Eight days before Kentucky was set to host Georgia, the SEC informed UK that they would be making a road trip to Missouri instead. The Friday night switcheroo was the first major in-season scheduling shuffle in the SEC after two games, LSU-Florida and Missouri-Vandy, were postponed by COVID-19 outbreaks.
The schedule change was necessary to ensure Missouri did not spend two consecutive weeks on the sideline. This week Mizzou was originally scheduled to play the other team plagued by coronavirus, Florida.
The change is a big deal for some, but not Landon Young.
“It doesn’t change a thing to be completely honest, because you’ve gotta take it one week at a time. All I’m focused about last Friday was beating Tennessee. All I’m worried about this week is beating Missouri. Whether they change it or not, we gotta come out every single week having the same mindset. No matter who it is, we’re going to beat the guy across from us and we’re going to do what we’re taught,” Kentucky’s senior offensive tackle said Tuesday evening.
“Whether it’s Georgia or Missouri, I have the same mindset going out every single game. I wanna go out there and dominate them and after 60 minutes I want them to remember that I was there and know that I was there. I don’t care what team it is. If it’s a Pac-12 team, I don’t care if it’s a MAC team, every single game they always say you gotta match their intensity. I always say, no, they gotta match ours. We go out there and they gotta match our intensity if they wanna beat us.”
That’s easy for Young to say. He’s not the one crafting gameplans. Eli Drinkwitz has never experienced such a dramatic turn of events in his coaching career.
“I game-planned for three different teams last week. It’s just a product of the situation we’re in,” said the Missouri head coach. “I’ve never had an unscheduled bye week before where you thought on Monday you were playing a game and had 3/4 of your gameplan done and you get the plug pulled on that. And then have another game get pulled and then switched. Never had anything like that before.”
Once the announcement was made, Drinkwitz had a slight head start on Kentucky’s coaching staff to prepare for Saturday’s game. Here’s what he saw once he popped on the film and watched the Wildcats win at Tennessee.
“We got a very talented Kentucky team coming off a big win at Tennessee. They’re very good on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I think that’s what really sets them apart.” He continued:
“I think Eddie Gran offensively might be the most underrated offensive coordinator in our conference. What he’s consistently done with them offensively the past — since he’s been there, is absolutely tremendous. They find ways to attack you running the football, attacking your edges. When you come down into the box, they throw it over your head. We got our hands full.”
Mark Stoops took the scheduling curveball in stride. However, like most Kentucky fans, he’d rather not play back-to-back teams that are coming off of bye weeks.
“From our coaching standpoint it’s nothing major. 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’s head coach sad Monday.
“But as far as us and our preparation, it’s not a major deal, just a little more work to do Saturday night and Sunday than typical but that’s okay. We got all that caught back up, just need to go out, have another really solid week and continue to build on the good things we’re doing and try to get some things cleaned up.”
The change might not necessarily be a negative. Even though Stoops would never admit it, the original schedule made Missouri the perfect trap game. After an emotional win at Tennessee, Georgia would take a mental and physical toll on the Wildcats. Getting up for an early road trip at Faurot Field is never easy, especially after two highly-anticipated matchups. By moving the games around, Kentucky has another opportunity to build on the success at Neyland Stadium before they get a shot at the top dogs of the SEC East.
“Our first two weeks our offense did good, defense, not so well. The next game our offense did not have our best game and defense just balled out,” said Young. “We had to put it together and it really show us what we can do. There’s still things to clean up but when you start putting offense and defense together to have a clean game, we’re pretty much unstoppable.”