklahoma State is tied for 96th nationally in scoring defense (32.4) and is 99th in total defense (437.1). Missouri is 45th in scoring defense (24.4) and 51st in total defense (379.0). The Tigers are coming off a 38-0 shutout of Arkansas.
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