Mizzou-Vanderbilt football game postponed to Dec. 12
Last week, Missouri found out four days prior to its matchup against LSU that it would host the defending national champions rather than travel to Baton Rouge as a result of Hurricane Delta. Fitting with the theme of 2020, there has been another change of plans this week.
The SEC has confirmed PowerMizzou.com's initial report that Vanderbilt will not travel to Missouri as previously scheduled on Saturday, resulting in a postponement of the matchup. Due to COVID-19 infections and subsequent quarantines, the Commodores have fallen below the league threshold of 53 active scholarship players necessary to play a game. They suited up just 56 scholarship players during their loss to South Carolina last weekend as a result of COVID-19 quarantines and injury.
The game is tentatively scheduled to be made up on Dec. 12, when the entire league is idle. It is the first SEC football game to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 complications since the league began the season on Sept. 26.
NEWS: The Vanderbilt at Missouri FB game of Oct. 17 is postponed due to positive tests & subsequent quarantine of individuals within the Vanderbilt FB program. The action is consistent with SEC COVID-19 management requirements. The game is tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12.— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) October 12, 2020
The matchup between Missouri and Vanderbilt, tabbed as the annual Homecoming game for the Tigers, was originally scheduled to kick off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and air on SEC Network. Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk said the school will still hold some virtual Homecoming events on Saturday, but the events that intersect with a home football game, such as the Homecoming court, would be moved to the team's next home game, Oct. 31 against Kentucky.
Sterk said the SEC anticipated that games would ultimately have to be moved around due to COVID-19 and built some flexibility into the schedule as a result. Sterk said Missouri would still likely be able to reschedule another game this season if need be. Missouri will have another bye week on Nov. 7 and could shift a matchup to that weekend if its opponent has the same bye (Vanderbilt's was scheduled for Oct. 24). In addition, he said games could be played on Dec. 19, the day of the SEC championship game, as long as the game doesn't impact the two division titles. If Missouri has another game pushed to the end of the regular season and one impacts a division championship while the other doesn't, the one with a bearing on who could play in the title game will be contested Dec. 12. That's why the SEC announced that Missouri's matchup against Vanderbilt is "tentatively scheduled" for Dec. 12.
"We had set up that Dec. 12 (open) date," Sterk said. "Actually, I think the 19th is even available, if not in the championship game. So those are dates that the league had set up as we set up our schedule, we moved it back, but obviously there are going to be twists and turns."
Speaking on the Paul Finebaum Show, Eli Drinkwitz revealed that the news came as a surprise to him, as well. It was actually the bus company that Missouri uses for travel who first tipped the program off that Vanderbilt might not make the trip to Columbia, since the Commodores canceled their bus rental on Monday. Drinkwitz said he understood and supported Vanderbilt's decision to postpone the game.
"We absolutely understand," Drinkwitz said. "We’ve been dealing with COVID, just like everybody else, and so our number one priority is for everybody at Vanderbilt to be safe, the players to be safe, and these football contests can be made up. And we’re going to use it as a positive."
Prior to the season, the SEC established a set of guidelines for postponement of games as a result of player absences due to COVID-19. The guidelines allow a team to request postponement if it has fewer than 53 scholarship players available — the number of players on an NFL roster — or fewer than six offensive linemen (with at least one center), four defensive linemen or one quarterback. The guidelines also allow schools to opt to compete with fewer than those thresholds or to request cancelation for "other compelling reasons."
Vanderbilt did not disclose which of its players missed Saturday's 41-7 loss to South Carolina due to COVID-19 and which were injured, but the missing players included safety Donovan Kaufman, running back Ja’Veon Marlow, safety Dashaun Jerkins, linebacker Alston Orji and cornerback Randall Haynie. The loss dropped the Commodores to 0-3 on the season.
Missouri has been impacted by COVID-19 and injuries, as well. The Tigers had six players miss their upset win over LSU due to one positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing: wide receivers Damon Hazelton, Keke Chism and Dominic Gicinto as well as defensive tackle Akial Byers and safeties Stacy Brown and Tyler Jones. Each of the five contact-traced players would have missed the Vanderbilt game as a result of SEC protocols. The team only had two scholarship players listed on the roster as defensive tackles available for the LSU game, as Kobie Whiteside and Darius Robinson both missed the game due to injury. Factoring in the team's seven opt-outs as well as season-ending injuries and transfers, Missouri only had 61 scholarship players available for the 45-41 win.
Missouri will return to action on Oct. 24 when It travels to face No. 10 Florida. The game will kick off at either 6 p.m. on ESPN or 6:30 on the SEC Network. Drinkwitz said the extra week of practice will come in handy for a team that had spring ball curtailed after three practices and has yet to have everyone available since the start of fall camp.
"This is an awesome thing for a program that didn’t have spring football practice, that didn’t have a full fall camp," Drinkwitz said. "We’ve still not had everybody at a practice all together. So this week, we’re going to use every extra practice available to work on us and continue to install our schemes, continue to work on improvements."