Following a 35-28 loss at Kentucky in its SEC opener last Saturday, Missouri will return home this weekend to face SE Missouri State.

While the matchup won’t garner much in the way of national headlines, Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz believes it’s an important game.

“It helps create energy for your state,” said Drinkwitz during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference. “It creates natural rivalries.”

As far as his team’s loss to the Wildcats was concerned, Drinkwitz said that too many mistakes and the 340 rushing yards that his team allowed were too much to overcome and he’ll be looking for his team to improve in those areas this Saturday against the Redhawks.

“I think we had between 9 and 11 penalties,” Drinkwitz said. “Those are free yards given away with no reason for it. … We’ve got to get that cleaned up. And we’ve got to stop the run. … We’ve got to be able to be physical in the trenches.”

Drinkwitz also was asked Wednesday about the play so far this season of quarterback Connor Bazelak.

“I think we’re seeing improvement on both decision-making and accuracy. … He needs to overcome coaching,” Drinkwitz said. “That’s a bad play call by me (on the interception after halftime against Kentucky). … He did a nice job getting the ball to the check down, which still led to some explosive plays. … Been impressed with it so far.”

Bazelak, a 6-3, 212-pound sophomore, has completed 55-of-83 passes forĀ  551 yards and 6 touchdowns this season.