The redshirt freshman quarterback stepped in early against the #21 Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday and provided a spark for the Tiger offense
Connor Bazelak was a great addition to the Tiger’s 2019 recruiting class. 247Sports ranked Bazelak as the 373rd overall player and the 13th best pro-style quarterback. The skillset and the rating that Bazelak had coming into Mizzou created the expectation that Bazelak would be one of the future options at the quarterback position.
Bazelak had to sit behind grad transfer Kelly Bryant last year, and going into the offseason has been locked into a quarterback battle with Shawn Robinson. Last week versus Alabama, Robinson appeared to be the answer going forward for the Tigers, not Bazelak. Robinson performed well against the elite defense, going 19/26 for 185 yards and a touchdown. Bazelak struggled in his time against Alabama going 7/14 for 68 yards.
The performance by Robinson earned him the starting nod once again going into the game against the Vols. However, Robinson was detrimental on his first few drives for the Tiger’s offense. Robinson couldn’t handle the pressure and struggled to progress through his reads.
Drinkwitz quickly turned to Bazelak to see if he could get the offense rolling. Immediately, Bazelak entered the game and provided hope for the Tiger’s offense. Bazelak was calm in the pocket and did a great job of hitting the open target.
A quick glance at the box score wouldn’t suggest that Bazelak had a good game. Bazelak finished the game throwing 13/24 for 218 yards and 1 interception. However, there is a much-needed context that has to be provided for Bazelak’s performance. The Mizzou receivers did more to hurt Bazelak on Saturday than help.
The Tiger receivers were dropping the ball left and right. Knox, a veteran receiver for Mizzou, dropped a couple of crucial passes. Some of those drops could have extended some of the offensive possessions. Dominic Gicinto, somehow was able to top the drops by Knox. Down 14-3 in the second quarter, Gicinto dropped a pass in the middle of the field that hit him right in the chest. It is very likely that if Gicinto catches the ball that he runs in for what would be an 86 yard touchdown.
The mixture of drops and the receivers struggling to get separation made it hard for Bazelak to continue the positive momentum throughout the game. Facing #17 LSU, the defending National Champions means that the receivers will have an even tougher challenge with an elite secondary.
Bazelak’s impressive showing against Tennessee will mean that he will be the lead man going into the game against LSU. If the weapons around Bazelak can give any production and win their matchups, look for Bazelak to start running away with the starting job.