LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops should expect a hard-fought game against Missouri based on the teams’ recent history.
The Wildcats (3-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) have won the last four meetings against the Tigers (5-2, 2-1), with the past two decided by six points or less. That includes last year’s 15-14 victory in Columbia with Terry Wilson’s short touchdown pass to C.J. Conrad on an untimed down.
The Wildcats look to extend their streak Saturday night, though Stoops knows it won’t be easy.
“They’re very similar to the way they have been,” the coach said. “You really look at them and they play hard, they really have some guys up front that I really respect the way they play. They play tough, they play physical, and it doesn’t surprise me.”
Kentucky needs to find the end zone against the Tigers after being shut out 21-0 at Georgia.
The Wildcats have lost four of their last five, though they can still earn a fourth consecutive postseason berth. But they need to put their first shutout loss in seven years and first under Stoops behind them.
“That’s what motivates us,” Stoops added. “That’s what’s fun about it and exciting about it, getting ready for the next challenge. And you better be ready because this league gives no mercy.”
Just ask Missouri, which learned that hard lesson in last week’s 21-14 loss at Vanderbilt.
After entering the rankings at No. 22 behind five consecutive home wins, the Tigers were held 25 points below their scoring average. Vandy also recorded three sacks, which makes pass protection among the areas to be corrected in their second consecutive road game.
“Our team has learned about itself,” Tigers coach Barry Odom said this week. “We had a setback and we’ve learned from our experiences and understand that the task at hand is so important to stay dialed in and focused and understand the urgency to do the habits. Then, showcase those on Saturday when given the opportunity.”
Some other things to watch when Missouri visits Kentucky:
RUNNING WITH LYNN
Kentucky all-purpose player Lynn Bowden has started the past two games at quarterback in place of injured Sawyer Smith and shown impressive skills as a rusher. He has 295 yards on the ground the past two games, including 196 with two scores in a 24-20 win over Arkansas. Bowden leads the SEC in all-purpose yards with an average of 142.1 per game.
Missouri running back Larry Rountree III was held to just 29 rushing yards in last week’s loss to Vandy and looks to regroup against the Wildcats. Rountree ranks fifth in the SEC with 586 yards rushing.
Stoops is hopeful that Sawyer Smith can return this week to give the Wildcats’ offense more balance in the passing game. Kentucky attempted just one pass in the second half of last week’s loss to Georgia.
“This week we got to, again, look at the best options, all options to help us move the football,” Stoops said, “and hopefully Sawyer will be back to near 100%.”
THE BRYANT FACTOR
Former Clemson signal caller Kelly Bryant has thrown for 1,715 yards and five touchdowns for the Tigers this season. He threw for 140 yards against the Commodores and rushed for 72 but aims to bounce back from a third-quarter interception in the end zone along with those sacks.
NO DEEP PASSES
The Wildcats have yet to give up a pass play of 40-plus yards this season and are one of seven FBS teams who haven’t allowed a deep ball this year. Since the start of the 2018 season, Kentucky and Washington are tied for the fewest pass plays allowed over 40 yards with four each.
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