The Kentucky Wildcats (5-3, 2-3 SEC) travel to Columbia, Mo., to take on the Missouri Tigers (6-2, 3-1) on Saturday. The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back losses, including a 45-31 defeat by No. 1 Mississippi State.

Despite the final score, Kentucky exceeded expectations for most of the contest. The Wildcats were within seven points of the nation’s best team entering the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs offense outscored Kentucky 14-7 for the remainder of the game.

Quarterback Patrick Towles brought a different dynamic to Saturday’s game, rushing for a career-best 76 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts. He also threw for a career-high 390 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-43 passing.

Towles accounted for the majority of Kentucky’s 504 total yards, their second-largest output of the season. Even more impressive was Towles’ performance against Mississippi State’s No. 12 overall rush defense.

The redshirt sophomore will face another tough matchup Saturday against Missouri’s pass rush. The Tigers are No. 10 overall in team sacks and No. 12 in tackles for loss. Missouri’s defense features a pair of standout defensive ends in Shane Ray and Markus Golden.

Ray enters with 8.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss, leading the SEC in both categories. Golden has four sacks (tied for seventh) and 9.0 tackles for loss (tied for fourth).

Strongside linebacker Michael Scherer leads Missouri with 70 total tackles. He ranks third in the conference behind Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson (86) and Arkansas’ Martell Spaight (72). Middle linebacker Kentrell Brothers is also among the SEC’s top linebackers in 2014. Brothers has 61 total tackles, ranking seventh in the conference.

Towles will have his hands full against a stout Missouri front seven. The pressure is on the sophomore quarterback to once again revive Kentucky’s struggling rushing attack. Jojo Kemp accounted for just 14 yards, the most by any tailback in Saturday’s loss. Braylon Heard, the only other back to see a positive output, was held to 13 on five carries.

Missouri will bring constant pressure to Towles on Saturday. The Tigers will force the sophomore to be more than just a “game manager” for the second consecutive week. Towles’ performance should decide whether Kentucky’s offense is capable of producing against a tough defense on the road in conference play.