COLUMBIA- The Mizzou football team had to change gears quickly when word came down on Monday afternoon that COVID issues at Arkansas would change the Tigers' opponent for this Saturday. Missouri will face Vanderbilt on Saturday at 11 am instead of the Razorbacks. This caused a chain reaction of activity as Mizzou reacted to the news.
"Coach Pittman, I will give him credit, called me Monday morning and let me know that their numbers were really close and just giving me a head's up," said Mizzou Head Coach Eliah Drinkwitz at his weekly press conference. "Got a phone call at about 4:50, 5 o'clock-ish. Said, 'hey we're gonna be making a change with the schedule'. We had an emergency staff meeting and met with the team at 5:30 and told them we're playing Vanderbilt."
Drinkwitz said he put in late hours to begin gameplanning for the Commodores, working until midnight on Monday and returning to work at 5 am Tuesday. The Tigers were originally scheduled to play Vandy back on October 17th before COVID cases at Vanderbilt forced the postponement of that game to December 12th. Vanderbilt must reschedule its rivalry game with Tennessee to make this weekend's game at Missouri work.
“I think the players and families are disappointed," said Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason at his weekly press conference. "But ‘Hello, COVID. Hello, 2020.’ Hopefully we’ll get that opportunity.”
The quick turnaround is difficult and challenging but Drinkwitz said that his team will not use the situation as an excuse.
"We're playing a game and the expectation is that you put a good product on the field or there's gonna be consequences," said Drinkwitz. "So, it is what it is. We've got to do good work."
Missouri coaches had already started putting together a plan of attack for Vanderbilt back when the two teams were originally scheduled to play. Drinkwitz said most of what he and his staff mapped out last month will have to go by the wayside.
"They've played 4 games since the COVID (postponement)," said Drinkwitz. "There's not really a ton that carries over. You wish it did but it doesn't."
Missouri played without 11 players due to COVID testing and contact tracing in the team's win at South Carolina last Saturday. The Tigers played with only 52 scholarship players against the Gamecocks. Drinkwitz reported that the team had no new positives from Sunday's testing and he's optimistic several players will return this week.
"The roster that we turned in to the SEC for this week's game was 59 (players)."
Missouri and Vanderbilt kickoff at 11 am at Faurot Field on Saturday.