Sep 26, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers linebacker Nick Bolton (32) celebrates after a tackle during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri LB Bolton to skip senior season, prep for draft

Missouri and all-Southeastern Conference linebacker Nick Bolton announced Monday that he’s opting out of the Tigers’ bowl game — and his senior season — to begin prep for the 2021 NFL draft.

Bolton, a junior, is expected to be a first-round selection and is ESPN’s No. 3 prospect at inside linebacker.

“After prayer and conversation with my family, I’ve decided to forego my senior season, and will not be participating in the bowl game. I’m excited to chase my childhood dream and start preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft,” Bolton posted on Twitter.

Bolton leads the Tigers in tackles with 95, good for fifth in the SEC. He was first All-SEC last year and is expected to repeat that honor this year. He has five sacks and six passes defended.

Missouri (5-5) is scheduled to play Iowa in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz watches play from the sidelines during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mizzou looks to boost bowl resume at Mississippi State

Missouri concludes its quest for favorable bowl placement on Saturday afternoon at Mississippi State.

The Tigers (5-4) were No. 25 in last week’s College Football Playoff ranking before losing to Georgia 49-14. They will get one of the Southeastern Conference’s bowl berths, but the outcome in Starkville, Miss., could determine which one.

“We’re going bowling,” first-year Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “We’re excited about going bowling. It’s an awesome opportunity for our team to get a chance to continue this journey together and play another game.”

Meanwhile the Bulldogs (2-7) battled adversity throughout a difficult year marked by COVID-19 complications. They fell 24-10 to Auburn last Saturday for their third consecutive loss.

“In the end, together with all the commotion and clutter, we’ve created one of the most joyless seasons on Earth,” first-year Bulldogs coach Mike Leach said. “And hopefully we have the presence of mind not to repeat it this way again.”

But Leach is hoping the Bulldogs can create a positive ending by beating Mizzou.

“They’re starting to play together better and better with the disruptions,” he said. “I think (winning) would be huge. We’ve been on the threshold of that against some really good teams for the last several weeks.”

While Leach is open to filling one of the bowl vacancies — sub-.500 teams are eligible this season — Drinkwitz is emphatic about playing on.

“We’re going to be in a great game because of the type of season we had,” Drinkwitz said. “Bowl games are still a reward for the season you had.”

Missouri is coping with injuries across its defensive front. Trajan Jeffcoat, Kobie Whiteside, Markell Utsey and Chris Turner are all questionable to play in this game.

The depleted Tigers have struggled to stop the run in their last two games, allowing Arkansas to rush for 292 yards and Georgia to rush for 316. But they will face a passing blizzard with the Bulldogs operating Leach’s familiar spread offense.

“He’s committed to throwing the football and does it at a really high level,” Drinkwitz said. “They supplement their run scheme with tunnel screens, which helps them slow down the pass rush.”

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers has completed 71.1 percent of his passes this season for 1,533 yards and seven touchdowns. Jaden Walley emerged as his top receiving target with 43 catches for 562 yards, a school record for freshmen.

“Their progression throughout the year, you can tell they are getting more comfortable in their scheme,” Drinkwitz said of the Bulldogs. “They found their quarterback and he’s doing an excellent job for them. He knows exactly where the ball is supposed to go. They have some dynamic wide receivers. You can just tell that offensively they are hitting their stride.”

The Tigers try to balance the power running of Larry Rountree III (851 yards, 12 touchdowns this season) with some pro-style passing with Connor Bazelak (2,141 yards and five touchdowns).

“They’re aggressive both sides of the ball,” Leach said. “They have an aggressive run game on offense. Defense, they put a heavy front up there and like to play man coverage and try to be physical about it. It’s not a situation where they’re trying to fool you. They’re pretty aggressive and right out there in your face.”

Mississippi State defensive end Marquiss Spencer will miss the game after suffering a scary head or neck injury against Auburn. He regained body movement at the hospital, but he remained under observation.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back James Cook (4) runs for a touchdown against Missouri Tigers safety Tyree Gillespie (9) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Daniels paces No. 9 Georgia in rout of No. 25 Missouri

JT Daniels passed for 299 yards and three touchdowns as No. 9 Georgia rolled to a 49-14 victory over No. 25 Missouri on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

George Pickens caught five passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs (7-2) won their third consecutive game.

