COLUMBIA, Mo. -- In practice, facing no rush, with the wind at his back and next to no one watching, Harrison Mevis has casually nailed a 75-yard field goal.
"I've never tried anything further because [there's no point]," said Mevis, Missouri's senior kicker.
There was plenty at stake when Mevis cranked through an SEC-record 61-yard field goal at the gun to beat No. 15 Kansas State, 30-27, on Saturday afternoon. To that point, the kicker's team had sunk into a bit of an offensive malaise this season. His coach hadn't produced a winning season at Mizzou to date, and Mevis himself was in a slump.
The Indiana native missed six kicks in 28 attempts last year following an All-SEC season in 2021.
"There is a learning process that you're going to make mistakes," Mevis told CBS Sports minutes after the game-winning boot. "You look at anyone's career, no one has ever gone perfect -- ever. It's all about how you handle it, how you improve from it."
That slump continued into this season. Mevis had made only 1 of 3 field goals in Mizzou's two games. He missed a 53-yarder short in the second quarter that made him 2 of 5 on the season at that point.
But in the field storming by the sellout crowd that saw Mizzou's biggest win in five years, the only thing missing was the 243-pound "Thicker Kicker" being carried off the field.
"That was definitely a new feeling. I could get used to it," Mevis said of the back slaps he received winding his way to the locker room.
To get to this place, Mevis had to leave the Hoosier State. The Warsaw, Indiana, product did not have Indiana as an option (it had a kicker), and FCS Indiana State didn't extend an offer. Army submitted an offer, but Mervis wanted to play in the Power Five, even if it was with a Mizzou team trying to find its way in the SEC.
Both Mizzou and Kansas State will need to reevaluate their seasons as they head into conference play.
The reigning Big 12 champion Wildcats still have their goals in front of them. They got another strong game from quarterback Will Howard (270 yards passing, three touchdowns), even in defeat. However, coach Chris Klieman's defense couldn't stop Mizzou's Brady Cook, who threw for a career-high 356 yards.
Saturday's postgame was teed up for Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz to brag about Mevis. Eventually, there was plenty of love for his kicker. But Drinkwitz chose an alternate route getting there. In what might one day be a program-defining win, the coach chose to defend Cook.
"It pissed me off when they booed our starting quarterback to start the game," Drinkwitz told reporters about Cook. "He went out there and played his butt off for this university and this team. We need to get behind him.
"You want to boo me? Fine. You boo the starting quarterback -- bullcrap. I'll say it again, should never happen."
If there was booing, it certainly was not obvious. Some observers claim to have heard jeering during introductions. Cook, a junior, was not outstanding across Mizzou's first two games. A faction of fans have wanted to see more of redshirt freshman Sam Horn.
During a Friday team meeting, Cook got up in front of the team and said he's not going to come off the field without a win, according to Mevis.
Cook meant it. He tweaked a knee in the second quarter and looked shaky during halftime warmups.
"Look, I know you're never going to come out of the game," Drinkwitz recalled telling the determined Cook, "but if you can't help us win, you've got to tell me."
The knee and Cook never wavered. And that was it for the Wildcats, who fell to the Tigers for the first time since 2010. Cook threw both of his touchdowns to budding sophomore sensation Luther Burden III.
Mevis was allowed to kick the record field goal only after Missouri had been called for a delay of game penalty coming out of a spike to stop the clock with 6 seconds left. When Missouri's offense was inexplicably late coming off the sideline, a potential 56-yarder became 5 yards more difficult.
After Cook threw an incompletion with 3 seconds left, the decision had already been made. Whether it was 56 yards or 61 yards, Mevis had already been selected to win the game -- or not.
"We took the penalty to make it more dramatic," Drinkwitz joked. "This is all for TV, anyway. This was in the script."
For Drinkwitz, the win was at least program-affirming, a bit of proof of concept in his 39th game with the Tigers. The wolves were closing in a bit after the coach had received a 50% pay bump and extension despite another non-winning season in 2022 (6-7), his third as Mizzou's coach.
The critics are muffled for now as Missouri is off to its first 3-0 start since 2018.
"Redemption is a beautiful thing," Drinkwitz said. "Hopefully, it will quiet the noise and get people pushing in one direction."