Snell leads No. 12 Kentucky into meeting with Missouri
Contrasting styles will be on display when Kentucky visits Missouri in a Southeastern Conference East Division matchup Saturday in Columbia, Mo.
Kickoff in Faurot Field is 4 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
The No. 12 Wildcats (6-1, 4-1 SEC) will bring the league’s No. 3 rushing attack, led by the SEC’s top rusher Benny Snell, into the game. The unranked Tigers (4-3, 0-3 SEC) have the league’s No. 3 passing game with quarterback Drew Lock keying the production as the conference’s third-most productive passer.
Lock’s passing total of 1,979 yards ranks behind only Jordan Ta’amu (2,622 yards) of Ole Miss and Alabama’s Tua Tagoavailoa (2,066) among SEC’s passers.
“Experience, talent,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “He sees the field, gets rid of the ball so quick, has such a strong arm. He’s a very good football player.”
Missouri coach Barry Odom is equally as effusive in his praise for Kentucky’s Snell. Snell regained the SEC’s top spot among rushers with his 169 yards against Vanderbilt giving him a league-high 868 for the season.
“He’s a strong, powerful guy,” Odom said in a report in the Columbia Tribune. “He’s as good as there is in the country. They find ways to attack with him.”
Odom’s Tigers, however, are No. 35 in the country in rush defense in holding opponents to just over 131 yards a game. The Tigers’ approach will be the same as usual — very physical.
“You don’t change prep week to week,” defensive coordinator Ryan Walters told the Tribune. “We’ve seen our fair share of good backs, and Benny will be another one in that category. You’ve just got to focus on what you need to do to be successful.”
Stoops is looking to get more out of his passing game to take some of the pressure off Snell. In the 14-7 win over Vanderbilt, quarterback Terry Wilson threw only nine passes, completing three for just 18 yards and a touchdown. It’s easily the fewest pass attempts, fewest completions, and least passing yardage that the Wildcats have had in a game this season. Previous lows were 8-of-14 for 71 yards in a win over Mississippi State.
Stoops said the responsibility to boost the passing game doesn’t all fall back on Wilson, however.
“We need to address it in a lot of areas, from what we’re doing to set them up for success and set the team up for success,” he said. “It starts with us and coaching and what we’re doing, the position we’re putting them in to be successful.
“Also, getting the quarterback to pull the pin and make accurate throws and to trust himself. He has done that this year. He has been successful. He’s put us in a position to get to the spot we’re in right now.
“But, he’s also not played his best the past couple games. We have to look at that.”
Wilson doesn’t seem in danger of losing his job to backup Gunnar Hoak, however, at least not right away. Hoak has played in only two games so far.
“I’ve always said that Terry is our starting quarterback,” Stoops said. “He’s going to start this week. We certainly need to look at the other guys and see if they could get an opportunity to get in there and play and help us.
“We’ll have a plan, and we’ll work Gunnar pretty extensively this week and have him ready to play as well.”
Missouri is coming off a huge 65-33 win over Memphis in which Lock passed for 373 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has six catches for a career-high 159 yards with three touchdowns.
Stoops will call on several bodies to defend against that.
“All hands on deck because of the pace they play at and how they throw it around, the speed which they have,” Stoops said. “You need a lot of guys. You need a lot of bodies.”