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Mark Stoops on Missouri: “They play tough, they play physical.”

Lynn Bowden will be looking for more running room against Missouri Saturday night.  (Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — Anytime Kentucky and Missouri meet on the gridiron it’s sure to be a close contest.

It’s happened the last two times the two Southeastern Conference rivals have met, including last season when Terry Wilson’s last-minute touchdown pass to C.J. Conrad gave the Wildcats a 15-14 victory over the Tigers in Columbia. In a previous meeting two years ago in Lexington, Kentucky yanked out a 40-34 victory.

Overall, the Wildcats (3-4, 1-4 SEC) have won four in a row over Missouri, with the largest margin of victory coming in 2016 when Kentucky posted a 35-21 triumph in Columbia. Despite the recent advantages, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops is expecting a close encounter Saturday night at Kroger Field.

“They’re very similar to the way they have been,” he said. “And one thing I think 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 is coming off a 21-0 setback to No. 10 Georgia last weekend in Lynn Bowden’s second career start art quarterback. The Wildcats struggled throwing the ball and Stoops hinted earlier this week the Wildcats need to have more balance on offense and is hopeful starting quarterback Sawyer Smith will return in the pocket.

Stoops added his squad has put the Bulldogs on the back burner and looking ahead to the Tigers.

“We’ve moved on and that’s what motivates us, that’s what’s fun about it and exciting about it is getting ready for the next challenge,” Stoops said. “And you better be ready because this league gives no mercy.”

Kentucky’s defensive has played well this season and held Georgia scoreless through the first two-plus quarters last week. The Wildcats are just one of seven FBS teams that have yet to give up a pass play of 40 or more yards this season.

“I’m very pleased with the progress,” Stoops said. “The way the defense is improving, certain guys are improving, that is very good to see. I feel like there were some inconsistencies at times this year with our standards as far as how hard we play. I think these guys are understanding that, playing very hard and playing more and more confident, and so I’m pleased with that progress. If we keep that mentality for the second part of the season and continue to improve, I like our chances.”

The Wildcats will have to deal with a dual-threat signal caller in former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant who rushed for a team-high 72 yards in Missouri’s 21-14 loss to Vanderbilt.

“It’s going to be difficult, it is what it is, our guys understand that,” he said. “So it’s just a new challenge, it’s the challenge of the week and Kelly’s had a really good year and can make all the throws, he can certainly hurt you with the run game.”

Stoops is hopeful the Wildcats can continue the recent success against the Tigers before next week’s bye, the second of the season.

“it’s an important game (and) it is important to get this victory,” the Kentucky coach said. “It’s the next game. And the bye week is what it is. I’ll tell you after game if we go play really well and I wish we were ready to go play the next week will. It’s just hard to tell.”

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Gametracker: Missouri at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m. Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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  1. Difficult to feel real good about our chances today. Mizzou controls most of key stats to date. Stoops just can’t get team to start a game with fire and production. I think we are currently ranked #62 in country and he is 19th highest paid coach. We need to win this game today and play our way into bowl game rather than backing in. Go K-State..it can be done.

    1. Hey Mike what happened to your Mizzou boys with all them key stats. You wrong again, as usual. You need to learn to pop off after the game. Amother win for Stoops.

      1. Sorry Pup but your boy Gran still leaves a lot to be desired. He can’t resist pounding the middle when nothing there, isn’t smart enough to employ a short passing game or take more advantage of his tight ends or Wagner in the passing game. TG Bowden exceeding all expectations and doing so on ability and his feet. He can’t be expected to be a long distance dialer because he doesn’t have the experience. He, single handedly, conceals Gran’s ineptitude. We will need a better passing game to secure bowl eligibility.

        1. Mike, only a stupid OC would go out on a night like last night and start throwing the football all over the field. Especially with a ailing backup QB (Smith)and with a true WR at QB, (Bowden) who is starting his third college game at that position. UK did what they had to do to win. Give a little credit to the UK ground attack, and a marvelous athlete in Lynn Bowden, who racked up 200 plus yards with his legs like a magician. May I add with two great UK RB’s that ran hard and got the pig skin into the end zone twice, behind a good UK Oline. How about a little credit to UK’s solid defense as well. All against a team favored to win, with their backs to the wall, and a team you more or less said would beat the Cats on their home field due to superior stats. As usual, you are dead wrong. Do you ever just shut up and enjoy a win?

            • Mike on October 27, 2019 at 3:44 pm

            Idiot…no one said “all over the field”..short passes have been open last 2 games (completed 2 last nite). Let him complete them even if he has to move out of pocket. That will give him some confidence and ability to move the chains. Insane to drop him back and continue to throw long distance. Do you ever shut up?

          1. They won Mike. And UK did it with a minimum of pass completions, and on a night that was ripe for disaster with your sort of game plan. Gran had a perfect game plan for the weather, and the opponent. Bowden did far more damage with his legs than he ever could with his arm on that particular rain soaked night. UK didn’t have to throw it. Why would you ever put the football in the air if your offense is running the ball at will? When the time comes, Bowden will throw it when he needs too. You just watch. You just got it stuck in your crawl because you felt Mizzou was a better team, and you felt they would whip the Cats. Sorry Mike, it didn’t happen. So you have to complain about something, even after a great victory like that. Whine on, and blame Gran for a win, geez!!!

  2. Looking like Kash might be missing the game tonight. Not sure will be missed as much as last year’s version. Will give one of young bloods good opportunity to shine.

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