Oct 9, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Tyler Badie (1) scores a touchdown against the North Texas Mean Green during the game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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

Sep 4, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eli Drinkwitz on the sidelines against the Central Michigan Chippewas during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri hopes to correct porous run defense vs. North Texas

The Missouri Tigers will try to fix their broken run defense when they host the North Texas Mean Green on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

Missouri (2-3) has allowed 306.6 rushing yards per game, which ranks dead last among FBS schools — about 43 yards per game more than any other team.

This nonconference game at Faurot Field will give the Tigers an opportunity to regroup.

“Every week is a challenge, but for us the biggest challenge is not going to be North Texas, it’s going to be us, and making sure that we have the right frame of mind and play at a high level,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said Tuesday.

Drinkwitz fired defensive line coach Jethro Franklin after the Tigers suffered a 62-24 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 2. The Vols rushed for 458 yards in that game and piled up 683 yards in offense.

“I’ve told the team and the staff Tennessee doesn’t have to define us or this season, but if we let it, it will,” Drinkwitz said. “How you respond to Saturday is going to determine what kind of person you want to be defined as. This fight just started for me.”

North Texas (1-3) will bring a solid rushing attack into this game. DeAndre Torrey rushed for 119 yards on 26 carries in the Mean Green’s 24-17 loss to Louisiana Tech — and he has run for 516 yards and four touchdowns this season.

The Mean Green had a bye week before this game, which gave them an opportunity to work on their sputtering passing attack. They threw for fewer than 100 yards in their losses to UAB and Louisiana Tech, with Austin Aune and Jace Ruder alternating at quarterback. They have combined to complete 49.3 percent of their throws.

“We have struggled in the passing game, which is the product of a few things,” North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. “We have to be better and more accurate at the quarterback position and stretch the field. We also must get on the same page on our deep balls and big-play opportunities. Some of that is guys coming in and out.”

Mean Green receiver Tommy Bush is out for the season after suffering a leg injury against SMU. Receiver Jyaire Shorter remains sidelined with an injury suffered in practice and running back Oscar Adaway III is out with a season-ending knee injury.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) lines up a pass during the first quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee, Missouri attempt to rebound from disappointing losses

Missouri and Tennessee will both seek a bounce-back win when then meet in a Southeastern Conference matchup on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

The Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) are coming off a 38-14 loss at Florida. The Tigers (2-2, 0-1) absorbed a 41-34 overtime defeat at Boston College after tying the game on Harrison Mevis’ 56-yard field goal as time ran out in regulation.

“You cannot hang on to the pain,” Tigers coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “You’ve got to keep moving forward. You cannot hang onto the pain.”

Quarterback Connor Bazelak (300 passing yards per game) and running back Tyler Badie (104.3 rushing yards per game) lead a potent Missouri offense, but the Tigers have given up 269.2 yards per game on the ground to opponents. That ranks No. 129 among the 130 FBS teams.

Tennessee’s upbeat offensive pace concerns Drinkwitz.

“When somebody is snapping the ball three plays every 60 seconds, there are a lot of opportunities for error,” Drinkwitz said. “And they capitalize on those errors.”

The Volunteers will be on the road for a second consecutive week after opening with three home games. They were within 17-14 of the then-No. 11 Gators at the half last week but were blanked 21-0 over the final two quarters.

Hendon Hooker passed for 221 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game after absorbing a hard hit in the fourth quarter. His status for this week was unclear, but coach Josh Heupel said the Virginia Tech transfer was not in concussion protocol.

If Hooker can’t go, Michigan transfer Joe Milton III, who started the first two games, likely will start over Harrison Bailey, who has appeared in only one game. Milton has completed 20 of 43 passes for 243 yards in three outings. Hooker is 46 of 70 for 613 yards with seven touchdowns.

“We’ll see where we’re at during the course of this week and go from there,” Heupel said.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) readies for the snap against the Central Michigan Chippewas during the game at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri passing attack figures to test BC’s defense

Connor Bazelak and the Missouri Tigers look to carry over their momentum from a convincing victory last weekend into their road matchup with nonconference opponent Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Saturday.

Missouri (2-1) blew out in-state foe Southeast Missouri State 59-28 last Saturday behind a big day from Bazelak and the Tigers’ aerial attack. The sophomore quarterback threw for a season-high 346 yards and three touchdowns on 21-of-30 passing.

It was a bounce-back effort for the Tigers after falling 35-28 at Kentucky in their Southeastern Conference opener one week prior. Bazelak had four TD tosses in the game, but also threw a costly third-quarter interception that led to a Wildcats touchdown.

The Tigers rank third in the SEC in total yardage, averaging 513.7 yards per game. Defensively, however, Missouri is allowing a conference-worst 455.7 yards per game.

This marks the first time Missouri will face an Atlantic Coast Conference team since beating North Carolina 41-24 in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26, 2011. The Tigers are 5-4 all-time against ACC opponents.

