No. 24 Kentucky will look for quarterback Devin Leary to get back on target when the Wildcats host Missouri on Saturday in Southeastern Conference action in Lexington.
Leary completed just 10 of 26 passes for 128 yards as the Wildcats (5-1, 2-1) fell 51-13 last weekend at No. 1 Georgia.
“Usually, I don’t say a whole lot during games to a quarterback … but there’s no excuse to not hit some of those passes,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “I mean, we had some guys wide open, you know? We missed some open plays to keep it close early.”
After reviewing the game video, Stoops identified some fixes Leary will need to make before the Wildcats take on Missouri (5-1, 1-1).
“Sometimes it is his feet or his footwork and sometimes him maybe expecting a receiver to run out at a different angle,” Stoops said. “There’s some little things and there’s some that (you) just have to make. He doesn’t need me to sit here and make an excuse for him. He’s a big boy and he owns it. Just like everybody else on our team, you have to have the courage to see the areas that you need to improve on and you have to own it.”
Leary has completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns, with five interceptions, this season.
His inconsistency has led the Wildcats to rely more heavily on Ray Davis, who has rushed for 653 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
“Really good vision and burst, I think he’s running this year better than maybe he did last year,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “But he’s now playing behind a really good offensive line that has a variety of run schemes.”
Kentucky will catch Missouri coming off a 49-39 home loss to then-No. 23 LSU. Missouri raced to a 22-7 lead before fading.
“I think we were all disappointed in the outcome, but we were not devastated,” Drinkwitz said. “That’s the thing about this league, every week you’re going to go out there and you’re going to compete, you’ve got to lay it on the line — and that doesn’t guarantee you the result you want.”
Missouri’s Brady Cook completed 30 of 47 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had his first two interceptions of the season.
Overall, Cook has thrown for 1,879 yards, 13 touchdowns and a 71.8 percent completion rate while demonstrating good mobility. He has three rushing touchdowns.
Cook’s top targets are Luther Burden III (54 catches, 793 yards, five touchdowns) and Theo Wease Jr. (28-334-4).
Cody Schrader (577 yards, six touchdowns) and Nathaniel Peat (266 and two) alternate at running back for the Tigers. Schrader ran for 114 yards and three touchdowns against LSU despite playing with a strained quadriceps muscle. Drinkwitz listed him as “questionable at best” for Saturday’s game.
Missouri defensive back Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (groin) will be sidelined, but the Tigers hope to get wide receiver Mekhi Miller (undisclosed) back.
Kentucky guard Kenneth Horsey (leg) is questionable for Saturday, and safety Jalen Geiger (elbow) will be sidelined for “a few weeks,” Stoops said.