Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky football’s light is Missouri’s darkness; more Big Blue Links

Kentucky linebacker Eli Brown tackles Missouri quarterback Marvin Zanders during UK’s 35-21 win over the Tigers in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016.
Kentucky linebacker Eli Brown tackles Missouri quarterback Marvin Zanders during UK’s 35-21 win over the Tigers in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. Kansas City Star

Big Blue Links for Sunday:

Kentucky’s ground game pounds Missouri. Jennifer Smith of the Herald-Leader reports, “The music was blaring. The players were dancing in the small, cramped visitor’s locker room at Missouri. After the 35-21 victory over the Tigers on Saturday, Kentucky had plenty of reasons to celebrate. The Cats had just won their fifth game in six tries, had just won their fourth Southeastern Conference game for the first time since 2006.”

This is a total turnaround we didn’t see coming. I write from Columbia, “To me, it’s two things, one on each side of the ball. On defense, the turnaround began with Stoops’ decision to do what he does best, to become more involved with that side of the football. Working with defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, packages have been simplified and confidence has grown. Kentucky has played with much more of a defensive purpose since mid-September.”

Dark days awakened for Missouri football. Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star writes, “When then-defensive coordinator Barry Odom was named to succeed Gary Pinkel as University of Missouri football coach less than a year ago, he was swarmed by a team that appeared ecstatic as it chanted his name. The scene seemed promising. At the very least, it suggested players wanted to play for Odom and trusted him to stabilize the program amid great flux: the abrupt retirement of its winningest football coach after an announcement he was fighting cancer — and in the wake of racial unrest on campus that had led to the threat of a player boycott.”

Kentucky not satisfied after win at Missouri. Jon Hale of the Courier-Journal reports, “Minutes after his team all-but-wrapped up a bowl bid with a 35-21 win over Missouri, UK coach Mark Stoops walked into his locker room with a clear message. ‘Are we satisfied?’ Stoops asked his players. ‘Is that it? Are we satisfied with this or are we going to go take it to another level?’”

Kentucky tramples the Tigers. Alex Forkner of the Cats Pause reports, “After it looked like Missouri would further trim Kentucky's 21-7 lead with a 10-play drive to open the third quarter, the Cats made a third down stop on 3rd and goal from the 7, and the ensuing 24-yard field goal attempt missed wide right. UK tightened its grip on the game with a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped by a screen pass that Williams took to the end zone after Johnson held onto the ball until the last possible second before flipping it to the running back to give Cats a 28-7 lead with 5:17 to play in the third quarter.”

Benny Snell and Boom Williams batter Mizzou. Joe Mussatto of SEC Country reports, “Kentucky notched its finest rushing performance in more than 60 years Saturday against Missouri. The Wildcats, behind freshman Benny Snell and junior Boom Williams, ran for 377 yards — the most since a 409-yard performance in a November 1953 game against Vanderbilt. Snell’s 192 yards rushing yards were the most for a freshman in a game in school history. His eighth score passed Randall Cobb for most rushing touchdowns by a Kentucky freshman. His 38 carries were the most by a Kentucky since Artose Pinner’s 31 attempts in 2003.”

Missouri has now lost 10 straight conference games. Blake Toppmeyer of the Columbia Daily Tribune reports, “Odom said on Monday he was going to become more involved in coaching the defense, and he made the defensive calls Saturday — something he said he’ll do the rest of the season — but it had no visible positive effect. The Tigers allowed at least 35 points for the fourth straight game. Kentucky’s 582 yards marked the fourth straight week Missouri’s opponent went for more than 500 yards. Every Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Missouri has played this season has topped 400 yards.”

Eddie Gran thinks there is room to improve. Nick Roush of KSR reports, “Eddie Gran’s offense put up 582 yards against Missouri. It’s the first time since Jared Lorenzen was the quarterback in 2001 that Kentucky has gained more than 500 yards in back-to-back SEC games. Things are clicking offensively, but what can they still improve? ‘Everything.’”

Missouri takes another beating. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, “In front of a crowd generously listed at 50,234, the smallest for a home conference game since 2005, Kentucky (5-3, 4-2) became the fourth straight opponent to log 500 yards of offense on the Tigers — and the Wildcats reached that mark late in the third quarter. Winning an SEC road game for just the second time under fourth-year coach Mark Stoops, the Wildcats finished with 582 yards, including 377 on the ground against a Mizzou defense missing four injured regulars. It was UK’s most rushing yards against an SEC opponent since 1953.”

Florida’s defense too much for Georgia. Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph reports, “New coach, same result. For the third consecutive season, Georgia dropped its annual rivalry game to Florida. This time, the Gators were able to win 24-10 thanks to a strong defensive performance that prevented the Bulldogs from being able to move the ball with any kind of consistency through the air or on the ground. Kirby Smart, who went 1-3 against Florida as a player, became the third consecutive Georgia head coach to lose to Florida in his first try.”

Tennessee is headed in the wrong direction. John Adams of the Knoxville News-Sentinel writes, “One thing you could always say about coach Butch Jones' Tennessee teams: They win the games they're supposed to win. At least, you could say that before 13-point underdog South Carolina handed UT the worst loss of the Butch Jones Era on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. UT didn't just lose to the Gamecocks 24-21. It lost so much of what it had gained in the first half of the season.”

Kamryn Pettway leads Auburn over Ole Miss. Michael Niziolek of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports, “It’s easy to understand why Auburn fans are enthusiastically supporting the idea considering Pettway had a career night — a phrase that’s been on repeat for three straight weeks – with 30 carries for 236 yards and a touchdown. It was the most productive day on the ground for an Auburn running back since Tre Mason ran for 304 yards in the 2013 SEC Championship game against Missouri.”

John Calipari helps fund Clarion basketball. Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader reports, “When Kentucky plays Clarion on Sunday night, John Calipari will have a vested interest in both teams. In addition to coaching UK, he donates financial support to the basketball program of his alma mater. ‘Coach Cal is probably one of our biggest benefactors,’ Clarion Coach Marcess Williams said. ‘He’s done so much.’”

Harrowing tales of the formerly undefeated. Chuck Culpepper of the Washington Post writes, “We’ll never know for sure, but it seems that in our weird country, the 12 members of something called the College Football Playoff Selection Committee spent part of Saturday strewn across the country in their various man-caves and woman-cave, watching football and suddenly, perhaps wordlessly, rooting for a sole wisp of a 170-pound kicker, standing alone amid 97,822 people in Texas.”

SEC football standings

East

SEC

Overall

Florida

4-1

6-1

Kentucky

4-2

5-3

Tennessee

2-3

5-3

Georgia

2-4

4-4

South Carolina

2-4

4-4

Vanderbilt

1-3

4-4

Missouri

0-4

2-6

West

SEC

Overall

Alabama

5-0

8-0

Texas A&M

4-1

7-1

Auburn

4-1

6-2

LSU

3-2

5-2

Arkansas

1-3

5-3

Miss State

1-3

3-5

Ole Miss

1-4

3-5

SEC football schedule for Nov. 5

12:00 - Georgia Southern at Ole Miss (ESPNU)

12:00 - Texas A&M at Mississippi State (ESPN, ESPN2 or SEC)

12:00 - Vanderbilt at Auburn (ESPN, ESPN2 or SEC)

3:30 - Florida at Arkansas (CBS)

4:00 - Missouri at South Carolina (SEC)

4:00 - Tennessee Tech at Tennessee (SEC alternate)

7:30 - Georgia at Kentucky (SEC)

8:00 - Alabama at LSU (CBS)

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