August 9, 2022

Connor Bazelak not concerned with rust after layoff

Missouri Football

Mizzou Tigers vs. Kentucky Wildcats at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, October 24, 2020. Hunter Dyke/Mizzou Athletics

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri hasn’t played a game since Halloween, but Connor Bazelak used the extra time off to sharpen his skills.

The redshirt freshman quarterback hasn’t thrown an interception in the past three games, which is a span of 104 pass attempts. The Tigers need that trend to continue as they approach their third road game of the season.

Missouri won back-to-back games, but then lost by 24 points at Florida. However, the humbling experience only ignited Bazelak’s competitive spirit. The only time the Ohio native gets animated is on the basketball court, but in football he’s calm and poised.

That all changed after the loss to the Gators, in which the entire team got emotional at halftime and why Bazelak wants his mojo back. Like when he threw for a career-high, 406 yards and four touchdowns in the win over LSU.

The problem is besides the victory over the Bayou Bengals, Bazelak hasn’t thrown a touchdown in any other game. He takes full responsibility of Missouri’s shortcomings at the Swamp, but remains confident the same mistakes won’t happen against South Carolina this Saturday.

“We had chances to win the game, we had chances to score touchdowns and get points, we just didn’t execute,” Bazelak said. “If we execute those five plays it would’ve been a different story, so I don’t think we took a step back.”

There’s no denying the Tigers had to pick up the pieces. Bazelak did a ton of film study over the past two weeks to figure out what went wrong and how to correct it all in practice. The six-foot-three, 220-pounder is looking forward to the matchup against the Gamecocks’ secondary.

“I mean they’re tough, they’re physical, it’s a physical defense and they’re going to play hard,” he said.

Bazelak is expecting the Gamecocks to play with an edge after their coach Will Muschamp got fired on Sunday. He’s hoping Missouri’s offense can get off to a fast start just in case the game turns into a shootout on the road with a team that has nothing to lose.

Missouri (2-3) has missed the physical contact a team normally gets in live game action, such as blocking and tackling, which is hard to duplicate in practice. Bazelak is trying to focus on the mental aspect of the game also, considering Missouri’s last game against Georgia got postponed. The uncertainty is what has frustrated Bazelak the most this fall.

“It’s hard to not think about it, just because you try to focus in on an opponent, but at the same time you don’t know if you’re really going to play,” Bazelak said. “At the end of the day it’s about trusting the coaches, trusting the game plan and sticking to your routine.”

Bazelak is trying to build on his 1,101 yards through the air and he’s anxious because this layoff has been the longest of his playing career between games. Still, the time off has allowed him to iron out all the wrinkles with the rest of the offense and Bazelak knows it’s a non-stop grind when a unit is trying to improve.

“Just continue to get the timing down with the receivers, get the fundamentals down with Coach Drink, continue to grow on the playbook and grow with the offense,” he said. “Continue to build leadership with the offensive line, earn their trust, just continue to build relationships with everybody else and stay tight.”