“Any time (a nonconference team is) playing against an SEC opponent, you’re going to get their best effort and their best shot. I mean, it’s the best conference in college football for a reason,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “It’s going to be a much different opponent with a much different skill set, much bigger.”

Boston College (3-0) has opened the season with three consecutive victories against nonconference opponents. Last Saturday, the Eagles put together a complete effort in a 28-3 win at Temple.

Three different running backs scored touchdowns as the Eagles outrushed the hosts 179-84. BC’s defense — which ranks No. 6 overall in the country while allowing 10.3 points per game — recorded four sacks while keeping the Owls out of the end zone.

In their first game without starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec, senior Dennis Grosel completed 7-of-15 passes for 59 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Jurkovec, a redshirt junior, is sidelined after undergoing hand surgery and could miss the remainder of the season.

It was a run-heavy gameplan for the Eagles as Grosel continues to get acclimated in the offense. In the teams’ 45-28 win at UMass on Sept. 11, Grosel threw for 199 yards and a TD on 11-of-14 passing in the Eagles’ second of three tune-up games.

“We’re just going to open the playbook back up to stuff we know how to do and let it fly,” Grosel said. “We’re facing a better opponent. We still have a lot of stuff in our back pocket. Probably 75 percent of our stuff we haven’t even shown yet, and it’s good stuff.”

It is the first-ever meeting between the Tigers and Eagles, who are 14-20-1 all-time against SEC teams. Missouri is the first SEC opponent to travel to face Boston College since the Eagles hosted Tennessee on Oct. 31, 1987. BC has not faced an SEC team since its Music City Bowl matchup against Vanderbilt on Dec. 31, 2008.

–Field Level Media

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis hands off in the second half against the ULM Warhawks on Saturday at Kroger Field in Lexington.

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Missouri braces for explosive Kentucky offense

Kentucky will give its new-look offense a bigger test Saturday when SEC East rival Missouri comes to Lexington.

The Wildcats (1-0, 0-0 SEC) throttled Louisiana Monroe 45-10 in their opener while the Tigers (1-0, 0-0) got past Central Michigan, 34-24.

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, a transfer from Penn State, completed 18 of 26 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns for first-year coordinator Liam Coen, who came to the Wildcats from the Los Angeles Rams.

Chris Rodriguez rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown and receivers Josh Ali and Wan’Dale Robinson combined to catch 10 passes for 261 yards and three scores.

The Wildcats’ explosive season-opening debut got the attention of Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz.

“Totally different style, totally different feel,” Drinkwitz said. “(They) execute it at a high level, shifts, motions formation. Vertical shots, intermediate, middle-field throws, quick game, got the whole package.

“The only thing that’s a surprise to me is how quickly they’ve gotten to where they’re at. Sometimes when you come in as a new offensive coordinator, to make such drastic change, it’s kind of hard to get in that quickly. But they’re humming on all cylinders right now.”

Coen crossed paths with first-year Missouri defensive coordinator Steve Wilks in the NFL. Wilks was head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, then defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns

His defenses at Missouri look similar.

“They want to try to stop the run and challenge you on the perimeter to throw the football and challenge you to win one-on-one matchups,” Coen said. “That’s something that we have to try to defeat.”

But Missouri’s new-look defense had its hands full with Central Michigan. The Tigers yielded 475 yards offense, including 301 in the air.

The Tigers played turnover-free football on offense and got a breakout performance from running back Tyler Badie, who stepped into the starting role with 203 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

Connor Bazelak completed 21 of 32 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns, but the Tigers converted just one of their 11 third-down opportunities.

The Wildcats had won five consecutive games in the series until last season, when the Tigers won 20-10.

“Eli and I have built a friendship and I like him, but he kicked our butt,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “He kicked our butt. I’m not going to forget — that’s on my mind. He had his team more prepared than I was.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Tyler Badie (1) scores a touchdown as Central Michigan Chippewas linebacker Nick Apsey (32) attempts the tackle during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri gets past Central Michigan to win season opener

Tyler Badie compiled 224 all-purpose and scored two touchdowns to lead the Missouri Tigers past the Central Michigan Chippewas 34-24 Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak completed 21 of 31 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns.

The Chippewas played without head coach Jim McElwain, who underwent an appendectomy earlier in the week. Assistant head coach Tim Skipper guided the team in his absence.

Jacob Sirmon, a transfer from Washington, completed 23 of 46 passes for 292 yards and one touchdown in his first start for Central Michigan. Lew Nicholls III rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Central Michigan piled up 465 offensive yards, but two interceptions and 10 penalties for 80 yards undermined its upset bid.

Missouri scored just 29 seconds into the game. After Bazelak hit a 63-yard pass to D’ionte Smith, Badie scored on a 12-yard run.