Zamir White rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown, Daijun Edwards ran for 103 yards and a score and James Cook had both a receiving and rushing touchdown.

Connor Bazelak passed for 139 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Tigers (5-4).

The Bulldogs scored 35 unanswered points after the Tigers tied the game at 14 late in the first half. Overall, Georgia held a pronounced advantage in total yards (615-200) and first downs (28-11).

Eric Stokes intercepted Bazelak’s second pass of the game and returned it 27 yards to the Missouri 23. The Bulldogs ran six consecutive rushing plays and Kenny McIntosh scored from 2 yards out as Georgia moved ahead 7-0.

The Bulldogs drove 89 yards on their second possession to make it 14-0. Cook capped the drive with a 37-yard touchdown catch.

The Tigers countered with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that cut Georgia’s lead in half. The big play was a 29-yard pass from receiver Keke Chism to Messiah Swinson — after Chism caught a lateral pass from Bazelak.

Bazelak scored on a 2-yard run on the next play.

Georgia dodged danger with 2:50 left in the half. Kearis Jackson muffed a punt, but the Bulldogs recovered the ball on their 18-yard line.

But their next special teams mishap cost them. Jason Carmada’s punt was blocked by Mason Pack and advanced to the Georgia 1-yard line by Will Norris.

Larry Rountree III ran the ball in from there as Missouri tied the game at 14 with 1:20 left in the half.

The Bulldogs responded with a rapid-fire 75-yard drive to take a 21-14 lead into the half. Pickens made a spectacular 36-yard touchdown catch with 37 seconds left in the second quarter.

Georgia opened the second half with another 75-yard scoring drive. Daniels capped it with another touchdown pass to Pickens, this time for 31 yards, as the Bulldogs expanded their lead to 28-14.

White’s 43-yard touchdown run vaulted the Bulldogs to a 35-14 lead and the rout was on. Georgia made it 42-14 with Cook’s 9-yard TD run, then Edwards scored on a 6-yard run as the Bulldogs pushed their lead to 49-14.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Connor Bazelak (8) drops back to pass as Arkansas Razorbacks defensive lineman Julius Coates (13) defends during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Mevis’ FG lifts Missouri past Arkansas

The Missouri Tigers continued to put distance between themselves and their 0-2 start to the 2020 football season on Saturday as they won their third straight and fifth out of the last six by beating Arkansas 50-48 at Faurot Field in Columbia.

The Tigers (5-3) claimed the Battle Line Trophy in a game that was a cross-divisional matchup in the SEC and moved from Nov. 28 to Saturday because of COVID-19 situations.

Mizzou won the game with a 32-yard field goal by Harrison Mevis as time expired.

The SEC West’s Razorbacks, meanwhile, are heading the other way as the loss was their third straight and dropped them to 3-6 on the season. The loss was a killer as Arkansas had grabbed a 48-47 lead on a two-point conversion with 43 seconds to go.

The Tigers were led by their 1-2 offensive punch of quarterback Connor Bazelak and running back Larry Rountree III.

Bazelak, who is now 6-1 as a starter, passed for 380 yards. He was 32 of 49. Keke Chism had six of those catches for 113 yards.

Rountree carried the ball 27 times for 185 yards.

The Mizzou defense was not nearly as tough as it was a week ago in the 41-0 rout of Vanderbilt but played well enough on Saturday when it mattered — in the final quarter when it made enough stops to enable the Tigers to come back from a 40-33 deficit with just under 10 minutes to go.

Arkansas got bad news before the game when it was announced that starting quarterback Feleipe Franks would not play because of a rib injury. Franks was coming off a career-high 339 yards against LSU. He had passed for 200 yards or more in every game this season.

Getting the start and playing the whole game in Franks’ place was KJ Jefferson.

Jefferson, getting his second start, played well. Almost well enough to get his team a victory. He completed 18 of 33 attempts for 274 yards and three TDs.

Treylon Burks caught 10 balls for 206 yards for Arkansas.

