Ohio State Loses to Missouri, 14-3, As Offense Sputters in Cotton Bowl

By Dan Hope on December 29, 2023 at 11:26 pm

Ohio State has ended the season with two straight losses for the second year in a row.

With true freshman Lincoln Kienholz playing most of the game at quarterback after Kyle McCord’s transfer to Syracuse and Marvin Harrison Jr. sitting out to preserve his health for the NFL draft, Ohio State’s offense never got anything going, resulting in a 14-3 loss for the Buckeyes against No. 9 Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

While Ohio State’s defense was dominant for most of the game, Missouri’s offense was able to make enough plays down the stretch to lead the Tigers to a victory, handing the Buckeyes their second straight defeat after they won their first 11 games of the year.

Devin Brown made his first career start for Ohio State at quarterback but was replaced by Kienholz in the second quarter after Brown suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter.

It was the lowest-scoring game for Ohio State since its 31-0 Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson to end the 2016 season.

  Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4  
#7 Ohio State 3 0 0 0 3
#9 MISSOURI 0 0 0 14 14

The game got off to an inauspicious start for Ohio State as Brown’s first two passes fell incomplete and the Buckeyes went 3-and-out on the game’s opening drive. Missouri quickly reached midfield on its opening possession on a 17-yard scramble by quarterback Brady Cook, but the Buckeyes were able to force a punt on Missouri’s subsequent set of downs.

Ohio State was forced to punt again on its second possession, but a 61-yard punt by Jesse Mirco was followed by a Missouri three-and-out on which JT Tuimoloau forced intentional grounding, giving the ball back to the Buckeyes at the 47-yard line. The Buckeyes’ third drive started with a 20-yard run by TreVeyon Henderson, but the Buckeyes were forced to settle for a field goal, which Jayden Fielding made from 44 yards away.

Those would be the only three points of the first half.

Injured on a sack before the field goal, Brown stayed in the game for one more possession before heading back to the locker room. 

Following a three-and-out on Brown’s final drive in the game, on which he was clearly limping, Kienholz entered the game for Ohio State. The Buckeyes went three-and-out again on each of their next two possessions. Ohio State’s only two first downs of the second quarter came on its final drive before halftime on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Missouri and a 17-yard direct-snap run by Xavier Johnson.

The Buckeyes finished the first half with only 76 yards of offense, but still took a 3-0 lead into halftime thanks to the dominance on its defense, which didn’t let Missouri get past the 38-yard line on any of its seven first-half possessions.

2.9 AVERAGE per RUSH 3.8
12 1st DOWNS 19
2-15 third down conv 4-16
8-57 PENALTIES 7-40
26:07 POSSESSION 33:53

Jack Sawyer started the second half with his second sack of the game, leading to a Missouri three-and-out, and Kienholz got his first pass completion of the game on a 24-yard throw to Johnson on Ohio State’s first offensive play of the second half. But the Buckeyes’ drive stalled from there and a 48-yard field goal attempt by Fielding doinked off the left upright.

Missouri was forced to punt again on its next drive as Sawyer recorded his third sack of the game. The Buckeyes drove past midfield thanks to an 11-yard run by Johnson and a 15-yard run by Henderson, but Ohio State would end up having to punt from the Missouri 48-yard line.

Missouri took the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter when Cody Schrader ran for a 7-yard touchdown. That touchdown was set up by a 49-yard deep-ball connection from Cook to Marquis Johnson.

Ohio State responded with a drive into Missouri territory that started with a 25-yard completion from Kienholz to Emeka Egbuka, but the Buckeyes would end up having to punt from the 40-yard line.

Missouri put together a 13-play, 91-yard drive to seize full control of the game on its next possession, taking a 14-3 lead with just 5:12 to play when Cook completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Luther Burden.

The Tigers sealed their victory with 3:13 left to play when Missouri safety Daylan Carnell forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Joe Moore.

Game Notes

  • The loss was Ohio State’s first-ever loss in a non-playoff New Year’s Six game. The Buckeyes had been 4-0 in non-CFP New Year’s Six games since the advent of the New Year’s Six in 2014.
  • The loss was also Ohio State’s first-ever defeat in the Cotton Bowl, in which the Buckeyes were previously 2-0, and its first-ever loss in AT&T Stadium, where the Buckeyes were previously 3-0.
  • Ohio State has now finished with an 11-2 record in each of the last three seasons, finishing the year with two straight losses in each of the past two.
  • Marvin Harrison Jr., Tommy Eichenberg and Lathan Ransom were among nine unavailable Ohio State players for the game.
  • Jack Sawyer’s three sacks tied an Ohio State bowl game record.
  • Three Buckeyes made their first career starts on offense: Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Brown, true freshman wide receiver Carnell Tate and true freshman tight end Jelani Thurman.
  • Matt Jones started at center in his final game as a Buckeye, replacing Carson Hinzman, while Enokk Vimahi made his first start of the season at right guard. Hinzman did not play at all.
  • Defensive tackle Kayden McDonald saw action on offense as a fullback while Tegra Tshabola replaced Luke Montgomery in the sixth offensive lineman role.
  • 70,144 fans attended the Cotton Bowl with Missouri having a noticeable home-field advantage with more fans in attendance than Ohio State.

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