Man, that was a fun weekend. Kentucky throttled Tennessee in Neyland Stadium behind a ballhawking defense and a power run game that found its groove in the second half. The result was a very impressive road victory. Now the Wildcats have to deal with some schedule shuffling and that means a quick road trip to Missouri before hosing Georgia prior to the bye week.
We all had a ball celebrating the big road dub, but this SEC gauntlet is going to continue to roll on and next up is a game where the spread is under a touchdown for the fifth time in a row. There is not much margin for error in 2020 and UK will have to play well to collect their sixth consecutive victory over Missouri.
This week on the Monday Huddle we are getting you prepared for another road trip as Mark Stoops is just one victory away from getting his career record over .500 for the first time in his career. They’ll be facing a Missouri team that has a very creative offense led by quarterback that the Kentucky football program is very familiar with.
First Down: Stoops Talks
Kentucky’s head coach will take the podium today at lunch for another weekly press conference that will be followed by his radio show with Tom Leach later this evening. We will hear Mark Stoops likely expand on how he celebrated one of the biggest wins of his coaching career and provide more detail on just how Kentucky turned the game into a blowout.
After some comments following the Mississippi State game, it appeared that Akeem Hayes didn’t make the trip to Knoxville and will see if the head coach addresses whatever is going on there. We’ll get an injury update, but I wouldn’t expect either Brenden Bates or Kavosiey Smoke to be back any time soon. However, the elephant in the room will be the status of senior Quinton Bohanna. The starting nose has been playing at an All-SEC level this season and he was forced to miss most of the game Saturday with an unspecified knee injury. It appears that the senior thinks he’ll be back soon.
It will be important to remember this week that new UK defensive line coach Anwar Stewart worked for Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz last year at Appalachian State. That should give the UK defensive staff some intel on just how Drinkwitz would plan to attack a Kentucky defense that has forced 10 turnovers the last eight quarters and currently ranks third in the SEC in yards per play defense.
Second Down: Know the Foe
Missouri surprised a fair amount of people when they decided to pull the plug on alum Barry Odom following a 25-25 record after four seasons. What followed was a messy coaching search that caused athletic director Jim Sterk to totally change course after his initial finalists was criticized heavily.
Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson, Army head coach Jeff Monken, Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz and Nevada head coach Jay Norvell did not inspire confidence as candidates and that caused Sterk to dig deeper.
The result would end up being Mizzou hiring 36-year-old Eli Drinkwitz after just one very successful season as a head coach at App State. The former offensive coordinator at Boise State and NC State is known for his play-calling creativity and he brought in a staff with a lot of experience to go a long with some Odom holdovers.
Through three games, we’ve seen the Tigers make a change at quarterback and that has resulted in this offense becoming much more explosive. Redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak was a blue-chip recruit out of Dayton, Ohio in the class of 2019 and it was someone UK really wanted. The Wildcats were unable to win out in the end with the appeal of following Drew Lock’s path winning out for Bazelak. Now he appears to have a bright, bright future.
The pocket passer is currently averaging 10 yards per attempt and 16 of his completions have gone farther than 15 yards. He lit up LSU in the upset win for Mizzou and played very well off the bench in the loss to Tennessee on the road. An argument could be made that this will be the second best quarterback that Kentucky has seen this season.
— MizzouMade (@MizzouATH2) October 4, 2020
Larry Rountree III has been one of the SEC’s better running backs for awhile now ranks in the top-five in career rushing yards at Missouri. He sets the tone for the offense and if he’s rolling the Tigers are hard to stop. Mizzou has a good offensive line while on the other side inside linebacker Nick Bolton is one of the best defensive players in college football. However, the Tigers rank 10th in the SEC in yards per play allowed and 13th in scoring defense. UK’s offense should be able to have some success on Saturday.
Third Down: Big Plays
When you turn on the Missouri-LSU tape, you see a Mizzou offense that is able to stretch the field vertically. Connor Bazelak has a big arm and he can fit the football in a lot of windows. The Tigers have been able to consistently create big plays, but that figures to play into UK’s hands.
The Wildcats remain one of the best big play defenses in the country. Of teams that have played at least four games, UK leads the country with just three plays of 30-plus yards allowed and only one of those has gone longer than 40. We have yet to have to see Bazelak hit checkdowns underneath consistently and that is what Brad White’s defense will force him to do.
On the other side, Mizzou’s run defense hasn’t been stellar but they haven’t allowed a run to go over 30 yards this season. If UK can’t produce explosive plays on the ground, will they be able to create them through the air? They got away without accomplishing that it in Knoxville, but it figures to be something that they won’t get away with again.
Fourth Down: Expect Creativity
Eli Drinkwitz is a very good play-caller. The young head coach has a unique background as the former high school coach never played a snap in college, but was able to link up with Gus Malzahn at an earlyage. After working for him as a grad assistant at Auburn, he quickly rose up the ranks and is now running a power five program. His offense is a blend of many things.
Drinkwitz will mix in some tempo, but doesn’t go fast all of the time. They can get outside zone heavy like what you’ve seen from Scott Satterfield’s offense at Louisville with play-action deep shots mixed in. He’ll use a ton of motions in nearly every look and is not afraid to get funky with odd formations. He has a boatload of gadget plays and you should expect to see multiple trick plays. He’s used a heavy dose of wildcat formation in the past and will give UK a plethora of looks on Saturday.
UK needs to be ready for a lot on Saturday with plenty of misdirection and other eye candy to work through. This will be a unique challenge and the Wildcats will look to backup the excellent play they’ve put on the field in the past eight quarters.
KSR went down to Somerset this past weekend to see future UK quarterback Kaiya Sheron in action and we were treated to a thriller. The Briar Jumpers squeaked out a win over LCA and we were there to provide all of the sight and sounds.
— Bradley McKee (@Bradley_B_Roll) October 17, 2020
Our own Troy Howell wrapped up the big win for Somerset and will be releasing his high school rankings on KSR later today. Make sure you are on the lookout for that. This week we will be heading to Nelson County when Bardstown hosts Elizabethtown in a battle between two undefeated clubs.
The Kroger KSR Game of the Week is the Battle of Undefeateds:
Elizabethtown vs Bardstown
KSR Radio will be LIVE from Bardstown on Friday pic.twitter.com/aAQpE8eT7q
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) October 18, 2020
The Week Ahead at KSR
Expect an exciting week of football content as we get you ready for Kentucky’s third road game of the season. Make sure you are subscribed to all four of our podcasts: 11 Personnel, Free Money, The Depth Chart Podcast and The KSR Football Podcast. Each will be dropping at a different point some time this week.
Nick Roush will be here all week to provide practice reports, I’ll be dropping the Scouting Report for Missouri on Thursday and Freddie Maggard will be providing his keys to the game along with much, much more. Stay tuned as Kentucky attempts to get its third straight win in Columbia. A victory on Saturday could get the Wildcats back into the top 25 and setup a monster home game against Georgia on Halloween.