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LSU football hopes to stay high and dry and get a win vs. Missouri away from Baton Rouge

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Faurot Field on the campus of the University of Missouri is approximately 800 miles from the southwest Louisiana coast, where Hurricane Delta hit Friday.

The 16th-ranked LSU football team (1-1) arrived in Columbia, Missouri, on Thursday for its game against Missouri (0-2) at 11 a.m. today at Faurot Field on the SEC Network Alternate channel.

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The Tigers are expected to be back in Baton Rouge by about 6 tonight, which will be two hours before the game was originally scheduled for Tiger Stadium but was moved on Tuesday because of Delta's approach.

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"This is going to be an extremely safe place for those players and everybody that's traveling to Columbia from LSU," Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. "I'm so glad and thankful that we were able to move the game up to 11 o'clock, so that those guys can get home safely. They're going to be able to get back and land, hopefully during daylight."

Sep 26, 2020; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers safety JaCoby Stevens (7) celebrates after a turnover against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

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In a season of schedule changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this game move is just another distraction to the Tigers that they plan on ignoring.

"That's not anything that we're focused on as far as the game plan," LSU senior safety JaCoby Stevens said. "Of course, we're worried about our families and making sure everything's OK outside of football. When it comes to where we're going to play, that's something we're not going to worry about. It's not going to affect how we're going to prepare for this game."

It will be LSU's fourth hurricane-related move since coach Ed Orgeron has been on the football staff. In 2015, when he was the defensive line coach, LSU's game at South Carolina was moved to LSU. In 2016 when he was interim head coach, the Tigers' game at Florida was moved to LSU. And in 2017, his first season opener as LSU's permanent head coach against Brigham Young was moved from Houston to New Orleans.

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"Our team has been focused," Orgeron said. "We're not going to blink and hopefully, we can get us a big road win."

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron walks the sidelines during the first quarter at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 in Nashville, Tenn.

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The fact that the game is at 11 a.m. gives the Tigers a chance to enter their next game week fresh with No. 3 Florida (2-0) awaiting in Gainesville for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff a week from Saturday on ESPN.

"It would have been very difficult to play an 8 p.m. game and travel back at 4 o'clock in the morning," Orgeron said. "In talking to our trainers, it takes two days to recover from something like that. We play an 11 a.m. game, and we'll be back in Baton Rouge by six or seven at night. Our team and coaches will get more rest. That's a big advantage."

And Missouri does not have as much of a home-field advantage as it would have in 71,168-seat Memorial Stadium in a normal year as just 25 percent capacity is allowed because of the Southeastern Conference's COVID-19 protocols.

"Obviously, Faurot Field's a great place, and we'll be in the home locker room," Drinkwitz said. "This wasn't a competitive advantage decision."

It will be LSU's first game at Missouri. The two schools have met just twice with Missouri winning, 20-15, in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 23, 1978, and LSU winning, 42-7, on Oct. 1, 2016, in Orgeron's first game as interim coach.

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"So much excitement, coming down the Tiger Walk and the electricity," Orgeron said. "There was excitement in the building. There was a change. I thought our team played with a lot of energy. Just a wonderful night."

Just three years later, Orgeron directed the Tigers to a 15-0 season and national title last year.

"It passed by very fast," he said. "It's been phenomenal with the things that we have done, and we've still got a ways to go. I think we're just getting started."

So is Drinkwitz, who is in his first season at Missouri following a 12-1 season at Appalachian State. He named a new starting quarterback on Tuesday in red-shirt freshman Connor Bazelak. Junior Shawn Robinson, a transfer from TCU, started the first two games, but Bazelak played a lot.

In Missouri's 35-12 loss at Tennessee last week, he completed 13 of 21 passes for 218 yards. 

Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz watches during a game between Tennessee and Missouri on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.

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"I thought he handled the situation well," Drinkwitz said. "He got in, he moved the ball offensively. He moved the ball on third downs. He made good decisions in the pocket. There were things he missed and some things he's got to improve on."

LSU's pass defense improved significantly in a 41-7 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday as the Tigers limited Commodores' true freshman quarterback Ken Seals to 113 passing yards after Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello set the SEC record with 623 in a 44-34 win on Sept. 25.

All-American sophomore cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. started and played well at Vanderbilt after missing the season opener with an illness.

"He's probably one of the best corners in the country," Drinkwitz said. "He usually cancels out a receiver a game, and we've got to make it where he can't. We've got to be able to affect the box by being able to throw the ball effectively It's going to be a tremendous challenge." 

Injury report

LSU starting left guard Ed Ingram and starting left tackle Dare Rosenthal are each questionable for the game with injuries. Sophomore Charles Turner will start if Ingram cannot play, and sophomore Cameron Wire will start for the second straight game if Rosenthal cannot play again.