Trelon Smith had a big game, rushing for 172 yards on 26 carries.

The two teams combined for over 1,200 total yards.

Next Saturday, the Tigers play a home game against the Georgia Bulldogs, who entered the weekend ranked No. 8. Arkansas will host top-ranked and undefeated Alabama. Both games were rescheduled because of COVID-19 situations.

Dec. 12 was originally supposed to serve as an open date in the SEC schedule.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz looks on from the sidelines during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri looking for another statement as it welcomes Arkansas

Never mind that the Missouri Tigers tossed a dominating shutout at SEC rival Vanderbilt last time out.

Their victory might be best remembered by the college world as the answer to a trivia question because it featured the first on-field performance by a woman in a Power Five football game.

This weekend, the Tigers (4-3) have a chance to make a statement of their own as a victory against Arkansas (3-5) will give MU a third straight win and a fifth in its last six games.

“We’ve got a little bit of momentum so I anticipate a great football game,” first year Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who coached Appalachian State to a 12-1 record a year ago, said.

Lost in the national frenzy created when Vanderbilt put female soccer goalie Sarah Fuller into the game to kick off in the second half, was a complete performance by MU in the 41-0 win at Faurot Field in Columbia.

Led by freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak and running back Larry Rountree III, Missouri piled up 380 yards passing and 223 yards rushing. The Tigers were penalized just once.

Drinkwitz called the Arkansas matchup “a litmus test” for his team and talked about the “need to put a great product on the field that our fans can be proud of” on Saturday.

The kind of product his team put up last week.

“They’re very big, very physical on the offensive line,” Razorbacks head coach Sam Pittman, in his first year with Arkansas, said. “They like to run the ball. Coach Drinkwitz does a great job of keeping you off balance. Bazalak is getting better each week. Rountree is a very, very solid, tough, physical runner.”

The zero in the points-against column and the total yardage allowed number of 185 speaks for itself even if it was against a winless Vandy team.

“Defensively they run to the football,” Pittman said.

Arkansas will arrive in Columbia a week after an oh-so-close loss to defending national champion LSU.

The Razorbacks outplayed the Tigers for most of the game and led late in the fourth quarter. But a 13-yard touchdown pass with 3:59 to play gave LSU a 27-24 lead. Arkansas had a shot to push the game into overtime but its field-goal attempt from 44 yards out was blocked with 1:30 remaining.

Senior quarterback Feleipe Franks posted his best numbers of the season — he went 17-of-26 for 339 yards, a touchdown and one interception.

“They’ve been in every single game,” Drinkwitz said of the Razorbacks. “Their grad-transfer quarterback, Feleipe Franks, is playing as well as any quarterback in the league, maybe except for the young man at Florida and the young man at Alabama.”

The game was originally scheduled to be played on Nov. 28 but was moved back because of COVID-19 problems at Arkansas. Both coaches are hoping to be near full-strength on Saturday, but pressed on that, Drinkwitz knocked on his wooden podium.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers wide receiver Jalen Knox (9) runs the ball against Vanderbilt Commodores cornerback Jaylen Mahoney (23) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Rountree fuels Missouri’s 41-0 rout of Vanderbilt

Larry Rountree III rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns and Missouri rolled over winless Vanderbilt 41-0 in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, Mo.

Connor Bazelak completed 30 of 37 passes for 318 yards and running back Tyler Badie caught seven passes for 102 yards for the Tigers (4-3).

With their regular placekickers in COVID-19 quarantine, the Commodores (0-8) made history by turning to Vanderbilt women’s soccer goalkeeper Sarah Fuller.

Fuller kicked off to start the second half to become the first female player to compete in a Power 5 conference football game. She did not get to attempt a field goal or extra point.

Missouri outgained Vanderbilt 603-179 in total yardage and built a 31-13 edge in first downs.

On the game’s opening possession, the Commodores failed to convert a fourth-and-1 at their 44-yard line. The Tigers quickly countered to take a 7-0 lead, with Rountree capping a six-play drive with a 7-yard TD run.

Missouri doubled its lead to 14-0 with an 82-yard march in the second quarter. Bazelak went 5-for-5 passing for 41 yards and Rountree finished it with another 7-yard scoring run.

