Missouri football: 5 reasons why Tigers beat Kentucky for first time in 5 years
Mizzou finally got over the hump on Saturday as Eli Drinkwitz and his team beat Kentucky on his first try. The 20-10 win in Columbia snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
In honor of Mizzou ending the drought against Kentucky, here are five reasons why Mizzou won the game to climb to .500 on the season.
Larry Rountree was a bad man
The newly-minted third-leading rusher in school history was a beast on Saturday.
Rountree was given a whopping 37 carries for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. The school record for carries in a game is 45 by Zain Gilmore in 1999, so Rountree came up just short.
The more games he plays, the better Rountree gets. In the opener against Alabama, he rushed for 67 yards. Then against Tennessee, 84. Rountree racked up 119 against LSU and now a season best against a stout Kentucky D.
Not only does Rountree’s physical running style bring a certain dynamic to Drinkwitz’s offense, it brings an energy to the entire team. Some good things are brewing in Columbia.
Video of the Larry Rountree truck stick + bench reaction pic.twitter.com/kz9G4ao1tK
— Mark Kim (@MarkJKim_) October 24, 2020
Mizzou’s defense bowed up
This is an obvious reason. Led by linebacker Nick Bolton, Mizzou’s defense completely shut down a Kentucky offense that prides itself on having the nastiest rushing attack in the SEC.
Bolton’s boys held Kentucky to just 145 total yards and 8 first downs. The Wildcats came into the game with the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC with 206 yards per game, but on Saturday they mustered just 98.
Bolton’s 7 tackles led the defense, but it was a complete team effort. The linemen up front — I’m talking Markell Utsey, Akial Byers, Tre Williams, Trajan Jeffcoat and Chris Turner — as well as Devin Nicholson at linebacker, box safeties Martez Manuel and Joshuah Bledsoe and boundary safety Tyree Gillespie, all were on their game.
Connor Bazelak continues to impress
Against LSU, Bazelak had a coming-out party, throwing for 406 yards and 4 touchdowns. But, as we’ve come to find out, LSU’s defense is mistake-riddled and not very good.
So Saturday’s matchup with Kentucky and their much better defense stood as a solid test for the redshirt freshman quarterback.
He passed with flying colors.
Bazelak managed the offense extremely well and stuck to the game plan of pounding the Kentucky front with Rountree. He completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) for 201 yards and found 8 different receivers. He’s a calm and cool guy with the ball in his hands, and he was especially so on third and fourth down Saturday (more on that later).
The former triple-option quarterback did just enough on the ground, too, rushing for 40 yards.
Third- and fourth-down conversions
When his team needed him, Bazelak came through on third and fourth downs.
Mizzou was 10-of-20 on thirds and 4-of-5 on fourths against Kentucky. Bazelak completed passes for firsts on 5 third downs and 2 fourth downs. He also rushed for a first down on a 3rd-and-7 and a 3rd-and-4.
That’s good stuff for Mizzou’s quarterback, who has another big game coming up on Halloween against Florida at The Swamp.
Bledsoe came through for the team — again
Against LSU, Bledsoe, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior, battled through a push-off from Terrace Marshall Jr. and batted away what would have been a game-winning touchdown for the defending champs.
Good morning, we stopped LSU on 4 straight goal line plays. Carry on pic.twitter.com/IKibyjelk6
— Barstool Mizzou (@BarstoolMizzou) October 22, 2020
On Saturday, Bledsoe stripped Kentucky’s Josh Ali and recovered the loose ball all in one motion. That play sealed the win.
Here's a look at Joshua Bledsoe's forced fumble and recovery late in the game to seal the Tigers' 20-10 win. The fans knew after one look on the jumbo-tron that ball was out. @KOMUnews pic.twitter.com/MPCWETgnos
— Tyler Driesenga (@tdriesenga3) October 25, 2020
Bledsoe is a key and diverse member of this Mizzou defense, and he keeps coming up big at big moments for his team.
Bledsoe is also a fun quote. I think it’s safe to say these two teams don’t like each other.
Mizzou safety Josh Bledsoe on ending the losing streak to UK: "I see Kentucky as like a nagging mosquito. They keep lingering."
— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) October 25, 2020