Eliah Drinkwitz watches warmups

Coming off a big victory over then-No. 17 LSU on Saturday, the Missouri football team and coach Eliah Drinkwitz will get an unexpected bye week. Their Homecoming game against Vanderbilt set for 6:30 p.m. this upcoming Saturday has been postponed because of COVID-19-related issues within the Vandy program.

Missouri’s Homecoming game, scheduled for Saturday against Vanderbilt, will be postponed because of “positive tests & subsequent quarantine of individuals within the Vanderbilt FB program,” the Southeastern Conference announced Monday.

It is the first postponment for Missouri or the SEC this football season. Vanderbilt was expected to come to Columbia for a 6:30 p.m. Saturday game at Memorial Stadium. The game is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 12, per the conference.

“This is obviously still happening in real time,” athletic director Jim Sterk said. “We had anticipated it happening. ... We can’t predict the COVID virus and how it’s going to impact people. We’ve been as safe as possible and we had set up the Dec. 12 date.”

Missouri volleyball had its season opener postponed Monday, and the soccer team has had games postponed or canceled already this season. Volleyball was scheduled to travel to Tuscaloosa for games Saturday and Sunday, but those games will now take place Oct. 21 and 22.

“Obviously, there are going to be twists and turns, and it’s happened in most sports,” Sterk said.

Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said on “The Paul Finebaum Show” on SEC Network that the team found out about the news from a local bus company that Vanderbilt would postpone the game because they canceled services.

“Columbia’s a small town,” Sterk said. “If the Vandy folks are trying to be preemptive and get things done, we hear about it. That was the case at first, but then the SEC came right after.”

Vanderbilt suited up 56 players Saturday versus South Carolina, only three over the SEC threshold of 53 scholarship players recomended to play. SEC policy states that games can be postponed if a team is under the recomended threshold. The conference announced that the game was postponed because of positive tests and quarantining individuals within the Vanderbilt program.

“We got word from the SEC office that Vanderbilt had fallen below the COVID threshold, and we absolutely understand,” Drinkwitz said on SEC Network. “We’ve been dealing with COVID just like everybody else. Our No. 1 priority is for everybody at Vanderbilt to be safe, the players to be safe. These football contests can be made up.”

Missouri’s Homecoming court and on-field festivities will be moved to Oct. 31, Missouri’s next home game, against Kentucky. Sterk said some events that are being conducted virtually will continue this weekend as scheduled.

“It will be an extended Homecoming,” Sterk said.

In the event of another postponment, Sterk added that Missouri had an open date Dec. 19 if neither of the teams are in contention for the SEC championship game scheduled for that day. Sterk said the game against Vanderbilt could be moved to that date if needed or that another game could be moved to that date.

With the date being moved, Drinkwitz now has an extra week of practice before the team’s game against Florida on Oct. 24 in Gainesville, Florida. Drinkwitz said he was excited for the extra time in part because he still hasn’t had a practice with the full team available this fall.

“We’re going to use it as a positive for us here at Mizzou,” Drinkwitz said, “We’ll use the week to get healthy. We’ll use the week to improve. We’ll use the week to get refocused on our academics. Then we’ll use the week to get focused on our next opponent after that, which will be Florida.”

Missouri had six players out because of COVID testing last Saturday, but the team has been over the threshold for postponment the entire season and plans on finishing out the season. One positive caused five players to be in quarantine, but some of those players could return for Missouri’s next game since the minimun 14-day quarantine will have expired by the time Missouri plays Florida on Oct. 24.

“Every game means a lot. We want to qualify for a bowl and have our full 10-game season,” Sterk said.

Now, the Vanderbilt game will also be the same day as the reintroduction of the basketball Border War between Missouri and Kansas. Sterk said that the decisions were unrelated but said the basketball schedule was still “in a flux” with Kansas and the Big 12.

“The Big 12 (is) having a couple of (its) conference games before Christmas,” Sterk said. “We should have some closure on that pretty quick.”

  • Assistant Sports Editor, spring 2020. Studying Print and Digital Journalism. Reach me at awkimball@missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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