The Tigers pushed their halftime lead to 21-0 with an 80-yard drive late in the second quarter. Badie caught passes for 24 and 27 yards to reach the Vanderbilt 1-yard line, then he ran the ball in from there.

Missouri’s onslaught continued in the second half. The Tigers took Fuller’s opening kickoff and advanced downfield for a 21-yard Harrison Mevis field goal and a 24-0 lead.

Vanderbilt finally moved closer to scoring range in the third quarter, but running back Keyon Henry-Brooks fumbled at the Missouri 34-yard line.

The Tigers converted that mishap into a 27-0 lead. Rountree’s 23-yard run set up a 44-yard field goal by Mevis.

Missouri made it 34-0 just 31 seconds into the fourth quarter. After Badie raced 21 yards with a reception, Rountree rushed 25 yards for his third touchdown.

Backup quarterback Brady Cook’s 25-yard pass to Damon Hazelton made it 41-0 with 6:46 to play.

–Field Level Media

Mar 12, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey speaks on the cancelation of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

COVID-19 concerns cause SEC to alter Saturday schedule

The Arkansas at Missouri football game, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, resulting in Vanderbilt taking the Razorbacks’ place in Columbia, Mo., against Mizzou that day, the Southeastern Conference announced Monday.

The switch from the Razorbacks to the Commodores was necessitated due to combination of positive tests, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Arkansas football program, consistent with the SEC’s COVID-19 management requirements.

Vanderbilt was slated to play Tennessee on Saturday, but that game also was postponed. The Vanderbilt-Missouri game is a rescheduling of the teams’ meeting that was postponed on Oct. 17. Revamping the matchup gives all of the SEC’s 14 teams the best chance of playing all 10 games on their schedules, according to the league office.

It’s unclear when the Arkansas-Missouri and Tennessee-Vanderbilt games would be held, but the SEC included Dec. 19 as a date that could be used to play games that were postponed during the season. The SEC title game is scheduled for that day, but teams that aren’t playing for the championship in Atlanta could finish their regular seasons then. Missouri also had its Nov. 14 game against Georgia postponed due to COVID-19 issues.

“As we continue to adapt to the current realities, it important to remain flexible as we move forward in the final weeks of the season,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “Contact tracing continues to be the biggest contributing factor to game interruptions. We will continue to manage the remaining weeks of the football schedule to allow for as many games to be played as possible.”

It’s the second time in three weeks that Tennessee has had a game postponed due to COVID-19. The Volunteers’ home game against Texas A&M was moved from Nov. 14 to Dec. 12.

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Georgia head coach Kirby Smart works with his team before the game with Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

SEC Saturday loses fourth game, Mizzou-Georgia, to COVID

A rough week continues for the Southeastern Conference with the league announcing a fourth game scheduled for Saturday will be postponed due to COVID-19.

Missouri, scheduled to host Georgia on Saturday, is facing numerous positive tests, and the conference moved to postpone the game.

“The Georgia at Missouri FB game of Nov. 14 is postponed due to positive tests, contact tracing & subsequent quarantine of individuals within the Missouri FB program,” the SEC announced via Twitter on Wednesday morning. “The action is consistent with SEC COVID-19 management requirements.”

Earlier this week, LSU-Alabama, Auburn-Mississippi State and Tennessee-Texas A&M were called off. There is a chance Alabama-LSU will not be made up, the league said Wednesday, because of scheduling issues.

Three SEC games haven’t been impacted Saturday. Vanderbilt and Kentucky are scheduled to play in Lexington, South Carolina plays at Ole Miss and Arkansas visits Gainesville to play No. 6 Florida.

–Field Level Media

Nov 9, 2019; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver George Pickens (1) scores past Missouri Tigers safety Tyree Gillespie (9) during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

QB a mystery for No. 12 Georgia against Missouri

No. 12 Georgia and Missouri, victimized on back-to-back weeks by the high-scoring Florida Gators, will try to rediscover their winning ways when they meet on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

Georgia (4-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) scored the first 14 points against the Gators before dropping a 44-28 decision last week in Jacksonville, Fla. Missouri (2-3, 2-3) was hammered by the Gators 41-17 on Oct. 31 and did not play last week.