Central Michigan immediately countered with a five-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game 7-7. Sirmon capped it with a 7-yard touchdown pass to JaCorey Sullivan.

The Chippewas moved ahead 14-7 with 6:08 left in the first half. Nicholls got the 88-yard drive rolling with a 27-yard run and he capped it with an 18-yard TD burst.

The Tigers responded with Bazelak’s swing pass to Badie for a 30-yard touchdown. Then Harrison Mevis hit a 53-yard field goal to put Missouri up 17-14 at the half.

Elijah Young’s 32-yard touchdown run pushed Missouri’s lead to 24-14 in the third quarter.

With Sirmon knocked out of the game for one play, back-up quarterback Daniel Richardson threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Sullivan to cut the lead to 24-21 with 11:52 left.

Bazelak’s 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Niko Hea restored Missouri’s 10-point lead.

Marshall Meeder’s 51-yard field goal cut Central Michigan’s deficit to 31-24, but Mevis answered with a 44-yard field goal with 59 seconds left.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; A general view of several Missouri Tigers helmets during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri OL J’Marion Gooch medically disqualified

Freshman offensive lineman J’Marion Gooch will not play at Missouri because of unspecified medical reasons, coach Eli Drinkwitz said Thursday.

The medical issue surfaced during a team physical.

Gooch was the No. 52 offensive lineman in the 2021 class, according to 247Sports, but he had more than two dozen scholarship offers, including from seven Southeastern Conference programs.

The 6-foot-7, 358-pound Gooch committed to Auburn, then flipped to Tennessee, before choosing Missouri.

He played at The King’s Academy in Seymour, Tenn., before transferring cross-state to Gallatin High School last fall.

–Field Level Media

Mar 6, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; The Missouri Tigers Golden Girls perform during the first half of the game against the LSU Tigers at Mizzou Arena. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Missouri to hire Desiree Reed-Francois as AD

Missouri is in the process of hiring Desiree Reed-Francois as its new athletic director, according to multiple reports.

Reed-Francois has been athletic director at UNLV for the past four-plus years. She will replace Jim Sterk, who announced his resignation last month.

Reed-Francois, 49, will be the first woman AD at Missouri and, because of her Hispanic heritage, the first person of color in that role.

Reed-Francois recently signed a four-year extension at UNLV that runs through June 30, 2026. Published reports say the deal called for $420,000 in annual base salary.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sterk was making $700,000 in base salary.

Reed-Francois recently hired Kevin Kruger, son of Lon, as UNLV’s basketball coach.

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on the field before the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Rams coach Scott Linehan joins Missouri staff

Former NFL head coach Scott Linehan is joining the staff at Missouri as an offensive analyst.

“Scott Linehan is an exciting addition to our staff,” head caoch Eliah Drinkwitz said Thursday. “He’s a true veteran of the profession with experience at a variety of levels. We all look forward to working with him.”

Linehan, 57, has more than 30 years coaching experience in college and the NFL, beginning as wide receivers coach at Idaho in 1989, and his long career includes serving as the head coach of the then-St. Louis Rams from 2006-08. The Rams were 11-25 during his tenure.

In 2020, he was the passing game coordinator at LSU, following four seasons as the offensive coordinator and one as passing game coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys (2014-18). During his time in Dallas, the Cowboys won three NFC East titles.

Linehan becomes the third coach with NFL experience hired by Drinkwitz this offseason.

In January, the Tigers added Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator and Jethro Franklin as defensive line coach.

Wilks, with more than 25 years of experience in the college and pro ranks, was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.

Franklin, a coach for 29 years, most recently worked with the defensive lines of the then-Oakland Raiders (2015-17) and Seattle Seahawks (2018-19).

Linehan’s son, Matt, also is on the staff as a graduate assistant. Like his father, Matt Linehan played quarterback at Idaho.

“I have great respect for Coach Drinkwitz and his vision for our program,” Scott Linehan said. “Mentoring collegiate players is an aspect of the profession I’ve always enjoyed and I’m thankful for this new role. Additionally, the opportunity to work with my son, Matt, as he begins his coaching career is truly special.”

The elder Linehan’s career also includes stops as offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions.

The Tigers were 5-5 last season in the first season for Drinkwitz.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz calls a timeout during the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Wednesday’s Music City Bowl ‘highly unlikely’

This week’s Music City Bowl between Missouri and Iowa is “highly unlikely” due to an uptick in COVID-19 numbers with the Tigers, The Athletic reported Sunday.

The Tigers (5-5) are scheduled to face the No. 15 Hawkeyes (6-2) on Wednesday afternoon in Nashville, Tenn.

Missouri lost its final two games of the regular season, including a 51-32 decision at Mississippi State on Dec. 19.

Iowa won its last six games after opening the Big Ten campaign with losses to Purdue and Northwestern.

–Field Level Media