Vanderbilt, Missouri duel for first SEC victory of season
The Vanderbilt Commodores and Missouri Tigers will battle for their first Southeastern Conference victory of the season Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.
The Commodores (2-6 overall, 0-4 in the SEC) are coming off a rough 45-6 loss at home to Mississippi State. That was their 17th consecutive defeat in conference play.
“Certainly it’s difficult sometimes when you’re building something that’s aiming toward sustained success and long-term success. The challenge of the short-term judgment is what it is,” first-year Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea said. “We have to get ourselves back up, we have to stay together and we’ve gotta keep fighting. This group will do that.”
The Tigers (3-4, 0-3) had a bye week to prepare for this game after falling to Texas A&M 35-14 on Oct. 16. They have lost their first three conference games for the first time since 2018.
Missouri’s last two losses have come by the combined score of 97-38.
“I haven’t had my butt whipped like that before,” second-year Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “Figuring out what is that combination, why is that, what is my ownership of that, how do I fix it? At the end of the day the ownership lies with me, so I’ve got to continue to find ways to take lessons from losses.”
This game matches Vanderbilt’s struggling run offense against Missouri’s vulnerable run defense.
The Commodores rushed for just nine yards on 17 carries against Mississippi State while the Tigers yielded 283 yards on 42 runs to Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt ranks 121st in the FBS with 99.8 yards rushing per game. Missouri ranks 129th in rushing defense with 286.6 rushing yards allowed per game.
Commodores quarterback Ken Seals passed for 1,086 yards and five touchdowns before suffering a finger injury on Oct. 9. On Tuesday Lea said Seals remained “week to week” in his recovery and that he will be evaluated in practice this week.
Mike Wright (423 yards, two touchdowns passing) has started in his place. Lea said Wright will remain the starter “until Ken shows us he can perform.”
The Tigers are fighting to overcome self-inflicted wounds — turnovers and penalties. Quarterback Connor Bazelak has thrown five interceptions in SEC play and Missouri is being penalized 62.4 yards per league game.
“Turnovers have played a big issue in not providing good field position for our defense,” Drinkwitz said. “I think that’s been key. And then penalties on drives. We’ve had multiple penalties on our first drives in the two SEC games that have derailed drives and/or led to turnovers. And those cannot happen.”
On the plus side for the Tigers, running back Tyler Badie has rushed for 735 yards and nine touchdowns. He has 32 receptions for 265 yards and four TDs.
On the injury front, Missouri guard Case Cook, defensive end Chris Turner and special teamer Mason Pack will miss the rest of the season.
“We have who we have, and we have to continue to improve on our techniques and our fundamentals,” Drinkwitz said.
–Field Level Media