FAYETTEVILLE – Unlike some angry that their opposition cites too many covid-19 related absences to play a football game, (review Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney’s lingering outrage two Saturdays ago when Florida State withdrew from its Clemson game on game day morning in Tallahassee, Fla.,) the Missouri Tigers ought to be grateful to Arkansas.
Because the Razorbacks on Nov. 24 announced their healthy numbers were below SEC protocol to play last Saturday’s game against Mizzou, the Tigers were free to make up their earlier season postponed game with winless Vanderbilt.
Vandy suddenly also had open date last Saturday because scheduled opponent Tennessee was too stricken with positive covid-19 tests and contract tracing related quarantines.
So while the 3-5 Razorbacks rested their ill, Mizzou, now 4-3, rose above .500 well vanquishing Vandy, 41-0 at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo. where they’ll host Arkansas this Saturday.
Arkansas was to host nationally No. 1 8-0- Alabama Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium but presumably will play that game on Dec. 12 here provided both teams are sufficiently healthy.
Alabama uses this Saturday to make up its earlier postponed game against LSU.
With last week’s unaccustomed open date during Thanksgiving and needing more to restore his team’s health than work his threadbare roster with hard practices, Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman gave his Razorbacks off after Wednesday’s walkthrough and meetings through returning Sunday to launch Monday’s game-week preparations and resumption of UA classes.
“We’re certainly hoping that we can get our players back – by injury, by COVID, by quarantine,” Pittman told media before last Wednesday’s walkthrough. “We’re very positive that we’ll be able to play next week.”
Since Pittman was impressed with Mizzou and first-year Mizzou Coach and Alma native Eliah Drinkwitz last week, he presumably is all the more impressed after the Tigers skunked Vandy.
“Missouri is very physical on both sides of the ball,” Pittman said last week. “I really like (Mizzou defensive end) Tre Williams. I like their D-line. Nick Bolton is probably as good of a linebacker as there is in the SEC, probably in the country.
( cornerback Ennis) Rakestraw and (safety Tyree) Gillespie and those guys in the back end are playing very physical football.
Defensively, they run to the football. (Middle linebacker Devin) Nicholson had one heck of an interception to seal the game against South Carolina.”
“They’re very big and very physical on the offensive line,” Pittman said. “They like to run the ball. Coach Drinkwitz does a great job of keeping your off balance . But if he can run the ball, he’s going to turn around and hand if off, a lot like Tennessee did.”
Senior running back Larry Rountree, who seems like he’s been on Mizzou’s campus longer than its fabled Columns, has more career rushing yards, 3,398, than any Mizzou running back ever.
“Rountree is a very, very solid, tough and physical runner,” Pittman said. “(Connor) Bazelak is getting better each week. A young freshman quarterback. They’ve done a nice job with their transfer portal outside with their wide outs, junior college wise and transfer portal, they’ve got some nice wide outs as well. Very, very well coached and very good in special teams. Just a really, really good football team.”
A team that first-year Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom left well-stocked from his 2016-2019 Mizzou head coaching tenure.
Pittman, the Georgia offensive line coach from 2016-2019 debuting as Arkansas’ head coach vs. Georgia in the 37-10 loss Sept. 26 in Fayetteville, was asked about Odom’s feeling as a Mizzou grad and former Mizzou linebacker, defensive coordinator and head coach, returning to Columbia against his old school.
“He played there, he’s an alumni there, was a head football coach there and probably recruited a majority of the players that they have there,” Pittman said. “I think he has a lot of love for his former players. At the same time, the University of Arkansas is paying him. He wants to do a great job for Arkansas. I’m sure there’s a little bit of mixed feelings, just as I had playing against Georgia. But the bottom line is that Barry’s a competitor and he will certainly have our football team ready to play.”