Missouri's best player will not suit up for the Tigers' final game of the season.
Star running back Tyler Badie will not play in the Armed Forces Bowl on Wednesday, coach Eli Drinkwitz told reporters Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas.
Drinkwitz said the decision to sit Badie was made by the coaching staff, citing the running back's future in the National Football League.
"If you truly value your team like they’re your own sons, sometimes you look at things a little bit differently," Drinkwitz said.
Brady Cook will start the bowl game at quarterback, Drinkwitz also announced. Cook won the December position battle over Connor Bazelak and Tyler Macon.
Running back Dawson Downing will start in Badie's stead.
Badie's season comes to an end after setting the program's single-season record for rushing yards and earning first-team All-SEC honors. Badie had practiced leading up to the bowl game, but Drinkwitz didn't want to chance anything happening to his standout as he prepares to advance to the NFL.
"What if something went wrong and I had to look myself in the mirror?" Drinkwitz asked. "I couldn't do that."
The senior running back defied all expectations, brushing off durability concerns to rush for 1,604 yards and a hefty six yards per carry. Badie finished five games with over 200 yards rushing in 2021, including his final game in a Missouri uniform against Arkansas, where he rushed for 219 yards.
Badie scored a touchdown in every game except against Georgia, finishing the season with 14 rushing touchdowns and 18 total. He shared his intention to declare for the NFL Draft on Instagram shortly after Drinkwitz announced he wouldn't play in the bowl game.
"Having the opportunity to earn my degree and share this journey with my family, teammates, staff and fans is not something I'll ever take for granted," Badie wrote on Instagram. "I have decided to pursue the next chapter of my career and declare for the 2022 NFL Draft."
Cook's start comes after he saw meaningful playing time against Georgia and South Carolina earlier this season.
Cook and Macon played in tandem against Georgia, though Macon got the start. Cook spelled Bazelak against South Carolina after Bazelak threw a costly interception that led to a Gamecocks touchdown to cut Missouri's lead late.
Drinkwitz said after the South Carolina game that he went with Cook due to his running ability when Missouri needed first downs and to cut time off the clock. Cook set up a third-and-short after a run on second-and-long. Badie converted that third-and-short to seal the win over the Gamecocks.
"Brady Cook has really had an outstanding past two weeks," Drinkwitz said Tuesday. "Everybody competed for it, but I think for our football team right now, it's his opportunity to play."
Missouri already was to be short-handed Wednesday. The Tigers will also be without defensive lineman Akial Byers, defensive back Martez Manuel and tight end Niko Hea, per the program's injury report Monday evening.
Manuel was perhaps the Tigers' most consistent defensive player this season with 77 tackles, 4.5 sacks and three pass break-ups.
Missouri will miss Byers on the defensive line, as he provided depth alongside Trajan Jeffcoat and Isaiah McGuire.
Each of Missouri's four captains to begin the season will not start the bowl game: Bazelak, Badie, Manuel and offensive lineman Case Cook, who suffered a season-ending injury in October.
Chris Kwiecinski is the sports editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune, overseeing University of Missouri and Boone County sports coverage. Follow him on Twitter @OchoK_ and contact him at CKwiecinsk@gannett.com or 435-414-3261.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Mizzou football's Tyler Badie will not play in Armed Forces Bowl