By Garrett Jones
The message has been simple from head coach Barry Odom to his Missouri football team:
“Those who win in November will be remembered.”
The Tigers have won each of their last nine games in the month during his first three seasons of his coaching tenure- the last loss coming at Tennessee in 2016. Missouri is 10-2 in November contests overall since his hire.
“Get to November- that’s coach Odom’s motto,” linebacker Nick Bolton said. “We’ve been good in November.”
Missouri had a bye week after a 29-7 loss to Kentucky Oct. 26- the team’s second loss to a marginal Southeastern Conference opponent in a row.
Perhaps no player was more thankful for the bye than starting quarterback Kelly Bryant. He left the loss in Lexington in the third quarter due to a hamstring injury, and didn’t return.
“I’d say I feel about 75 percent,” Bryant told reporters at Tuesday’s media availability. “I feel good, but I still have to see.”
Bryant maintained he still needed to meet with team doctors to assess his ability to participate fully in Missouri’s next contest this weekend at No. 6 Georgia (6:00 on KCOU 88.1 FM). The team is prepared to play sophomore backup Taylor Powell if Bryant isn’t good to go.
“He’s ready, he knows the offense well, he just needs to get out there and perform,” Offensive coordinator Derek Dooley said on Powell. “The more he plays, the better he’ll be.”
Wide receiver Johnathon Johnson did not practice with the team Tuesday. Head coach Barry Odom said he’s day-to-day battling an illness and said he hopes he’ll be ready for Saturday.
Missouri is also preparing for a harsh road environment as well- the team pumped in artificial crowd noise at Tuesday’s practice. Georgia beat then-No. 7 Notre Dame at home this season, but lost in one of the season’s biggest upsets at home against South Carolina Oct. 12.
The Bulldogs have featured a brand new light display pregame before kickoffs in each of its three night contests this season. Bolton said execution is key in intimidating road environments.
“Everybody has to do their job,” Bolton said. “We’ve won away games that in the past, so we have to get back to that this weekend.”
Missouri’s offense has slumped in the pair of losses. After stringing together 11 straight games of scoring 30 or more points, the Tigers have averaged a paltry 10.5 points per game in the losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Part of the regression has been the absence of tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. Though he’s been listed as healthy each of the past two games, he was limited to no catches against Kentucky. The junior tight end said he sees that glass half-full.
“The versatility of the offense has changed,” Okwuegbunam said. “We’re getting other playmakers the ball.”
Another potential factor in Saturday’s game is the kicking game. Senior kicker and fourth-year starter Tucker McCann has missed each of his last three field goal attempts and shanked an extra point in the team’s loss to Kentucky.
“I’m still confident in (McCann), and I have been for a long time,” Odom said. “I’m confident he’s going to bounce back and have a great November.”
Georgia is listed as a 17-point favorite in Saturday’s game. Missouri will be looking for its first win over the Bulldogs since 2013. KCOU’s coverage of Saturday’s game starts with Tiger Pregame Live presented by El Rancho at 5:00, as part of wall-to-wall coverage all day as part of KCOU Sports Saturday.