NCAAF: Missouri, Arkansas swing into Battle Line Rivalry
Missouri can secure bowl eligibility while Arkansas will try to raise its bowl profile when these Southeastern Conference rivals meet Friday in Columbia, Mo.
The Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC) and Razorbacks (6-5, 3-4) have dubbed this annual game the Battle Line Rivalry. A trophy will be at stake on Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium.
Missouri won five straight games in the series before Arkansas prevailed 34-17 last season.
“The only thing we’re focused on is it’s a rivalry game and it’s trophy week,” Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “That’s it. None of the other stuff matters. The most important thing to us is that they have a trophy and we want it and the only way to get it is to play our best game and to prepare the way that we know how to prepare and to play with unbelievable effort.
“That’s the focus and that’s why we did Senior Week last week. This week is all about rivalry week, Arkansas and the Battle Line trophy.”
Missouri rolled to a 45-14 victory over New Mexico State in their previous game after suffering a 66-24 beating at Tennessee. Brady Cook continued his improved play by completing 19 of 27 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 71 yards on seven carries.
“I felt like with the way things ended against Tennessee, I thought it was really important for us to bounce back,” Drinkwitz said. “Offensively, to score on our first three drives, to score on this opening series of both the first half and second half which was the first time we’ve done that all year ? there was real growth there to convert some big third downs and we converted the fourth down.”
The Razorbacks are coming off a 42-27 upset of then-No. 14 Ole Miss. They got quarterback KJ Jefferson back from his clavicle injury and their offensive clicked back into high gear.
“Man, it’s nice to have KJ back,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “We weren’t too clean on the first two drives, first two scoring drives, but he made us clean because of his athleticism.”
Jefferson completed 17 of 22 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels. He also rushed for 47 yards on eight carries.
“When you have a guy behind you like that, it builds confidence in you when you have a big runner that can physically run over people,” Pittman said. “I mean, on the draw play, they all came inside, and he cut outside for 20, 30 yards. When you have a guy back there that can break tackles and make things happen, you play a little bit better, to be honest with you.”
The Arkansas offense has averaged 34.9 points per game with Jefferson and just 13.5 in two games in which Jefferson has been sidelined.
On defense, the Razorbacks may be missing cornerstone linebacker Bumper Pool, who is battling hip and back injuries. Pool is second on the club with 92 tackles.
“Bumper is still Bumper and trying to hang on,” Pittman said. “I don’t know that he’ll be able to or not. He’s beat up, not healthy. We’re bowl eligible. I don’t know if he’ll be able to play or not.”
–Field Level Media