Georgia leads the all-time series against Missouri 8-1. The Bulldogs have won the past six meetings, including 27-0 in Athens in 2019. Missouri’s only victory came in 2013 at Athens. The teams played only once before Missouri joined the SEC in 2012, a 14-0 Bulldogs win in the 1960 Orange Bowl.

The big question for Georgia is at quarterback. Starter Stetson Bennett took a hard hit and injured his shoulder on Saturday. He left the game in favor of D’Wan Mathis, who struggled as a starter in the season opener against Arkansas and has seen limited playing time since.

Bennett is listed as questionable for this week’s game. Coach Kirby Smart would not commit to a starter early this week, leaving speculation that Mathis, highly regarded transfer JT Daniels or even freshman Carson Beck might get an opportunity.

“The one who does the best job will be ready to play, and if Stetson is ready to play and he does the best job …” Smart said.

There has been growing discontent with Bennett, a smaller quarterback who has had issues throwing over tall defensive linemen. The 5-foot-11 Bennett has passed for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions; he was 5-for-16 for 78 yards against Florida before his injury.

The Georgia defense was able to get pressure against Florida, but the secondary had trouble covering a basic wheel route and Gators quarterback Kyle Trask easily found the mismatches in coverage. Trask threw for 474 yards and four touchdowns.

“It’s a lot of things that we need to do,” Georgia junior cornerback Eric Stokes said. “As a leader on the team, I need to do better, too. We need to make sure the team is doing the little things right so we can be ready on Saturday.”

Missouri has been more effective on offense since turning to quarterback Connor Bazelak, who has been No. 1 at the spot since entering the game in the first half against Tennessee on Oct. 3. Bazelak has thrown for 1,101 yards and four touchdowns.

The Tigers have also settled on Larry Rountree III as their featured back, and he has rushed for 432 yards and four touchdowns. However, there are questions about the offensive line, which will be using its ninth different player this week.

The Tigers are without tackle Larry Borom (lower leg injury) and guard Xavier Delgado (ankle procedure). Tackle Dylan Spencer was one of three players — along with defensive tackle Markell Utsey and reserve linebacker Chad Bailey — suspended for the first half by the SEC for their role in a halftime brawl against Florida.

“We’ve got a lot of names. We’ve got practice,” coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “We’ll work on it. I think we’ve got nine scholarship offensive linemen, and whoever else is available to play that position, we’ll get them ready to play.”

The Missouri defense will try to get pressure on whoever Georgia starts at quarterback. Trajan Jeffcoat leads the Tigers with three sacks and seven hurries.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA;  Florida head coach Dan Mullen, far right, is held back by coaches and law enforcement after a fight broke out at the end of the first half during a game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

Fracas costs Florida’s Mullen $25K

Florida head coach Dan Mullen was fined $25,000 and multiple players were disciplined by the Southeastern Conference on Monday for the fight between the Gators and Missouri Tigers on Saturday.

According to NCAA Football Playing Rule 9.5.1.b., player ejections for fighting carry an automatic half-game suspension for the next game.

Mullen will not be suspended, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced, but Florida defensive lineman Zach Carter and linebacker Antwuan Powell are forced to sit for the first half of this week’s game against No. 4 Georgia.

“There is no place in college football for the kind of incident that took place at halftime of the Missouri at Florida game Saturday night,” Sankey said. “Everyone involved is responsible for meeting sportsmanship standards throughout each game. Running on the field to confront a game official, the gathering of teams in an on-field confrontation and student-athletes throwing punches are all disappointing at any time, but even more so as we work to support healthy competition during a pandemic.”

Sparked by a late hit absorbed by Gators quarterback Kyle Trask, a fracas broke out involving multiple players on each team. Mullen left the sideline and was captured by TV cameras shouting at Missouri players.

Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey, offensive lineman Dylan Spencer and defensive lineman Markell Utsey will all miss the first half Missouri’s next game, Nov. 14 against Georgia.

The Gators defeated the Tigers 41-17.

–Field Level Media