UK heads on the road for matchup with Mizzou


Kentucky wide receiver Dorian Baker (2) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of the game against the Missouri Tigers at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, September 26, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Missouri 21 to 13. Photo by Adam Pennavaria | Staff

Chris Angolia

When UK travels to Columbia, Mo., for its Saturday morning tilt with the Missouri Tigers, a chance to win three straight SEC games for the first time since 1999 is on the line. 

UK will move closer to a bowl game with a win, but also stay in the race for the SEC East. The Cats are currently in second place in the East with three conference games left. 

“It gives us a big chance to shake things up in the SEC East,” receiver Jeff Badet said Tuesday. “If we just continue to play hard and execute and if we continue to finish. I feel like this team has found a way to finish and win games, not like we did in past years. I just think we need to stay the course and do what we have been doing.”

Keeping the Tigers offense off the field will be crucial for UK’s chances if it leaves Colombia with its first road win of the season. In last week’s loss to Middle Tennessee State, the Tigers ran 112 plays on offense, a staggering number that resembles two games worth of offense for some teams. Mizzou’s offense looks to challenge a UK defense that has improved considerably since the first half of the New Mexico State game.

UK’s defense struggled to stop opposing offenses in the first few weeks of the season, and this UK defense cannot afford to be on the field for an extended period of time against one of the most explosive offenses in the SEC.

“This team is looking forward to Missouri and the challenge there is they play absolutely extremely fast. They played 112 offensive snaps last week. Yeah, 112. That is two games,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “We cannot let them have 112 offensive plays because depth is an issue. So we have to have more guys step up and be ready to play.”

Depth is an issue at the outside linebacker position after backups Kobie Walker and De’Niro Laster were lost for the season with injuries, but practicing against UK’s up-tempo offense has helped the defense prepare for Mizzou. 

UK’s offense is coming off its most complete performance of the year against Mississippi State on Saturday. Quarterback Stephen Johnson showed the ability to throw the ball down the field, a big change from recent weeks.

Johnson threw for 292 yards Saturday night to compliment a potent ground attack that has begun to dominate in recent weeks, adding another 262 yards against Mississippi State behind running backs Benny Snell Jr. and Boom Williams.

UK’s run game will be pivotal in keeping Mizzou quarterback Drew Lock and the rest of the Tigers offense off the field. 

When Lock does get on the field, linebackers Josh Allen and Denzil Ware will play big roles in stopping the Tigers offense.

“We just want to go out there and compete,” Allen said. “We don’t care if we’re home or away we still have the same mentality because we go in there as if we are going to win the game, so (our) mindset (is) we are going to take in there to get that W.”