Revamped SEC schedule sends Kentucky to Missouri

Last week brought upheaval for the Kentucky and Missouri football programs, each having games postponed and rescheduled due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Wildcats (2-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) were set to host No. 4 Georgia this Saturday, but that game was moved to Oct. 31. The Tigers, who had their game against Vanderbilt postponed last Saturday, were to take on Florida this Saturday. That contest also was moved to Halloween.

Several SEC games were affected, and in the end, the Wildcats and Tigers (1-2, 1-2) will face each other on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

The Wildcats did play last weekend, trouncing Tennessee 34-7 in Knoxville. The Tigers haven’t played since a 45-41 victory over LSU on Oct. 10.

“The only negative is we’re catching teams two weeks in a row who have two weeks to prepare and get healthy and get themselves cleaned up like we all like to do during an open week,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.

Kentucky lost its first two games to Auburn and Mississippi but has rebounded with wins over Mississippi State and Tennessee. The Wildcats returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns in their first road win over the Volunteers since 1984.

Kentucky has nine interceptions in its past two games.

“I think some of it, as I’ve mentioned before, is the bounce of the ball,” Stoops said. “Sometimes it’s that way. Overall, we are playing much better defensively, there is no denying that.”

The Wildcats have won five straight games in the overall series, including their past two visits to Columbia. Missouri last defeated Kentucky 20-10 in 2014.

Missouri got to host its game with LSU on Oct. 10 due to concerns about Hurricane Delta in Louisiana. Mizzou put up 586 yards of total offense, and on defense stopped LSU on the 1-yard line on four straight plays inside the final minute for the win.

Missouri got head coach Eliah Drinkwitz his first win and did so missing five key players due to COVID-19 contact tracing.

Those players could be back this week, pending further testing.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak passed for 406 yards and four touchdowns, the first Tigers freshman to pass for four touchdowns in a game since Maty Mauk against Kentucky in 2013. His completion percentage of 85.3 was the second-highest mark by a Missouri quarterback, and is the highest ever by a freshman.

“It’s been a while since we’ve beaten these guys,” Drinkwitz said of Kentucky. “Obviously that gives us a little bit of extra motivation. The preparation that we put in this week determines the outcome.”

The Tigers emphasized taking care of the ball during their off week, Drinkwitz said.

“As a football team, it’s all about the ball. And we have to get it, and we have to protect it,” Drinkwitz said. “The next seven games, that’s got to show up on tape.”

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