NCAAF: Unranked Kentucky tries to end slide vs. improving Missouri
Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz expects Kentucky to arrive eager to reestablish its standing at his team’s expense.
After rolling toward a 4-0 start, the Wildcats (5-3, 2-3 SEC) have lost three of their last four games heading into Saturday’s game in Columbia, Mo.
Kentucky is coming off an ugly 44-6 loss at Tennessee that kept it outside the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season.
“My anticipation is they’re going play their best game of the year,” Drinkwitz said. “They’re going to want to atone for last week. I know they’re all going to sit there and think that this is a game that they can come in and win and so it’s going to be important for us to play our best game.”
But Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is taking nothing for granted. The Tigers (4-4, 2-3) lost by three points in overtime at Auburn, by four points to Georgia and by seven points at Florida before beating Vanderbilt and upsetting South Carolina in their last two games.
“I give Coach Drink a lot of credit, because they had a brutal loss a few games back, with the Auburn game, where they were essentially an inch from winning the game,” Stoops said. “The team could’ve went any which way, and they turn around and play an incredible game, play Georgia as good as anybody has played them and had a tough loss, and go to Florida and play incredibly well. You could take a few plays out of that one and they can win.”
The Wildcats will be looking to get quarterback Will Levis back on track after he completed 16 of 27 passes for just 98 yards and three interceptions against Tennessee.
“It was tough,” Stoops said. “I think when the game was starting to get away from us, he’s forcing things. That’s the competitor in him. That’s human nature. We’re trying to force, trying to make plays.”
Kentucky is averaging just 112.6 yards per game on the ground this season, second-lowest in the SEC. But Chris Rodriguez Jr., La’Vell Wright, JuTahn McClain and Dee Beckwith combined for 130 yards rushing against Tennessee and Drinkwitz expects the Wildcats to prioritize the run.
“I think last year there was a stretch when they had 18 straight runs against us,” Drinkwitz said. “So we know this is going to be a tough physical matchup and the trenches.”
Missouri ranks second-to-last in the SEC with 210.8 passing yards per game. But quarterback Brady Cook passed for 224 yards and rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown against South Carolina.
His top target is Dominic Lovett, who caught 10 passes for 148 yards against the Gamecocks. Lead running back Cody Schrader had 113 yards from scrimmage in that game.
–Field Level Media